The E34 was the second generation M5. Launched in 1989 and, like its predecessor, was hand assembled at the BMW M plant at Garching. At launch, it was fitted with a 311bhp 3.5L straight six engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission driving through a limited slip differential. A limited top speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds gave it performance on a par with contemporary sports cars.
The wheels specified for the M5 were unique. The 17” black 5-spoke alloys came fitted with bolted-on covers designed to draw air away from the brakes aiding cooling. Technically clever, but cosmetically, less appealing as they looked like wheel covers. Other external changes were subtle, limited to new sill covers and front and rear bumpers. The interior changes were equally subtle, comprising of an M steering wheel, gear knob and instruments.
Standard specification was good for its day and the main options were leather upholstery and the Nurburgring pack, including upgraded dampers, Servotronic power steering, thicker anti-roll bars and wider rear wheels and tyres.
Key changes during its 6-year life cycle were as follows:
- Engine capacity increased to 3.8L
- Power increased to 335bhp
- Self-levelling suspension replaced with switchable electronic dampers
- LHD only touring version launched
- “M-System” wheels (with covers) replaced with 5 spoke “throwing star” alloys
- Wheels changed to split spoke 18” “M Parallel” style
- 5-speed manual transmission upgraded to 6-speed
There were four E34 M5 special editions; three developed for Europe and one for the UK.
In 1991, BMW asked two of their most successful racing drivers to design their ideal version of the M5, and they went in very different directions. Johnny Cecotto added comfort and luxury items such as Nappa leather and heated seats. BMW produced 22 of the Cecotto M5s, in either Lagoon Green or Mauritius Blue, with light Parchment or Light Silvergrey leather.
Jo Winkelhock, however, went down the lightweight route, specifying a lighter battery, smaller fuel tank and less sound deadening, whilst deleting non-essential items such as fog lights, rear window switches, and rear headrests. The Recaro front seats, suede steering wheel and gear knob were similar to those specified for the E30 M3 Sport Evolution. BMW produced 51 Winkelhock M5s, in Jet Black with Sterling Silver lower body panels.
In 1992, BMW built 20 Mugello Red “20 Jahre Motorsport Edition” variants, fitted with a 3.8L engine and various cosmetic upgrades such as carbon fibre dashboard panels, red seat belts, and Alcantara seat centre and door panels.
Finally, in 1995 the UK got its own special edition. BMW produced 50 M5 Limited Editions, 15 in Rosso Red metallic with extended Champagne leather, and 35 in Orinoco metallic with Petrol and Mint extended leather. Their enhanced specification included a three-spoke steering wheel, Shadowline trim, sunroof, electric front seats and headlight washers, whilst each car had a numbered plaque on the centre console.
With a manual gearbox, straight six engine, and relatively simple suspension, the E34 M5 is perhaps the most driver-focussed M5 and demand is strengthening for used examples. Just a few years ago, they cost a couple of thousand pounds. Now values are climbing and entry into E34 M5 ownership starts at around £12,000. It is important to remember that at this level there is a higher risk of large ownership costs going forwards, through either maintenance or repair. With this in mind, those seeking a used example should look for examples with the best history and provenance, although this will push values towards £20,000. This can overlap with later E39 M5 values, giving some indication of how well regarded the older car is.