Published on February 15th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair


Would You Trade an E34 for an E28 5-Series?

Normally a newer car is seen as an upgrade. I currently own a 3rd generation 5-Series, but an opportunity to ‘trade down’ to a 2nd generation version has come up. I must say, it’s a little tempting here’s why.

Electronics in the E34 are a constant headache. To be fair, the essentials are all in working order, but things like the instrument cluster, warning codes and rear speakers, seem to be temperature dependant. Most days I gauge how fast I’m going by the frequency of the whistling wind noise. I don’t doubt the E28’s electronics are going to be faultless, but with fewer connected parts, replacing the wiring harness on the older car could be a simpler, cheaper job.

The 2nd generation E28’s a much lighter, simpler car. I do enjoy the way the E34 balances handling and comfort, but the car is just grossly overweight. Its 2.5-litre inline 6 engine struggles to keep the car at 110km/h, revving over 2500rpm on average. The new Myvi with its 1.5-litre 4-pot performs slightly better when cruising.

I do think both cars are good lookers. Personally, the late ‘80s aesthetic of the E34 looks better to me. BUT, the problem is the ‘80s look hasn’t really aged very well. It’s subjective, but comparing the two, it’s clear the E28 looks more like a classic.

However, there is one or two things stopping me from making such a trade. First, is the issue of rust. Yes, the E34 does have minor rust issues, but the bodies are galvanized, so structurally they tend not give in too easily. E28s, on the other hand rust without much persuasion. The ones that are in reasonable shape command pretty unreasonable prices.

There’s also the issue of drivability. The E34, to me, is usuable as a daily driver. Just like the W124, the ride, handling, NVH, power and power steering are all relatively modern. As long as you’re not a tech-obssessed person, an E34 is actually all the car you need. The E28, on the other hand, was built for a different kind of driver. To own and maintain a car like that, you actually need to get your hands a little dirty once in a while. Plus, an E28 in reasonable condition will start to appreciate, making additional mileage come with a hidden depreciation cost. E34s, are far too common to classics, but that also means spare parts are a lot more plentiful.

So yes, while there are reasons for some E34 owners to consider this trade, it is not for me.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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