I spent two years working at a BMW dealership over the last decade, yet not once did one of these ever turn up. Then, all of a sudden, this one seems to have become a permanent resident not three minutes walk from my house. I have to say, being of the genus Lazus Bastardis, I’m all in favour of potential V.I.S.I.T subjects coming to me rather than having to expend actual effort on my part…. And reading Antti’s tales of 518iness I felt even more inspired to put some trousers on and go look at this one.
In actual fact, the presence of any kind of E34 5-Series is becoming a novelty today around these parts, this ’93 example is the first I’ve seen in a long time. It was only when a closely parked Transit moved to reveal that extra letter on the designation, that I knew what I was looking at.
I have a fondness for the E34. I took a ’90 525i in as trade against a Z3 once, it had 170k on the clock, a handful of well-deserved battle scars and an ignition barrel that had to be turned with a screwdriver blade. We gave the chap about a hundred quid for it, and because my car had been lent to a customer, I drove the 525i home that night.
It drove superbly. OK, only a choice selection of the electrical goodies still worked and the drivers seat recline mechanism was jiggered and slammed to horizontality when I went over a pothole, leaving me hanging onto the steering wheel for grim death. And the Radio faceplate had long divorced itself of communication with the head unit so the only music available was of the six-cylinder persuasion. But it still pulled well (though not as well as the later 24v version would have) and it still looked terrific on its 15″ cross-spoke wheels. Just like Antti’s does.
The UK was never very generously served by Munich in the all-wheel-drive sedan stakes. We never officially received the E30 325iX, though rumours circulate that there may be an official UK one out there somewhere. A person on the internet tells us that a mere 283 of these ever found homes in this country, out of a worldwide production run of 9366 (so says Wikipedia). And here it sits, in a random riverside village in Essex.
This one actually looks to be in reasonable shape. There are some swirls in the paintwork, a few envy marks in the doors and evidence of a few too many heavy items being heaved in and out of the boot. The plain, efficient alloy wheels don’t seem to have been kerbed to death, and the cloth interior appears not to have suffered the usual “Edward Scissorhands Daily Beater” fate that inevitably prevails.
I find the X an intriguing proposition. I’m keen to know what it feels like to drive. Does that four-wheel-drive setup exist as a silent partner, doing nothing to corrupt the fine balance that made the E34 a worthy platform for the “M” treatment, and only making its presence felt when the weather takes a turn for the worse? Or does it totally dominate proceedings like in a Subaru? Do the four driven wheels bite into the blacktop ready to propel you forcibly through that next corner? I have to say I enjoy both of those behaviours, and the idea of an E34, with a lovely, sonorous M50 soundtrack, and the extra reassurance of AWD traction, is rather appealing.
Now, of course part of the appeal of the Blue and White Propeller has always been that you’re never far from rear wheel drive histrionics on demand. The 525i was never over-endowed with power for its weight, although the later M50 cars were better, but it took eight cylinders (unless it ws an M5…) or greasy blacktop before the tail of an E34 would really wag. How much would having up to 44% of torque heading to the front wheels rob us of that playfulness?
(All images copyright 2013 Hooniverse / Chris Haining)