The well-heeled enthusiast’s dilemma
ARRIVING back in Britain mightily impressed with BMW’s now more widely available 31/2-litre 5-series (M 535i), we set to scanning the price lists Iota rival to provide an antidote to our enthusiasm. Mmmm. Not so easy when you are searching for a vehicle capable of 140 m.p.h., 20 m.p.g. and accelerating from rest to 60 m.p.h. in 7.8s or less.
Obvious candidates at under the BMW’s price and performance abound. SAAB’s Turbo (now available in four door trim with a conventional boot at under £11,500), or perhaps the £12,950 Audi Turbo? Then remember the Audi usually comes in automatic form only for the UK and, like the SAAB, it’s front wheel drive. Perhaps not the most popular layout with the enthusiast who occasionally likes to drive with the rear wheels dictating the angle of travel.
Bearing in mind the performance and fuel economy levels set by the BMW, this writer felt that the potential 535i customer might also be the potential Porsche 924 Turbo candidate too. It is fascinating to reflect that these two West German companies have found two very different ways of achieving much the same performance and economy.
The BMW represents a concept almost as old as motoring itself, using a (comparatively) big engine, lightly stressed, in a car designed for smaller units, thereby offering much performance.
The BMW is an equally conventional machine in chassis, braking and four door saloon car style. Even if the 535 is dressed up with awesome aerodynamic aids, they are very much what you would expect from BMW’s extensive saloon car racing record.
Against the BMW’s useful chunkiness with luggage and easy four passenger accommodation You place the Porsche’s use of the latest thinking and sleek lines. A 2-litre turbo engine, rear gearbox, and slippery bodywork are a worthwile Price to pay for limited accommodation and luggage storage.
However, the BMW and the Porsche nearly share the same price tag, BMW at £13,750 while Porsche currently ask £13,998. Both have exactly the same, awkward-for-the-road, gearchange Pattern. First isolated on its own to the left of a conventional H-pattern that provides the remaining five gears.
Not so new . .
Perhaps the surprising thing about the M535i is that BMW have not put it into limited (the UK will get at least 200, possibly more) Pr.:111c’. befOtt. The idea of putting ever larger engines Imo the 5-series escalated with Jochen Neerpasch’s arrival in 1972 at the Munich c°m, Petitions department, for the shrewd former rorsche driver and Ford competitions man saw a ’45’ of offsetting some costs by providing the wealthier motorist with a better BMW, or Part-Paying drivers like Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson with these special 5s. Not a tuned hA4),’ in the way that Alpina engineered their conversions, but an appropriate melange of Istman4 mardpIrtr;s thhe had d timeetvheek fpet, h fuel crisis ne is arrt o ivedf
inserting straight sixes from 3.0 to 3.3 litres in 5-series cars with special seats, suspension and braking. These were the genuine handmade article and the principle — which incidentally helped the sporting department survive through that difficult period — was established enough to make the arrival of the 3.5 litre engine for the 6 and 7-series just another logical progression in the production of these high performance 5s. It would be a mistake to call them ultimate 5s, that will not happen, in a sporting sense, until some bright spark mates the BMW MI engine also of 31/2 litres, but with four valves per cylinder) with that rather staid four door body! The South Africans did it for racing, but it would be overkill for the road. Back to the car ottered to UK motorists today: Type Approval was received after the Manx-registered cars were brought into UK for testing. MOTOR SPORT May 1980 gave a brief
rundown of what composed this M535i and a technical specification panel is appended here as a resume. In general much of the important equipment is derived from the 635 CSi, including the engine, close ratio gearbox (an option on 635) and much of the suspension work is based on that found efficient on the big Bavarian coupe too. So are the four wheel disc brakes, which are ventilated and frame four piston calipers at the front. Our purpose on this occasion was to gain a little more mileage, for our representative on the May-published story had covered few miles. Courtesy of BMW in Britain we were recently able to drive the car several hundred miles over motorway and rural French roads, stretching from Bordeaux inland and back. So our primary purpose been is to amplify those road impressions of this interesting “oldcomer,” which is not a product of BMW Motor sport in the sense that