1986 BMW M5 E28: The original super 4-door - CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Uploaded by drive on 23.05.2012


So Neil's just asked me what it is about the car behind me
that I love so much and why I'm madly in love with it.
Because in the time that I've owned it, I must have bought
and sold several other Porsches, some of which are
significant, some of which aren't, which to most people
would seem more important, and more, let's say, keepable than
that thing.
Well, there's the history.
This year marks 40 years at BMW M. In fact, I want to
drive all of the significant cars from BMW M this year.
So let's call this the first one of that series.
I love the fact that BMW was being beaten by Ford in the
European Touring Car Championship, and
just said, stuff it.
And they stole all of Ford's good people, created this new
department, and built a legacy of amazing cars.
So I like the history.
The vehicle itself, well, in 1986, I was 11 years old.
And when that car was launched, I was just about
starting to read car magazines, building the
obsession, and I couldn't believe the spec on paper.
There was this saloon car that looked like a taxi, and it had
286 horsepower.
I remember thinking, well, that's a
mistake in the magazine.
It can't have 286 horsepower.
Because in those days, that felt like a million
It felt like a bigger power figure than anyone has today.
I love the engineering.
I love the fact that it was hand built in Garching.
I love the fact that there are only 187 that came in
right-hand drive to the UK.
I love the fact that it's so small, and it's only 1,550
kilograms and that even now, it feels as fast as it did
back in 1986.
I love the fact that it's built beautifully.
It looks great.
I love the sharp nose grill.
I love the Hoffmeister kink.
I love all of the design cues, because that era of BMW is the
era that I was in love with.
It was the one that captured my imagination.
Yeah, as you can imagine, I can go on for
hours about this car.
The truth is, my car isn't what you'd call a minter.
It's a bit scruffy around the edges.
These towing eye covers are missing at the front, and at
some point during the shoot, it
jettisoned the wheel center.
These are now more valuable than a Spanish bank, so I'm a
bit fed up about that.
The rear bumper rubber needs some sticking, and there's
plenty of wear and tear inside, but I
like it that way.
It's honest.
It wears its 26 years with real pride, and mechanically,
it's absolutely spot on.

For me, it's a double-win owning this car, because it
does both things for me.
Both things that an ownership experience should offer.
On the one hand, I love the concept of owning it, because
I'm completely into the car itself.
So as a static object just parked in my garage, I
completely get off on the fact that I own it.
And I don't really do that about many cars.
But I also love driving this car, because even now, it's a
proper experience.
For starters, we've got 286 horsepower and 251 foot-pounds
of torque from that magnificent 3 and 1/2-liter
straight-six out front.
The car weighs 1,550 kilograms, and the back tire
is a 225 section.
The claim to performance when this car was launched in '84,
'85 was-- get this--
0 to 62 in 6.1 seconds.
And this was the figure that blew people's minds--
0 to 100 miles an hour in 14 and 1/2 seconds.
If you wanted to go faster, you had to have a 911 Carrera.
And above 100 miles an hour, one of these would give those
things a real fright.
So suddenly, we had a saloon car with all this comfort,
electric seats, radio, cassette player, all this
comfort and space, and a massive boot-- and it could
take a 911 on.
I mean, what a brilliant recipe for a car.
And no wonder that since the E28 M5 so many people have
tried to copy it.
But I don't think anyone's quite ever built a car like
this since-- and I include BMW in that.

One of the things I absolutely love about this car is the
old-fashioned feel of the controls.
And I do think they can teach quite a bit to modern cars
these days.
The steering's quite slow.
The gear change takes time.
The clutch is quite long.
The throttle's quite long.
In other words, everything is forcing you to take time and
be deliberate.
Look at this gear shift.
It's incredible how long it is.
You have to just move your whole arm--
paint with the shoulder, like your teacher used to say.
But it's only got 251 foot-pounds of torque.
I say only so you do have to rev it out, but that does mean
you've got to use this engine.
It's a thing of joy.
Red line at 6,500, it goes to a bit further than that if you
want to, and it rewards every last rev.
It just sounds fantastic.
Quite a heavy flywheel on it, so it doesn't sort of zip back
down after you've left the throttle.
But it's just a lovely, lovely road car engine.
Interestingly, the car that followed this--
the E34, which looks much, much more modern, has a
315-horsepower version of this motor.
It's quite a bit heavier.
I drove one recently, and I was really disappointed in how
slow it felt compared to this car.
This car is definitely quicker than an E34, if you ask me.
The later 340-horsepower versions are
not quite so sure.
Those 3.8-liter cars had a bit more torque.
But this one, this feels very, very pokey, and quicker than a
3.5-liter E34 M5.
The driving position is absolutely all over the place.
Your arms are out trying to get the top of the wheel, but
your legs are too close.
And the pedals appear to be about a foot too close towards
the top of the seat.
This itself adjusts in every possible direction.
I love this as well.
My head rest.
Watch this.
See him going up?
Electric head rests, in a car from 1986.
Fantastic stuff.
It's a hand-built quality item, and I think I paid about
9,500 for it.
I'm not really sure because I can't find
the actually receipt.
Either way, it's the best money I've ever spent on a
car, because I love it.
I know it's not a two-seater sports car, but the era in
which I grew up learning to love cars, this was so
This defined everything that I loved about cars, because it
was unobtainable at the time.
I couldn't believe that such a car could exist.
A saloon car with 286 horsepower,
that's absolute nonsense!
Of course, now it's the norm, because the genre has
developed and been adopted by people that like cars.
But back then, it just felt like I'd never even
get to sit in one.
And now, I own one.
And I just love it.
Why I haven't driven it for the last couple of years, I
don't know.
I should be shot for that.
But now it's out and taxed and running, all this summer.
I'm just going to enjoy the thing, because it's just a
fantastic motorcar.
Just lovely.
Lovely, lovely, lovely.