Am I getting old? I asked myself that over the weekend as I sat at a 'Dyno Day' that a local BMW forum had organized. I went along in my E34 540i with two friends, one in his E39 M5 and the other in his E60 545i. All three of us have previously (and recently) owned Nissan Silvias, Skylines and Mazda RX7s. How did we all end up in large German sedans?
It didn't take me long to figure out why. These cars are amazing, and each in their own way. We all know European cars, especially the big ones, depreciate very fast and that's part of the reason as to why these cars are so great. They don't cost anywhere near what they should and the amount of car you get for your money is largely unparalleled.
While they may not be as fast as our previous 'fun' cars (although the M5 is up there) they are better in almost every other way. They are big and can fit all of your friends, family and associated gear when travelling. They are fast enough to fly past a caravan on the highway and handle surprising well. How fast? Well my E34 recorded 153kW at the wheels, Dan's 545i got up to 176kW and Dave's M5 trumped the lot at 235kw.
The 5 Series has changed a lot in the 20 years between these vehicles and while they are all quite different BMW's famous 'kidney grille' brings all three together. Having them parked together like this allowed you to really study the change in design and the move to more rounded and sleek styling.
I have never loved the look of the E60 (although the Touring looks pretty good) but Dan's one really appeals. In stock form these can look a little boring but it's amazing what a set of wheels can do to a car. The interior and modern features make riding in it an absolutely pleasure and the after-market exhaust lets the V8 sing loudly. I never thought I would consider an E60 but they are starting to grow on me after spending some time with this one.
The M5 is the obvious standout in the group and is very deserving of that title. It's the ultimate in power vs luxury of the late 90s and early 2000s. 235kW, six-speed manual and an LSD means you can have a lot of fun in a car that is big enough to haul yourself and three friends down the countryside for a weekend away. These are relatively difficult to find in New Zealand and especially one in this condition.
Finally we get to my E34, the oldest and slowest of the lot. But (and I am very biased) probably the one with the most character. The large square and sharp design immediately makes me think of some mob boss riding around with his goons in the early 90s. It was optioned with a few AC Schnitzer bits like the wheels, exhaust, spoiler and wing mirrors. I absolutely love it. The leather 'sports' seats hug you when you hop in, it revs unnecessarily high when you start it and I can't wipe the smile off my face while I drive it. I have owned more expensive and faster cars but none have left me more satisfied with my decision.
The appeal of these cars is hard to put into words and a lot of Japanese car fans won't understand what I am trying to explain - until they drive one. And then hopefully they will click to what convinced us to head down this path. I think all three of us will continue down this route too, with E55 AMGs, M5s and RS4s being thrown around as possible replacements - not any time soon though.
Thank you Germany, we approve of your large V8 sedans.