Spotted: BMW 525e

The 'e' in the name of this E28 5 Series stands for the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, pronounced 'eta', which in its lower case form is used as a symbol of efficiency. We Brits can probably get away with telling mates 'it stands for economy'. Because long before everything became a blue-wotsit, BMW had a pop at creating a fuel-miser saloon car.

High compression, low revs, long gearing...
High compression, low revs, long gearing...
It was, and still is, a rather clever thing. A stroked 2.5-litre block was taken out to 2.7 litres (you see, even back then BMW was telling fibs with its badges) and a different head was selected with very small ports and valves and, from what I was once told, I think it used a 520i inlet manifold. The motor was redlined at 4,250rpm.

In the UK the car used a four-speed auto with very long gearing to squeeze extra miles from all that leaded gas. The upshot was 129hp, 177lb ft and, in normal driving, a car that would happily stay with a 528i and return over 30mpg.

I have a vested interest in E28 values, so I will now add some puff to increase their prices, something along the lines of that old chestnut "these rare vehicles are increasingly falling into the hands of collectors". Well, they're not really, but doesn't the E28 just look like a BMW saloon should? Shark nose, Hoffy kink, small enough to thread and yet big enough to carry adults.

...was the old-school Efficient Dynamics
...was the old-school Efficient Dynamics
This car appears to be absolutely mint. This impression is underscored by the fact the owner works for McLaren and has a hand in the P1 project. These are the most fastidious people on the planet. They make NASA engineers look like burger-flippers.

I also like his turn of phrase. "Either use it as a beautiful, stylish everyday car, as I have, or wrap it in cotton wool for the future." That seems like an excellent way to summarise this delectable piece of early eco-engineering.

BMW 525e
2,693cc 6-cyl
Transmission: 4-speed, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 129@4,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 177@3,250rpm
0-60mph: 10.2sec
Top speed: 111mph
Weight: 1,326kg
On sale: 1983-1988
Price new: £14,750 (1987)
Price now: £3,200
[Figures from Autocar]

See the original advert here.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (87) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Captain Cadillac 26 Feb 2013

    Only the 82s did without the SI board in the cluster (Looking back it's a blessing).

    Also the 82s had 85MPH Speedos, which look almost comical and they also had Mahle/BBS 14" alloys.

  • iSore 25 Feb 2013

    Captain Cadillac said:
    Oddly you could get a Manual eta in the US but not in Europe? Go figure.
    You could get LHD 525e manuals, just not RHD.

    Early 528e's also did without the BMW service indicator system, something to do with the EPA claiming that a lack of a rigid service schedule affecting the emissions!

  • ZesPak 25 Feb 2013

    ^^ Those bumpers are pure comedy though hehe

  • Captain Cadillac 25 Feb 2013

    When I was growing up in the NY City area these were absolutely everywhere. Except in the US they were called the 528e. In fact, a Sahara (Safari?) Beige 1982 5-speed was my very first car. I purchased it from what seemed to be a recreational pharmeceutical sales representative in the summer of 1992 in a horrible part of Brooklyn for $2,000. This was very cheap for one over here at the time. Oddly you could get a Manual eta in the US but not in Europe? Go figure.

    The US Models, as E28 people are aware, were fitted with huge impact bumpers, which, when you're 17 years old mean that you can do all sorts of stupid things with. God I miss that car, it was an absolute wreck but I loved it. I replaced it in the spring of 94 with another US-Only E28, a 5-speed 1984 533i.

    Here's my current E28.. a 1988 M5, actually one of the very first US M5s, built in Nov of 1986... Chris Harris' video pretty much echos why this is simply my favorite car of all time. I just got it back on the road this weekend after not driving it for over 4 years and have fallen in love with it all over again. Oh, and now I have historic plates on it so it's exempt from emissions testing, because there's no way in hell it would EVER pass hehe

  • Super Slo Mo 22 Feb 2013

    e28525e said:
    My eta
    Mine's gonna look like that when it's finished, only red.

    I hope.

    At the moment it's green, there is red paint under the slime somewhere though.

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