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

  • James1972 18 Feb 2013

    Am I right in thinking that Alpina used the crank from these as the basis for the C2 etc.
    Nice old tool - torque for wafting and better economy with a nice sountrack.

  • Krikkit 18 Feb 2013

    30mpg doesn't seem all that impressive for such an extreme engine configuration, what was a standard E28 525 like?

  • g3org3y 18 Feb 2013

    That's quite strong money for an E28, albeit a lovely original one in good condition. I would have thought a manual box would be needed to make full use of the economy benefit tbh.

  • Devil2575 18 Feb 2013

    The E28 is, IMHO, the best looking car BMW have ever made.

    I'd prefer a 528i/535i manual though.

  • J4CKO 18 Feb 2013

    Nice enough but why bother, get one with a bigger engine, I remember driving one of these back in the day and it was a bit sluggish, I had seen the 525 bit and was expecting a bit more, the exhaust always looked a bit strange on these as well.

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