Recently I was fortunate to experience a couple of classic BMWs in the form of the 333i and M1. Then I hopped on a plane to Lisbon to drive the new BMW 5 Series.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you anything about that yet, in fact just forget I even said I drove it. BMW international wants us to keep quiet until the German media have driven it so you will have to wait a little while longer for my impression of the new executive. Instead, let me tell you about an old executive — and I don’t mean some company CEO. BMW brought an example of every generation of the 5 Series to the launch and what better car to experience than the one that started it, a 1975 528.
With only just over 7 000km on the clock, it was a pristine example and part of BMW’s classic collection. Its bright yellow colour might not be a popular choice among 5 Series buyers today, but it looked great at the start of the line-up.
Climbing in, it was clear it has been immaculately maintained, but even so, at the age of 41, it showed no signs of age whatsoever. Forget electronics, the seat was manually adjustable and the driving position excellent. Strangely, I find that it takes me a couple of days of constant adjustment in a modern Beemer before I get the seat and steering wheel position just right.
The engine turned over immediately and I put it into Drive. The automatic box had just four speeds including an overdrive. Pulling away, the 2.8-litre motor felt like new and the accelerator had very little play in it, ensuring immediate response, although of course not quite the response of a modern 5 Series. The steering was also more precise than I expected, particularly after experiencing the amount of play in the steering of the 333i.
On the road, the 528 was a pleasure. The ride was incredibly comfortable and I could probably have driven it through Europe without feeling at all tired. Channeling 121kW through the four-speed box meant it was often changing down for the uphills but, even then, the level of engineering was obvious with little noise. That applied not just to the gearbox; there was no sign of any wind or road noise.
I know some German guy probably looks after the car as though it is one of his children, but seriously, this car was extremely well made and engineered. I can’t help but wonder how a modern vehicle will be in 41 years’ time. That is not to say that the engineering is not as good today, but there is just so much more in a car, particularly when it comes to electronics. Even the cigarette lighter socket worked fine, enabling us to plug in a satnav, the only piece of modern tech in the vehicle.
Driving any classic model is a real experience and one which is going to become even more special as car makers continue to make the driver less important. A 1975 528 might lack the performance of the M4 GTS Lerato was driving at the same time, but it was equally special. – Mark Smyth