Old road tests are some of my favorite things, especially when they’re in clearly legible format. As this article covers a car I recently mentioned in an article, it seemed like a good idea to include it in a post. So, here is a treat for all of you, a test of the then-new E28 from an early 1982 Road & Track. As always, be sure to enlarge the images so you can take it all in. Enjoy!
I love reading these old road test articles. Road and Track and Car and Driver were my favourite magazines.
Agree! My two subscription choices from the 1960’s to today. (Although C&D went downhill somewhat after DED founded “Automobile” magazine).
I agree. I’ve never been a fan of Automobile Magazine.
DED,jr departure from C&D weakened it immeasurably, Lindamood, Csere and many other ‘good’ writers left with him. Yeah, I agree, ‘AM’ has never lit my fire either, always too ‘elitist’!
For the first time in nearly 40 years I have no subscription to ‘any’ car mag. MT. CD, RT are all ‘past their prime’…
My favorite is Road and Track, but since Peter Egan retired, and they retooled it to look more like Car and Driver, it’s gone waaaay downhill. It’s only been about 6 months since that happened.
my R&T subscription expires next month April… after nearly 25 years – its where I went after CD went to the dogs! I think I subed to Auto Mag for a year… and pick up the occasional copy. Haven’t touched a MT since they made Vega COTY in 1971! Its web based car info for me now… surprisingly enough Detroit News has a nice ‘insider’ section. among others!
Car and Driver was great during the DED era, Road and Track was always good too, this vintage R&T were some of the first car mags I ever got in mass numbers from an older cousin who had a subscription.
Road & Track is most of what my dad had in his car while he took me to school growing up so I have fond memories with it.
I currently only subscribe to Automobile, cause I got it for really cheap. But it’s a good magazine. I like it. Specially their auction section.
I haven’t read much from the DED era C&D but I do know of him and can imagine it was quality stuff.
I like these a lot,not quite as keen on today’s jelly bean BMWs.The 528 was a good compromise between performance and mileage while being a practical size for parking spaces
Same here. Cars of 30 yrs ago were way better looking than cars today. Although trucks were becoming more car-like, they still had plenty of utilitarian functionality. 🙂
I would highly recommend automotive writers take a look in the archives every now and then. The eta-engined 528e had some legitimate issues surrounding its un-BMW-like engine, but you see the general pattern even 30 years ago. The new BMW is not as edgy as the one before it, it was softened up to appeal to a wider audience, yada, yada, yada.
There have been instances where they’ve done exactly that and later took steps to correct it, like that brief episode with too-light steering in the E46 3-series, but it seems like every new generation the writers get nervous that BMW is getting soft. If that were the case, today’s cars would have morphed into 1980’s Cadillacs by now.
Also look at the curb weights of all three cars listed on the first page. The E28 is heaviest at barely over 3000 pounds. That’s a 5-series, folks, not even a 3. And those cars weren’t exactly flimsy.
Re: curb weight. I noticed that too. A new Ford Focus subcompact weighs about 3000 lbs or more. The Audi only got 17 mpg, saddled with a 3 spd auto. I think a new BMW 5 series also gets about 24 mpg, but is nearly 2x faster and over 1000 lbs heavier. If only we could combine the light weight of years past with modern engine/transmission technology…
Having grown up in the 80s when compact cars were around 2000lbs and 4000 was Cadillac-behemoth territory, I was astonished to read that the new “lightweight” aluminum Ford F-150 is over 5000lbs in most configurations.
Sadly, after BMW decided to take their marketing (and cars) upscale a less-than-desireable customer base started buying them.
I lusted after various 2002, 5& 6 series BMW’s in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Then, “something happened”.
In the UK what was once a classy car degenerated into a Yuppie wanker’s posing machine.They slid down the food chain until they became cheap enough for chavs and small time drug dealers and other assorted pond life.
Tell me about it. The same thing happened to Mercedes-Benz here in the USA. Its styling has just gotten uglier and uglier.
Most of the current range is ugly, but there are still some standouts such as the 1 coupe, 6 coupe and Gran coupe and the X5. Gem is right about the owner-types – particularly the second hand market. This is mostly due to the superb little E36, which gave everyone with ‘dealing’ pretensions an entry point. The amount of fully-sick versions carrying garish wheels and blue LEDs was fully sickening.
I’m trying to think what ‘respectable money’ types might buy now. I see a lot of Bentleys, but not many Rollers. Porsche with its current wider range seems to made serious inroads on the BMW and Merc traditional space without appealing directly to the ostentatious drug dealer type. Range Rovers everywhere, but they appeal to both types of money. Spoke to a successful equities guy the other day, and he was happy with his Audi 4d hatchback (I bit my tongue).
Or they don’t display their wealth at all and drive a Hyundai or 10yo Merc.
In the old days quiet wealth might buy an Alvis or a Bristol. What could it get on the new car market today?
I used to like the Lexus and Infiniti cars when they first debuted in the early 90s. But now, they, too have gotten uglier and uglier.
I know of one of the Vice Presidents where I worked who has a Ferrari 360 Modena (or is it a 430), but he also has a Genesis (pretty sure it wasn’t the Equus). So Hyundai has definitely cracked that demographic.
In China, BMWs have some bad stigma. You are considered “corrupt” if in the government or “arrogant”. I think I’ve read a**hole too.
Apparently some BMW drivers have run over people too, which adds to the stigma.
Great article. Very, very interesting about the backlash in China against BMWs. Audis are ‘legit’ govt cars. Mercs are for oldies. Maseratis are for Red Cross volunteers…
In these parts, BMW’s come off lease and are almost always resold at the dealer, with factory warranty to 160,000 km or three more years, Suffice to say, few cars every go that far. The cars are dumped and then get passed down the beater chain. Bimmers require lots of care and attention to keep them running. I see loads of leased 3 Series BMW cars and most of them seem to be new. It is rare to see one more than ten years old. These cars just don’t stand up well to abuse.
Know what sucks more than most things? Driving a fun car in traffic. I drive a BMW, but my theory is not limited to them.
You tend to operate a car that’s fun to drive with a little more spirit (not necessarily aggressively) and start to wonder why everyone else isn’t moving with your level of verve. It gets frustrating. The rest of the world sees a douchebag, but you’re just out there having fun. And of course, you have the types who think anyone driving faster than they are is a maniac. We should give *them* BMW’s.
BMW’s have the double stigma of being expensive and fun, so you’re not just a jerk, you’re a rich jerk. And you’re perceived as such even if your car is 13 years old and caked with road salt.
You must live in the midwest.
Years ago Top Gear UK did a test between Audi and BMW with a cock-o-meter. IIRC Audi won.
Anyway, is BMW a highly profitable automaker or what ? Let the bloggers rant, while the Bavarian guys laugh. “… all the way to the bank” is the correct expression I believe.
I love the posting of these old published road tests. Keep ’em coming! Isn’t it amazing the level of technical detail that was incorporated in the text (not to mention the writing style)? Today’s predictable and shallow reviews dedicated largely to the assessment of an “infotainment interface” pale by comparison.
My first automobile was a 1985 524td – how I loved that car. Perhaps it is selective recall and/or due to the limited number of cars I’d driven as a newly-licensed driver, but I was pretty impressed by the composure with which that car carved through the twisties. Slow as a turtle in lead trousers and smoky as a gin mill, but I can still hear that turbo spooling up, the clatter of that turbo diesel inline six, the feel of that wheel in my hands. So predictable, so secure, so unapologetically functional. The interface between man and machine, not pairing a smartphone for wireless music streaming.
I do not care for BMW’s current lineup, despite consistent efforts to warm up to them. The final paragraph of the article, above, predicted the reason…
The driver’s ergonomics look outstanding.
At the time, I believe you could buy wood-framed reproductions of the RT technical specs page for road tests of certain premium cars. RT used to sell some nice branded gift items.
I had subscriptions to MT, CD, and RT. Plus Popular Science. CD was my favorite. MT certainly helped sell some lemons.
Keep these road tests coming, they are great fun to read. Amazing how back in the day the writers actually knew something about cars and weren’t afraid to point out shortcomings as well as improvements. It is sad how much slower the eta engine’s were for only a couple of mpg. What a step backwards. Same thing with the 325e, E30, the i was the one to get. But on that car the order was reversed, the good one came later. These were the real BMW’s. I will refrain from porcupine jokes. And BMW letter jokes. And Yuppie comments. But it takes a lot of self control! Today I won’t even buy a car magazine, and can hardly even read them while waiting for the dentist. Although it makes it easier to step up to the chair, no great loss if your name is called before you finish an “article”.
Makes me want to drag my 25 years of old C/Ds and R&Ts out of storage… Most people think I’m crazy for keeping them around, but they aren’t easy to find.
Note how light these mid-size sedans were! Not one over 3250 lbs.
I used to subscribe to Car and Driver when I was in high school. That was 20 yrs ago! I’m not sure I’d want to subscribe to Car and Driver today. It’s one thing to change its format if there’s a reason behind that change. But in the past several years, I have read most of the car magazines and they all look the same, Car and Driver, Road and Track, and even Motor Trend seem to all look the same. It’s as if they’re changing just for the sake of changing. What happened to individuality? They all looked different when I subscribed to C/D.
Jason, did you keep all your back issues? I’m a confirmed hoarder.
I had not subscribed for many years, but someone gave me subscription to both Car And Driver and Road & Track. It’s great having the print format again. I browse their sites all the time, read tons of automotive blogs and dvr every car show I can. But I’ve rediscovered my love of magazines. Having them delivered to my mailbox every month really keeps me focused and aware of what’s happening in the automotive world.
No, I’m afraid not. I loved reading Car and Driver and Road and Track, but I didn’t keep them for very long after I’ve read them. I’d either recycle them, or I’d leave some issues wherever I happen to be.
CD and R&T are now owned by the same publisher and their editorial staffs work out of the same building in Michigan. They’ve been corporatized into blandness.
I always found this generation BMW to have very comfortable seats and BMW held onto that for years. I would loved to have experienced one of their diesels.
The present 5 Series and 7 Series have such a sever ride, especially for rear seat passengers, that I cannot even consider owning one. I wish they would rethink comfort for those of us who don’t want that total race car ride.
Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a BMW diesel. For some crazy reason, diesels never sold well in the USA, or was never allowed to be offered in large enough numbers for people to drive.
I did own a 1984 Lincoln Continental with the factory optional BMW diesel engine, which was the same engine BMW was offering here in the US in their 5 Series. I liked comparing it to the many Mercedes diesels of that era, which we had many more to chose from here in the US.
A think the Mercedes of that era was a little ahead of BMW, which would soon change. Having always been a fan of the diesel engine I wish we could have had more chances to own them in our market. GM killed a lot of the interests in diesels here when they introduced the gas converted diesel engines of the late 70s and early 80s. I was so desperate for a diesel variety back then I even liked those for a while.
I agree. I’ve been interested in diesel powered cars as far back as I can remember. I’d love to see more diesel engines offered in cars and light trucks. Is diesel for everyone? No, not really. But so what? If someone wants a car with a diesel engine, he should be allowed that option. If he wants a compact truck with a diesel engine, he should be allowed that option. It should be the car buyer’s decision to make, not the manufacturer, and sure as hell not the USEPA.
I purchased a base-model 1987 325 which had the execrable ETA motor. While the ETA motor existed in the US, unless you purchased an i, you wound up with this horrible lump. It was an awful engine until 4,000 rpm. Before that, it drove like a worn-out jalopy… above that number on the tachometer, it took off and sounded like a chorus of angels.
I rather liked the E30 325 E models, nice torquey 2.7 engine. They were the first unleaded BMWs sold in Australia.
Now-a-days BMW are driven by nufties who haven’t worked hard enough to buy a Benz, or aren’t smart enough to buy an Audi.
I sit at the lights and look at our local BMW dealership, it looks depressing.
The funny thing is that for some reason I remember reading this very article in 1982. Not sure why I remember it specifically, I think I was a subscriber at the time, but don’t subscribe today…and I’ve never owned a BMW (my Brother-in-law owns one, but it hasn’t been very dependable though I’m sure its a fun car). Maybe this is the type of BMW I would have owned if I ever bought a BMW?
My father had 1968 BMW 2002 in silver for a few years until his growing family made two doors impractical and traded in for a second-hand 1971 Alfa-Romeo 1750A Berlina (yes, it is automatic).
After he was assigned to the American branch of German conglomerate in Dallas, he was given a conveyor belt of crappy American fleet cars. In 1983, he decided to toss the cog in the machinery and leased a 1983 BMW 318i. Unfortunately, that BMW turned out to be much worse than the American cars: lot of unexpected quality control issues. Long list of defects and problems…
In 1989, the five-year lease expired so he traded in for a 325i only to find it slightly better but too ‘boulevard’ for his taste. However, the 325i turned to be more thirsty than those Detroit V8 dinosaurs. A petrol station in our neighbourhood weeped in joy whenever we stopped for a fill. Both 318i and 325i had ruined my enthusiasm for BMW, and I wanted nothing to do with BMW since then.
Fast forward to 2013, I hired a 525d xDrive estate for the road trip through eastern Germany. Wow, what a dramatic reversal! I actually enjoyed driving it and found it very comfortable for the long distance road travel on poor secondary roads in some areas left over from the communist era. What’s more, the fuel consumption was so low that I thought I might have a defective fuel gauge. Just half a tank for 500km drive…
What comes up must comes down: I hired a 116i last summer and regretted it because 116i inhaled the petrol faster than SR-71 at Mach 3. I had thought I would save the hire cost by hiring a smaller car with smaller petrol motor only to pay more than the hire cost of larger car with larger diesel motor, including fuel cost.
That’s the problem with cars sold here in North America, particularly the United States. They seem to sacrifice handling and road holding in favour of ride comfort. And most cars sold in the 1970 have more quality control problems than you’d expect, even by North American standards.
I remember reading this road test when it was “new”…a friend’s father bought a charcoal gray 528e with cherry red leather not long after that, and I thought it was the coolest thing going. This guy was a Dr. and had traded in a 79 Cadillac Fleetwood. To go from a bloated brown tank to this sleek little car was amazing. Car magazines sure look different today…
I had the opposite reaction in my own experiences. I was a kid in the 80s and I loved (and still do) the old Broughamtastic GM sleds and never understood why some people liked those dinky little Krautmobiles with the spartan interiors. Also, my uncle bought an Audi and that POS seemed to break down far too often with an astronomical mechanics’ bill to boot. No wonder why we won the war…
Its funny how childhood experiences shape perceptions. I have a better grasp of what makes the German cars desireable and the warts of the old Detroit iron but to this day I’d still take a floaty-boaty rolling parlor Brougham over the German competition.
I bought an ’85 528e when it was five years old and kept it for four years.
The injector noise made it sound like a diesel when it was cold.
The interior was kind of crude–flat door panels with removable plugs in case the power windows failed.
The air conditioning was recirculation mode only.
And using the cruise control always triggered the brake circuit warning light.
Very smooth pull to the engine and got me better mileage than the VW Rabbit that it replaced.
Thanks for the memories.