BMW 5 Series (E12), the new new class

Rarely is there as much information on the street before the introduction of a model as with the Entwicklung Zwölf, BMW’s promising new mid-size car. The look, the technology, even the name, it’s all no longer a surprise. Perhaps the large press presence due to the Olympic Games in BMW City Munich has something to do with it.

The same press previously suggested that the newcomer may be dubbed 2004 or ‘Olympiad’. It eventually becomes 520, where the 5 stands for model series and the 20 for engine capacity.

BMW 5 series

BMW has stuck to this model name principle for exactly half a century, although the engine size no longer always matches the designation. The Fünfer has grown half a size compared to the Neue Klasse, the 1500/1800/2000 series it succeeds, and is close in size to the larger E3 series.

Tire model, car view, BMW 5 series
Autovision Cover 1972. (Image: Autovisie Magazine)

The sleek design comes from Paul Bracq, known for many Mercedes cars, who collaborates with Marcello Gandini of Bertone on this car. The latter showed the concept car 2200 ti Garmisch as a warning two years earlier. The result is a timeless, typical BMW with the obligatory shark nose and Hofmeisterknik. A separate detail is the (à la Saab) double-hinged, forward-facing bonnet.

Test with a 520 BMW 5 Series

Autovisie picked up a 520 early for a first road test and rated it very positively, but with a few minor reservations. The handling and comfort are top notch, but the engine is rather noisy and the standard equipment is sparse given the high price. A petrol-injected 520i will soon appear, with 2.5-, 2.8- and 3.5-litre six-cylinder models to follow.

Tire model, car view, BMW 5 series
Autovision Cover 1962 (Image: Autovisie Magazine)

The 520 also gets two cylinders a little later, while a modest 518 at the bottom of the range replaces the four-cylinder 520. The six-cylinder can be recognized by a power dome on the hood until 1976, after which every model gets the same hood with a narrower rise in the middle. At the same time, the fuel flap moves from the rear panel to the right flank, allowing the rear lights to grow. In 1981, the E12 gave way to the technically well-developed E28, which looks largely the same.

Offers and prices (E12)

Many BMW E12s are no longer for sale on the Dutch real estate sites. They can rust and most have long since been driven. We only find about five, ranging from project cars from 3,500 euros to nice six-cylinders with asking prices above 12,000 euros. If you absolutely want an E12, you can always look in Germany. However, they are not cheaper there; the really nice cars are already going for 30 million. But otherwise consider an E28. There is significantly more supply of this and it is the better car in terms of quality and driving behaviour.

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