Derek And Doug's Fantastic Crapwagons: E34 M5 Vs. Ur-S4/S6

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
derek and doug s fantastic crapwagons e34 m5 vs ur s4 s6
Derek writes:

One of the things Doug and I wanted to do with this column is to highlight the regional differences in car choices – not just in condition and value but the overall selection. Any surprise that humid, sunny Atlanta has a dearth of Audis while snowy Canada is awash in them?

When Doug proposed covering the E34 M5, I had a bit of a problem on my hands – they’re about as scarce as gun rights advocates in my neck of the woods. Nowadays, an M5 is simply a four-door sedan that foreign exchange students drive around the University of Toronto campus, but back then, the Audi Ur-S4 and Ur-S6 was clearly the high performance sedan of choice.

A search in the classifieds yielded no less than six Ur-S cars for sale, in varying conditions. There was everything from a true crapwagon to a real-life one-owner car, tastefully modified with relatively low km’s on the odometer. A lot of M Cars, AMG models and B5 S4s seem to be bought up by young guys with enough cash to purchase the car, but their maintenance budgets are usually diverted to buying table service and ecstasy tablets at Toronto nightclubs. These cars are easy to spot in the classifieds thanks to the poor grammar of the ad copy, the ugly rims slapped on the cars and the warning against “LOW BALLERZ AND TEST PILOTS”.

Not so with the original S-cars. They all seem to be owned by older, more mature owners who live in nice parts of town and have the money to maintain them meticulously. This car was serviced at a good independent mechanic and has relatively low mileage. It’s a nice balance between condition and price and…oh what the hell, I really like the color and those BBS wheels. I probably don’t have the stomach to deal with the maintenance requirements, but the thought of dashing through the snow with the diffs locked and the turbo signing is mighty tempting. Unless, you know, the right 500E came along…

Doug writes:

Down in Atlanta, we don’t have any Audi S4s, or Audi S6s, or really any sort of Audi except for the Q5. You might think this is because we don’t get any snow, but the real reason is they’ve all broken down and been shipped to the north, where people care enough to fix them.

Anyway: since we don’t have any high-performance Audis from the mid-1990s, I went looking for some high-performance BMWs. And it turns out we don’t have many of those, either.

The model I selected was the “E34” BMW M5, which was sold here from 1991 to 1993. Only three years on the market didn’t bode well for its long-term existence, as just two showed up anywhere near me.

The first – and the least desirable – is this 1991 model. Since it’s on Craigslist, mileage is unlisted. This is a rule on Craigslist, much like uploading photographs of the vehicle in the smallest size possible.

The seller wants $14,800, which – at first glance – is astronomical. I say that because the car is wearing offensively large aftermarket wheels, which, to me, is a sign of “I bought the car to look cool and have deferred every single piece of maintenance you can possibly defer.” But on closer examination, the interior looks to be pristine, which may mean it’s been treated well. Still: is it worth $14,800? I have no idea, because the mileage is unlisted.

This white 1991 model on is far more enticing, largely because we know it has 117,000 miles. We also know it has a lot of recent maintenance, as described in the ad. Condition is excellent, and – at just $16,000 – it’s only a little more money than the one on Craigslist.

Unfortunately, those two cars are just about the only E34 M5 options available right now.

But it’s two more than the Audi S4 and S6.

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3 of 26 comments
  • Kyree Kyree on Jun 14, 2013

    Seeing those two nineties M5 examples raises a question in my head: who was the first manufacturer to use projector-headlamps? I'm sure it was either Audi or BMW...

    • Mypoint02 Mypoint02 on Jun 16, 2013

      I don't know about the rest of the world, but BMW started using them in the US in '88. Even the E30 got them that year. Audi used terrible US specific lights in all of their cars until the URS4 came around in '92. I believe their E code lights were projectors from around '87 on. Very common swap for Audi guys back then.

  • Jeffzekas Jeffzekas on Jun 14, 2013

    Everyone on this site has heard me complain about the high expense and unreliability of BMW vehicles. That said, I WOULD buy an M5 (or a 3-series) if it had a transplanted Ford 5.0 motor and tranny!

  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.
  • 2ACL I think it's a good choice. The E89 didn't get respect due to its all-around focus when new, but it's aged well, and the N52/6HP combo is probably more fun and capable than it's given credit for.
  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...
  • Daniel Bridger When y'all going to learn that nothing is free?
  • MrIcky This vehicle had so many delays, then a poor launch, and then the recalls- but I look at the recall for lugnuts and I wonder if you can miss the torque spec on those, what else did you miss? This car just seems very first gen to me. I'm glad it's out there. I like competition in this space, but I'd wait until the refresh on this one. Just one too many things.