Despite not being officially badged as an M5, the BMW M535i is considered by many — including the Bavarian carmaker itself — as the spiritual predecessor to the mighty M sedan. In many ways, it was the first German factory sports sedan in its segment, starting a legacy that culminated with the first generation of the BMW M5 in 1984. No less than 35 years later, BMW saw fit to bring back some memories of the M535i via a somewhat monotonous press video with the model.
Based on the first-generation BMW 5 Series, the model was essentially an ordinary 535i — the top of the range model at the time — that had been tuned in-house by then Motorsport Technik, or BMW’s motorsport division. Its naturally-aspirated, 3.5-liter, inline-six engine was good for 218 horsepower and 224 pound-feet of torque, which may not sound impressive nowadays but it was something entirely different over three decades ago. Unlike the previous 3.0 CSL and the M1, the M535i wasn’t a purpose-built sports car from the ground up, which makes it have an even more special aura about it from some points of view, not to mention the fact that it was the first ever M sedan.
With a rather understated exterior and using the large frame of the 5 Series, the M535i was regarded by many back then as a sleeper, or a Q-car, a vehicle which looks comfortable but certainly not fast. This probably made for some pretty interesting meetings at the stop lights, even though only 1,650 units of the model were ever built, making it a bit of a rara avis even among the few performance sedans of the 1980s.