The first generation of the BMW 5 Series made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1972. The first models presented were the four-cylinders BMW 520 (115 hp) and BMW 520i (130 hp). The model designation introduced a new concept determining the nomenclature of BMW cars to this very day, with the ”5“ at the beginning specifying the series as such and the two following numbers indicating the displacement of the respective model. At the same time these model designations brought back memories of legendary BMWs in the 1950s such as the BMW 501 “Baroque Angel” and the iconic BMW 507 sports car.
In its design, the first BMW 5 Series stood out from the start through its stretched and sleek lines, large windows and low waistline. As design elements typical of the brand, the dual headlights and the Hofmeister kick in the C-pillar were re-interpreted in new style and technology, French designer Paul Bracq thus setting the foundation for the design language of BMW so characteristic in the 1970s. To precisely calculate the car’s deformation zones in the interest of superior occupant safety, BMW’s engineers for the first time used superior computer technology to a large extent.
Introduction of the BMW 525 in the second year of production hailed the entry of the first six-cylinder into the market. The powerful and, at the same time, refined engine featured in this top model delivered an impressive 145 hp. This wish for additional power became one of the most important reasons for expanding the model range also in the years to come. BMW Motorsport GmbH, established in 1972, provided particularly spectacular input by presenting the BMW M535i with 218 hp six-cylinder in 1980.
After the sales of almost 700,000 units, the first generation of the BMW 5 Series was replaced by the second generation, which was launched in 1982.