Thanks to the general refinement of the 5 Series on which it is based, however, the MLE never feels rough, uncouth or uncomfortable.
Even with all that weight loss it doesn’t rattle inside and, despite the stiffened suspension, it is still very much a road-biased set-up.
Tackling a typical British back-road, including all of the undulations and sudden potholes that involves, reveals a firm but extremely well-controlled ride.
It isn’t the last word in isolation, that’s for sure, but where you expect those rear trailing arms to get flustered as the car hits a nasty surface on an adversely cambered corner, the BMW stays true.
The front hosts Scheel bucket seats
With an almost unique mix of power and lightweight agility on the one hand, plus luxury and strength on the other, it isn’t hard to see why the 110 MLEs BMW SA needed to build flew out of showrooms, despite being about twice the price of a contemporary 520.
The current condition of British lanes being what it is – surely not much better than the rural routes of ’70s South Africa – today has quickly demonstrated how well the 530 MLE suits twisty roads with poor surfaces in a way that the later German-built M cars don’t.
This MLE is a survivor in brilliant condition that only came to the UK three years ago, saving its bodywork, and is one of that initial run of 110 homologation cars built in 1976.
‘Breathing through triple Webers muffled only by mesh-topped trumpets, the high-rev bellow comes straight from the track’
Because of their success and profitability, however, a further 117 were built the following year – and, unlike those first cars, it was no longer a case of ‘one size fits all’.
The car was now available in three colours, and options such as power steering and electric windows were added.
“The success of the 530 MLE was a pure example of ‘what wins on Saturday sells on Monday’,” said then CEO of BMW Group South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa Tim Abbott, when the company unveiled a 530 MLE it had restored in 2019.
“It paved the way for BMW South Africa as a sporty brand and a serious motorsport contender in the country.”
The deep front airdam on the BMW 530 MLE