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Everything you need to know about the BMW M5

Your complete guide to BMW's ultimate super-saloon. Pick a favourite

  1. “Mercedes developed a monster street version of the 190 named the 2.3 16V, sending the spoiler-clad Benz onto the roads in 1983. BMW had nothing to respond with.”

    Not our words, but the words of BMW itself; specifically, BMW’s M Division. It’s not often you find such explicit praise from rival performance powerhouses, but then it’s not often BMW finds itself without a proposition that has now become ingrained into its very DNA: a really fast, really powerful street-legal performance saloon. You see, M Power opined that “motor racing with near-series cars was becoming increasingly popular”, and at the time of the 190’s reign (in the early 1980s, the Mercedes Benz 190E 2.3 16V was indeed a monster Benz - in the hands of Ayrton Senna at the Nürburgring in a one-make, one-off race filled with track-spec 190s to inaugurate the new circuit, he decimated all), BMW had nothing to offer enthusiasts who wanted a sportier version of its 5 Series.

    So it went to work on a fast 5er (and later of course, a faster 3 Series, that would be a more direct rival to that 190). The very first M-powered 5 Series - technically named the M535i - arrived in 1984. To the rest of us, it was the first M5, born more than 30 years ago.

    It had a 3.5-litre straight six developing 218bhp and 229lb ft of torque. It accelerated from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. It had a top speed of 143mph. It had specially developed Michelins, a redesigned front spoiler and rear boot lip spoiler.

    But the M535i was just the start. No sooner was it out the door, the M-Division engineers set to work making it faster, nastier and more sideways. The most recent ‘30 Jahre’ edition M5 for example - which Chris Harris pitted against the Lexus GS F - features a twin-turbo V8 with nearly 600bhp, for goodness sake. One iteration even features a V10. The new one gets four-wheel-drive and a 0-62mph time of just 3.4s. It’ll still drift, mind…

    Read on to see how the M5 has grown up over the years…

  2. BMW M5: E28

    Exactly one year on from the launch of the BMW M535i comes the first ‘proper’ M5-badged BMW. Though it didn’t look a world apart from the regular E34 5-Series saloon, it was as lairy as BMW could make a production saloon at the time.

    Underneath the bonnet lurked the M88 engine from the BMW M1 supercar: a 3.5-litre straight six with 286bhp. It allowed the M5 to accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, from 50mph to 75mph in 7.7 seconds and onto a top speed of 153mph.

  3. BMW M5: E28

    It had independent suspension all round, stabilisers front and rear and mono-tube gas pressure shocks. M-Division also fitted four-piston calipers with ventilated discs and some luxury inside: a leather trimmed steering wheel, sports seats, heated wing mirrors and central locking. It was acceptable in the 80s, remember.

    By the end of 1987, 2,200 hand-built M5s had found “new, happy owners”, forging a trail for its yet-faster successor…

  4. BMW M5: E34

    Unveiled in 1988, the second M5 came with more power - naturally - thanks to a 3.6-litre straight-six engine producing 315bhp and 266lb ft, allowing the car to record a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds. Later, this engine would be boosted to 3.8 litres, producing a whopping 340bhp and 295lb ft of torque. 0-62mph in this car took just 5.9 seconds, which, in the context of its time, was really bloody fast.

  5. BMW M5: E34

    Fast and capable, too. Underneath sat adaptive suspension (in 1992, to cope with the extra power of the 3.8), a locking rear diff, a six-speed manual and a high-performance braking system. There was even the option of buying a ‘Nürburgring’ chassis version in 1995. Overall it seemed rather popular: over 11,000 E34 M5s were sold.

    Time, then, for BMW to turn up the wick even more.

  6. BMW M5: E39

    This is still an incredibly powerful, incredibly good-looking and incredibly desirable sports saloon. The third version of the M5 was based on - arguably - one of the finest cars ever built, period.

    The new M5 also shouted its intent more than ever before, with new front and rear aprons, M wing mirrors, 18in light-alloy wheels, and twin exhaust pipes. Oh, and a socking great 5.0-litre V8 up front, shovelling 400bhp through a six-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels.

  7. BMW M5: E39

    With 369lb ft of torque on tap, the new M5 could accelerate from 0-62mph in under five seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph (limited). It was, in short, a huge success, both dynamically and financially: BMW shifted 20,000 units up until 2003.

  8. BMW M5: E60

    Which brings us onto the fourth generation of the M5. A car that came with a V10. A V10.

    The monster 5.0-litre engine utilised BMW’s Formula One expertise, here producing a titanic 507bhp and 384lb ft of torque, complete with a seven speed sequential gearbox sending power to the rear wheels. It had adaptive dampers, an engine-speed-sensitive diff lock, and more bespoke chassis componentry underneath.

  9. BMW M5: E60

    All in, this M5 could accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds (a conservative estimate, it was widely acknowledged), won the 2005 and 2006 Engine of the Year award and, derestricted, could hit 205mph. It was as successful as its predecessor, too: more than 20,500 E60 M5s were sold by the end of summer 2010.

    And clad in that estate body, you have to admit it’s just immensely cool.

  10. BMW M5: F10

    Gone is the V10 of old, and in comes a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 with 552bhp. That’s right, a turbo in an M-Car. As such, it’s cosmically quick: 0-62mph now takes just 4.3 seconds, and top speed is still only limited (barely) by a little bit of software that stops you at 155mph.

  11. BMW M5: F10

    The ’30 Jahre’ edition gets even more. More power - now 592bhp - and a quicker acceleration time. 0-62mph takes just 3.9 seconds, marking it as one of the world’s fastest saloon cars.

  12. BMW M5: F90

    The brand new BMW M5 gets a 4.4-litre 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, with a nice round 600hp – or 592bhp in clunkier imperial form – and 553lb ft. That pitches it somewhere between Merc’s two tunes of E63, and it’s enough for a 3.4sec 0-62mph time (the same as the quicker E63 S) and a 155mph top speed. Limited, of course. This would surely crack 200mph without the electronic nannies. Or get damn close to it.

    But it also gets four-wheel-drive for the first time. While the 4WD system is in full force when the car starts up, the front axle only receives power when the rear tyres reach their limits. The rear axle also has a differential to best shuffle power around when you’re having fun. Good for making you look like a hero…

    Read the full story here

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