Last year, BMW celebrated 25 years of M5 and several automotive magazines had the opportunity to test the entire range of M5 models ever produced.
The popular and highly respectable UK magazine EVO took the time to drive five generations of M5 and share their findings with everyone. Here is an excerpt from their review:
At first glance, the original M5 looks impossibly sober and restrained. And old. Boxy and tall, its glassy cabin feels voluminous and airy in a way that more modern saloons hardly ever do. But the E28 is also a brilliantly uncluttered and practical piece of design with instrumentation that has yet to be bettered in a Five – two large main dials of startling elegance and clarity – and simple, intuitive switchgear. The high driving position, over-firm, angular seats, large thin-rimmed wheel and mushroom-shaped gearknob smack of another, distant era.
The next-generation M5 might well have been a V8. In fact, there were strong voices within the Motorsport division that felt it was the way to go. They were right, of course, but a little premature. The majority wanted to stick with the straight-six, not least Paul Rosche who designed it. Like its predecessor, the E34’s engine and chassis were put together in-house by M, and legend has it that the level of bespoke build was such that each car’s dynamic demeanour had a little characteristic that identified the technician that built it.
The formula is updated again. Considerable V8 potency nestles beneath the plain but still pretty wrapper – 4.9 litres, 48 valves, 400bhp, 7000rpm red line, 369lb ft of torque at 3800rpm, slick six-speed manual and the early stirrings of the configurable electronics that will inform the communicative abilities of future M5s. The button labelled Sport triggers sharper drive-by-wire throttle response and a little more steering weight. And, as with so much else about this E39, it’s very nicely judged.
And so to the current M5, the E60. Despite having a 5-litre V10 developing 500bhp, an output that would have been considered absurd in a saloon a decade ago, it demands no special skills from its driver. Straight-line performance is phenomenal – the ton is history before the stopwatch has clicked into double digits and a 0-150mph time of 21sec is too hot for all but the swiftest supercars. Throttle response is staggering, especially on the Sport setting, and the engine sounds like its gargling with double cream. Admittedly, the E60’s V10 is more peaky than the E39’s V8 but so ferociously potent at the top end you cease to care after a while.