Sometimes, the best concepts or ideas come out of sheer necessity. Their is a void and it simply needs to be fulfilled. Then there are those who have a perfectly capable object or means, necessity no longer required, and they dare to question what if? What if we made it better, faster, stronger?….
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That idea then becomes an obsession, obsession turns to passion, passion to normalcy and you question the sanity of anyone asking why? Why are you doing this, doesn’t it seem unnecessary? The answer?…. YES! It’s the joy of being able to control unnecessary and make it a reality. Then that “insanity” becomes normalcy again to you and those who surround you that learn of your passion and it becomes standard, a benchmark if you will.
That is what BMW /// M is all about.
It’s about taking a perfectly capable coupe, sedan or truck and making it even better. Pushing it to the limit and slapping a smile on the faces of those who embrace it. BMW ///M is about taking the car to the brink of insanity, to the threshold of the “limit” and being able to hold it there and control it. That’s where your M cars differ from any other sports car on the road.
The BMW M5 is no different and remains true in every way to the mantra that is BMW ///M. They have taken a mid-sized, family oriented sedan and literally made it a four-door sports car and they’ve been doing it for 25 years. The initial itch came from automakers Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini in that a weekend at the track usually meant a week at the shop. Not at all to discredit those cars for their outstanding merits and iconic racing history, but what BMW saw was potential to make a car that was capable of achieving the supercar numbers, without the supercar maintenance. BMW already had on their resume the iconic M1 as well as the E24 6 series coupe. The engine from the M1 and the suspension from the 6 series served at the thesis for the very first E28 M5. The first M5 debuted at the Motor Show in Amsterdam in 1985. Without a proper press release, marketing campaign or really any form of advertising at all the M5 went essentially unnoticed to the masses. Only those who were keen to the 535i E28 noticed the new aluminum wheels, small ///M badges, front splitter and rear end of the M5. At the time, the E28 M5 was the fastest production sedan in the world.
The North American version of the E28 M5 showed up state side in 1988 and boasted 256 bhp. In North America you could choose to have your M5 in any color you wanted so long as it was Schwarz Black with Natur Tan interior. Mostly because this was the only color the M5 was offered in. BMW quoted the NA version of the M5 of making sprints from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and boasted a top speed of 148 mph. Certainly modest by today’s standards, the M5 at the time was every bit of track ready as it was family ready and it was this E28 M5 that started the super-sedan wars.
In 1989, BMW followed up the E28 with the E34 M5 sedan. With the benchmark already set BMW knew they would have to out-do themselves so they did it the only way they knew how. Refine what we already have and add more power! Sounds like a plan to me! The E34 M5 was produced from 1989 – 1995 but, North America only got the chance to enjoy it from 1991 – 1993. Like it’s predecessor, the E34’s straight six and chassis was produced by the hands of ///M technicians. Interestingly enough, keen ///M techs could tell which technician made the car just buy the specific characteristics the particular E34 M5 had. German automotive bliss I tell you!
The engine of the E34 M5 was built upon the engine of the E28. Improvements included of course a bored out block for larger displacement, a new forged steel crankshaft, upped compression ratio, improved fly wheel, a Bosch Motronic fuel injector, equal length stainless steel exhaust headers, and three-way ceramic catalysts. The North American 3.5 liter engine produced 311 bhp. Numbers on the E34 M5 were certainly nothing to sneer at boasting a 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
1998 brought about one of my favorite M5’s to date, the E39 M5. The straight six used in all M5’s prior was omitted in favor of an all new 4.9 liter V8. I get chills just saying that! Unlike ///M cars prior, this M5 was not built by the hands of ///M techs but rather on the same assembly line as the regular E39 5 series. The E39 M5 almost didn’t see the light of day as BMW, at the time, saw the E39 540i as being enough to satisfy BMW die hards. What prompted BMW to rethink their “concern” was the competition. At the time Jaguar and Mercedes had plans to release the 365 bph XJR and the 348 bhp E55 respectively, on the automotive masses. So, BMW answered back with the 394 bhp E39 M5.
The E39 M5 made its debut at the Geneva Auto Show in 1998 but production on the car did not begin until late October of that year. Other than the highly tuned V8, some improvements over the E34 M5 included Double-VANOS, individual throttle butterflies for each cylinder, quad exhaust, a modified version of the 540i’s Getrag Type D six-speed manual gearbox, sport mode (which adjusted the throttle butterflies response time for improved performance) and four-wheel vented disc brakes. The E39 M5 boasted a 0-60 time of 4.8 and a top speed of 155 mph. It was the fastest four-door sedan at the time of production and some owners have claimed a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph.
Considered the 25th year M5, the E60 M5 was introduced in 2005. The most powerful of all the M5’s, the E60 sports a 5.0 liter V10 motor spewing out 500 bhp and has won the International Engine of the Year Award. No other car manufacturer, making a V10 motor, has ever achieve this award before. The E60 M5 features F1 inspired engine and transmission technology including launch control, dynamic stability control and an all new SMG III transmission. An “///M” button or power button sit on the steering wheel that offers access to three distinct driving modes: P400 (which limits the engine to 395 bhp for your daily driving pleasure), P500 (for a full serving of 500 bhp) and P500 S (which gives the driver the full 500 bhp as well was a better throttle response time). I’ll take a button that is stuck on P500 S please! The E60 M5 makes the run to 60 in 4.1 seconds and cruises at a top speed of 155 mph.
However, there are a few criticisms in regards to the E60 M5 and they revolve around the design cues from the Bangle era, as well calling the E60 M5 a fuel hog. Well, with BMW commanding a 20% fuel savings from the next M5 over the current one and Chris Bangle making his sad departure from BMW, I would say the next generation M5 will certainly be a game changer. Look for the next generation 5 series to be fully unveiled next month with the next generation M5 making it’s way center stage mid-2010. Congratulation to BMW for having the vision to achieve automotive nirvana and for making one of the fastest sedans available for over 25 years!