There’s really nothing like a super sedan. Hopping into something with four doors, five seats and enough power to frighten a supercar is an immensely satisfying feeling. We have BMW to thank for that, as it’s the brand that truly brought that idea to the mainstream. Sure, Maserati actually invented the super sedan with the original Quattroporte many years before the first ever BMW M5 but few people knew about the QP and even fewer still bought it. It was the BMW M5 that defined the segment, proved it could not only work but excel.
Over the years, there have been six generations of BMW M5. To be honest, there isn’t a bad one in the group. However, there are some that are clearly better than others. So we decided to rank them, in order of best to worst, to see where they all stand against each other. Let the record show that this is our list and that it might cause some disagreements in the comments section.
1. E28 BMW M5
It couldn’t really be any other one, could it? The E28 M5 is the original, it’s the car that started it all. Prior to the E28 M5, the idea of a four-door luxury sedan capable of hunting down Ferraris and 911s was unthinkable. And when it debuted back in 1985 with 282 hp, people that BMW had gone mad. A four-door sedan with almost 300 hp, leather seats and a big trunk? What were those crazy Germans thinking of?
Turns out, BMW hadn’t gone mad but instead had created an icon, one that would be copied forever. Everything from the Mercedes-AMG E63 to the Tesla Model S P100D owes its existence to the E28 M5. That hand-assembled M5 was a wonderful thing then and still is today, thanks to its proper motorsport-bred 3.5 liter inline-six, five-speed manual gearbox and a chassis so sweet it’s as if it were built only for opposite-lock. It has to be number one.
2. E39 BMW M5
This is the car that most fans were expecting at number one and, in many ways, it deserves to be. As a driver’s machine, the E39 M5 is arguably still the finest four-door sports car ever made. It looks sensational, even today, has a glorious naturally-aspirated 4.9 liter V8 and a six-speed ‘box. It’s precise to drive, has a fantastic interior and can be drive at triple-digit speeds for hours at a time without fatigue.
There’s very little to criticize the E39 M5 for, if there’s anything at all. The only reason the E28 M5 lands just ever-so-slightly ahead of this car is because of its important and what it is. As far as a car to drive, the E39 is still the high-water mark for M5s.
3. F90 BMW M5
I’m ready for the hate mail for this one. There are still some pretty incredible classic M5s left on the list but I chose the current one at number three. The reasons for that are many and they all have to do with how it drives. The current F90 BMW M5 is a nearly impossible car to fault as a super sedan. There’s really nothing it does poorly and so many things it does brilliantly.
Everyone thought that the introduction of its all-wheel drive system would ruin it but it does the opposite, it makes it even better. Not only that but it introduced the world to an M car that can be both all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. It’s also absurdly fast, effortlessly comfortable and fun to drive. What more could you want?
4. E34 BMW M5
The E34 M5 is the car that succeeded the original E28 and it felt like a bit of a letdown after the brilliance of its predecessor. It was heavier, less engaging to drive, more complicated and a bit less attractive. Yet, all these years later, the E34 is starting to remind everyone of its charms.
It might not be gorgeous but it has a handsome boxy design, especially as a wagon (its wagon variant is a huge boost as well). Its 3.6 liter/3.8 liter (pre/post-LCI) engines were brilliant and it was surprisingly comfortable. It was also the last BMW M car to be hand built. So it may have been flawed, especially compared to the legends in which it’s chronologically sandwiched in between, but it’s still a great car.
5. E60 BMW M5
There are a lot of reasons to criticize the E60-generation M5. While it has a very loyal following, with some fans even considering it the best M5 of all time, it’s the biggest problem child of the bunch. Its styling was controversial back in 2005 and still is now, its interior is bland, its cabin tech is a mess, its SMG gearbox is frustrating and it’s surprisingly unreliable.
However, it does have one reason to love it and it’s a big one — its engine. The 5.0 liter naturally-aspirated V10 in the E60 is nothing short of a masterpiece. It revs past 8,000 rpm, produces 500 hp and makes the most incredible noise. It’s a sensational engine and one that makes many enthusiasts forget its many flaws. However, when comparing it to its siblings, its flaws are too great to rank it any higher than five.
6. F10 BMW M5
While the E60 M5 suffers from a lot of technical issues but sports a ton of character, the F10 M5 is just the opposite. Objectively speaking, the F10 M5 is fantastic. Its twin-turbo 4.4 liter V8 is superb, its dynamic capability is truly impressive and it’s even comfortable. Hell, it’s actually quite good looking and has a great interior.
It’s just a bit… boring. And in the world of M5s, being boring is a cardinal sin. It does a ton of great things it just doesn’t do any of them with anywhere near the same sort of enthusiasm as its siblings.