Ask any BMW fan what the best driving sports sedan of all time is and the answer will almost certainly be an E39 M5. The E39 M5 is easily one of the most revered performance sedans in history and, when it was new, it received no shortage of praise. Things haven’t changed much since then. However, are we just looking back on it with rose-tinted specs or is it actually as good as fans say it is?
In this new video from Piston Heads, we get to see a modern day review of the E39 BMW M5, to see if it’s actually as good as we all seem to remember. Host John Howell drives the E39 M5, after having owned one for several years. He was obviously a big fan of the car when he owned it, which is why he bought it, but is it as good now, after so many newer cars have come and gone? According to Howell, yes.
We’ve heard from other enthusiasts recently who feel that the E39 M5 is overrated, that it isn’t the genuine performance sedan we all thought it was back in its day. According to Howell, the M5’s steering, chassis balance, power delivery, and design all combine to make it one of the best classic cars you can buy. There’s certainly going to be some bias in his review, as he not only owned one but absolutely loved owning it. So maybe someone less into BMWs, or the E39 M5, might not come to the same conclusion. However, it’s hard to argue with some of his reasoning.
For instance, the engine—a 4.9-liter naturally aspirated V8 with 400 horsepower—is incredibly linear, with a powerband that’s easy to modulate. Its steering is heavy but it’s communicative and enjoyable to use. While its chassis is balanced and playful, allowing its driver to really push the back end around without ever feeling scared or like it will bite. And that level of confidence is difficult to find in modern sports cars. Modern turbocharged engines deliver too big of a torque wallop for them to be approachable at the limit. But the M5’s free-breathing V8 sends power gracefully to the rear end, which puts it down in a planted, balanced fashion.
Compared to modern performance sedans, the E39 M5 is slow and cumbersome. However, its blend of power, balance, feel, and looks make it one of the best classic sports sedans you can buy.