The E39 BMW M5 was just voted by Piston Heads readers and viewers as the best “saloon” (“sedan” in correct English) of the past 25 years. Bold statement, as there have been some pretty epic sedans in those two and a half decades. It’s a hard statement to argue, though, as the E39 M5 is incredibly special. However, there is another incredibly special sedan built in that timeframe, though far more recently, and it actually came in second place in PH’s vote—the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Did PH voters make the right call?
Most BMW enthusiasts would emphatically say yes. For them, the E39 M5 is the stuff of legends and it’s often regarded as the best BMW sedan of all time. For good reason, too. The E39 M5’s perfectly balanced chassis, naturally aspirated V8 engine, and six-speed manual make it sensational to drive. It also looks great, has a simple but handsome interior, and makes a killer noise. But almost all of those things can be said about the Italian second place finisher.
I don’t think anyone with any sort of car culture knowledge would argue if the first and second place roles were reversed. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is not only a brilliant drivers car but it’s also incredibly important in the industry and has made an enormous impact on the car world. It’s also one of my personal favorite cars in the world.
What’s not to love? For starters, just look at it, it’s stunning. It also has a great looking interior and a lovely engine/exhaust noise. As with the E39, the Giulia’s chassis is perfectly balanced and incredibly playful. The Alfa’s steering is razor sharp, too. While its 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 isn’t quite as special as the E39 M5’s 4.0-liter V8, its 503 horsepower gives it about 100 horsepower. Though, the Alfa does lose out on the E39 M5’s manual gearbox and only comes with an eight-speed automatic. It works well, though, and it has lovely aluminum paddle shifters.
There’s no question that both of these cars are among the best sedans of this century. They’re quite a bit different but they accomplish the same goal, which is to put a smile on their drivers’ faces while also carrying four-to-five passengers, on a daily basis. One is a bit more comfortable and relaxed, while the other is more of a proper sports car, but they’re both sensational performance sedans than any of us would be thrilled to own.