Even though there have been six generations of BMW M5, with a seventh one on the horizon, only two of them were available as a more practical Touring model. This meant that for the last few decades, BMW’s rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz have had the performance wagon segment all to themselves. Fans of the Bavarian brand have always thought that BMW should offer a rival for the Audi RS6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class AMG models and now is one of those rare occasions when the manufacturer has listened to them (and probably the market, which has changed in the last decade) as it prepares to launch the G99 BMW M5 Touring.

E34 BMW M5 Touring

BMW’s first M5 wagon was the E34-based model launched in 1992, along with the Touring model for that generation 5 Series. It looked a lot like its non-M siblings, but it packed the mighty S38B38 3.8-liter under its hood. It got the upgraded engine from the revised 1991 E34 M5, which initially featured a 3.5-liter version of the engine with the code name S38B36. BMW upped the capacity from 3.5 to 3.8 liter and power was increased from 311 to 335 horsepower, while torque went up from 266 pound-feet (360 Nm) to 295 pound-feet (400 Nm).

These were remarkable numbers for an early 1990s family wagon, which could sprint to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.9 seconds, and it had to be pegged back at the top end because it would exceed the 155 mph (250 km/h) gentlemen’s agreement speed. It’s the combination of these performance numbers, the unmistakable bark of the straight-six, and the enhanced handling that made the E34 M5 a thoroughly unique wagon experience for its day.

For the M5, BMW fitted stiffened and upgraded suspension, as well as a limited-slip differential that made it notably sharper and more entertaining to drive than other versions. However, back in the early 1990s, when it was launched, people apparently weren’t ready for such a vehicle, and it didn’t sell well at all, only managing to sell 891 vehicles, compared to over 11,000 E34 M5 sedans. Its rarity makes the E34 M5 Touring considerably more expensive than the sedan variant if you were to buy one today.

E61 BMW M5 Touring

Because of the model’s low sales numbers, BMW decided against making an M5 Touring based on the V8-powered E39 M5, which is regarded by many fans as the single best M car ever produced, but it gave the green light for one to be made based on the next generation E60 model. The E60 M5 debuted in 2007 and remained in production until 2010.

It was based on the E61 wagon, which is a vehicle from the Chris Bangle era of BMW design, and it bears all the trademarks. However, it was the first M5 to feature flared fenders and more prominent wheel arches that accommodated a wider front and rear track, which made it look quite different from the standard 5 wagons of the time. The craziest thing about it was not how it looked, though, but rather what powered it.

Under the hood, this generation M5 had an absolute screamer of an engine (literally), the 100-horsepower-per-liter S85 5-liter V10. With its uneven firing order, it provided a soundtrack only matched by the Porsche Carrera GT as it accelerates to its 8,250 rpm redline. Its maximum power of 500 horsepower arrived slightly lower, at 7,750 rpm, and you still had to rev it to 6,100 rpm for it to produce its peak torque rating of 384 pound-feet (520 Nm).

Unlike the old E34 that only came with a six-speed manual, BMW offered the E60 and E61 M5 exclusively with its SMG-III automated manual transmission, which was great when you were really on it, but it wasn’t the best when you were just cruising around or you wanted to set off from a slight incline. For the US market, BMW also offered a six-speed manual as a no-cost option, but this was never officially available in Europe.

However, the E61 M5 Touring was never officially sold in the US, so all M5 wagons from this generation get the SMG transmission. Of the 20,589 units produced over its five-year production run, just 1,025 examples were Tourings, which is an even smaller proportion of the total than in the case of the original M5 Touring. That’s why you may have never seen the wagon in real life while having seen countless sedans.

G99 BMW M5 Touring Coming Soon

We’re happy BMW is bringing back the M5 wagon with the G99, although it is again making some important changes to the formula—probably the most important changes in the model’s history. The G99 will be all-wheel drive only, plug-in hybrid only, and it will be the biggest and tallest M5 Touring to date. It’s also going to be the most powerful, featuring a version of the plug-in powertrain from the mighty XM super SUV. Being all-wheel drive-only, it will be more of a direct rival to the popular Audi RS6, and it will be interesting to see how the two models will compare head-to-head.