From the original E12 launched in 1972 to the F10 introduced in 2010.
With the arrival of the seventh-generation 5 Series (G30) this week, BMW has decided to share a series of videos featuring all of its very successful predecessors that have generated combined sales of more than 7.6 million units.
It all started back in 1972 with the introduction of the original E12 previewed two years earlier by Bertone’s Garmisch 2002ti Geneva show car. Designed by Paul Bracq, the first 5 Series did not spawn an M5, but the M535i developed by BMW Motorsport GmbH and launched in 1979 is considered as being the forefather of the first full-blown M5. The M535i, of which only 1,410 units were ever made, had a 3.5-liter engine with 218 horsepower delivered through a five-speed manual gearbox. It brought the last power upgrade of the first-gen 5, but it was not offered in United States.
The 5 Series E28 was introduced in 1981 and took advantage of "qualitative lightweight construction" to shave off up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms), thus enabling the 520i to become the lightest car in its segment. Not only was it much lighter than its predecessor, but the second-gen 5 Series also had a considerably sleeker body after BMW managed to reduce air resistance by 12 percent to 0.385. An important model in the lineup was the 524td introduced in Europe in 1983 and two years later in United States. The company’s first diesel production car had a 2.4-liter unit with 115 hp, which was enough to cover the 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) sprint in 13.5 seconds and top out at 112 mph, while fuel economy stood at 33.1 mpg US (about 7.1 liters / 100 km). The first-ever M5 arrived in Europe in 1984 and four years later in the U.S. Built in a small series, the version sold on the old continent had 286 hp whereas the American version was rated at 256 hp, good for a 150-mph top speed.
In early 1988, the E34 saw the light of day with a chassis derived from the larger 7 Series covered by a much smoother body with a drag coefficient varying between 0.30 to 0.32, depending on version. The M5 joined the family that summer with 315 hp on tap, and eventually from 1992 with 340 hp when it also gained a more practical Touring wagon body style in Europe. Two years later, the M5 was fitted with a new six-speed manual gearbox.
At the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW introduced the fourth-gen 5 Series E39, which grew in size and was equipped with a new suspension made almost entirely out of light alloy. Optionally, a pneumatic suspension was offered to enable a silky smooth ride. It was in 1997 when the 540i Protection came out as a light armored version, one which was only 365 lbs (165 kg) heavier than the regular model. The M5 arrived in 1998 on European markets and a year later in the U.S. with a 5.0-liter V8 engine featuring electronically-controlled individual throttle valves and pushing out a healthy 400 hp.
The 5 Series E60 made its debut in 2003 with an expanded engine lineup consisting of six gasoline and four diesel units, topped by the 5.0-liter V10 inside the 507-hp M5 once again available in both sedan and wagon flavors. The last naturally-aspirated M5 was offered with a much-criticized SMG seven-speed automated manual transmission available as optional alongside a six-speed manual gearbox. From 2007, the 5 Series received BMW EfficientDynamics technologies, including active air flap control, a gearshift point indicator, and brake energy regeneration. The most frugal of them all was the 520d managing to do 5.1 liters / 100 km (46.1 mpg) in the European test cycle.
Lastly, the F10 came out in 2010 and besides the usual two body styles, the lineup was expanded to include the oddball, yet very practical Gran Turismo. A long wheelbase derivative with extended rear legroom is also available in select markets. The outgoing M5 is the first of its kind to make the switch to a turbocharged engine, a 4.4-liter V8 biturbo with as much as 600 hp in the “30 Jahre M5” and M5 Competition Edition. There’s also a torquetastic M550d xDrive with a tri-turbodiesel 3.0-liter, six-cylinder mill generating 381 hp (280 kW) and 546 lb-ft (740 Nm), enough for a 4.7s sprint for the sedan (4.9s for wagon).
As for the G30, you can read all about it here, and also in our second article in which we talk about the new 540i model serving as a replacement for the 535i. We also have a top five of the G30's predecessors, which you can read here.