BMW M5: 30 Years and Still Kickin’
If you dig back a few years in the German history books, you’ll realize that the BMW M5 made its world debut way back when in 1985 at the Amsterdam Motor Show. It was the third vehicle to get the treatment from BMW’s Motorsport division, debuting the same year as the beloved BMW M3. But the M5 was much different than the M3. It was bigger, more powerful, and while the enthusiasts mostly chose the M3, the M5 was aimed at a higher-class of customers. Mostly because it was bigger and more expensive. So 30 years have came and went, and the M5 is still going strong, albeit with a few bumps and bruises along the way. But let’s take a look back at how this 30 years came to be. E28 M5 (1985-1988)
In 1984, the BMW M5 made its world debut in Amsterdam. And while it still carried around large saloon practicality, it also bore sportscar performance. At its launch the 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine produced 256 horsepower (in North America), making it the fastest sports sedan in the world.
But the success of the E28 was short lived, and in 1989, BMW introduced a radically new design, and a larger engine.
PHOTOS: See More of the 1958 BMW M5
BMW E34 M5 (1989-1995)
Like the rest of BMW’s lineup, the brand’s design was evolving with the times. Where the boxy yet beautiful E28 seemed aged, the E34 stepped in with sleeker new looks, and even more performance.
Initially introduced with a 3.6-liter six-cylinder, the new M5 put down 311 horsepower. But during the second half of 1991, BMW increased displacement from 3.6 to 3.8-liters, and boosted the power to 335 horsepower.
The E34 lived on with a few special editions and a small racing stint, but it was time for more change. And this time, change was very, very good.
PHOTOS: See More of the 1995 BMW M5
BMW E39 M5 (1998-2003)
Ditching the six-cylinder engine in place of a new 4.9-liter V8, some purists weren’t too fond of the larger displacement. But with nearly 400 horsepower on tap, it was hard to argue.
Along with the new engine came a full new design. Again, this design reflected BMWs of the time and was a healthy evolution that become one of the most iconic lineups ever built.
From top to bottom, inside and out, this M5 was one of the most advanced road cars BMW had ever built. But then the dark ages came…
PHOTOS: See More of the 2000 BMW M5
BMW E60 M5 (2005-2010)
Where the E39 saw an evolution in design, and a slight bump in power, the E60 saw a massive fix on something that wasn’t even broken in the first place.
Engineers replaced the V8 with a V10, and the manual gearbox with a 7-speed sequential manual (aka paddle shifters) engineered from its then-struggling BMW Sauber F1 team. Although, thanks to popular demand, BMW did fit a 6-speed manual gearbox later in 2006.
And while it may have been the fastest sedan in the world at the time of its release, that didn’t make up for the loss of purity that was once synonymous with BMW’s M division.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2005 BMW M5
BMW F10 M5 (2012-Present)
Where the E60 somewhat lost its way, the F10 brings the M5 back to the basics — almost. Ditching the monstrous V10, the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 was introduced producing 560 horsepower. And while still being the most advanced M5 ever built, it retains that feeling of purity and panache that was evident in earlier generations. Albeit with a bit more speed.
A 0-60 mph sprint only takes about 3.6 seconds, and you have the option of a much-improved 7-speed dual clutch, or the standard 6-speed manual. All of which will set you back about $90K at bare-bones stock.
But it’s all worth it when you really get to know the car. The M5 a history, and it’s only going to get better from here on out (hopefully). With 30 years under BMW’s belt building the M5, we can only assume that it will go down in history as one of the best M cars ever built.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2012 BMW M5