BMW M5: a history

BMW’s iconic super saloon is 30 years old. We take a look back at the history of the BMW M5

The BMW M5 is celebrating 30 years of helping top executives get home quicker than is strictly necessary. The new 592bhp M5 ‘30 Jahre’ edition has been revealed to mark the anniversary and it’s a car with a glittering heritage stretching out in its rear view mirror. Let’s take a look back at the history of the BMW M5…

BMW M535i (1979-1981)

It’s not an M5 but the E12 M535i packed a lot of the DNA that would lead BMW to unleash the first proper 5 Series M-car a few years later. Power came from a 3.5-litre straight-six with 218bhp on tap. A close-ratio gearbox and upgraded brakes were also fitted, along with the essential BMW Motorsport spoilers. 

BMW M5: E28 (1985-1988)

The M5 brand was born in auspicious style as the hot version of the E28 5 Series took its bow at the 1984 Amsterdam Motor Show to wild speculation over what exactly BMW had been smoking.

With a version of the 3.5-litre straight six engine from the M1 supercar, the M5 offered 282bhp of thrust. As a result, a 153mph top speed and a 0-60mph sprint of 6.5s were on the agenda. Only 2,191 units were built, making this one of the rarest BMW Motorsport models to date. 

BMW M5: E34 (1989-1995)

The E34 M5 upped the super saloon ante yet again when it arrived in 1989. This was the last hand-built M car and a left-hand-drive Touring version in 1992 was the M Division’s first estate car.

The six-cylinder engine offered 311bhp in its initial form. In 1991 the unit’s displacement was increased from 3.6 to 3.8 litres and power rose to 335bhp; BMW’s horsepower arms race with Mercedes was well underway. Top speed for the 3.8-litre car was 177mph with 0-60mph performances of 5.7s possible in the manual models.

BMW M5: E39 (1998 – 2003)

BMW’s range was an M5-free zone for three years but that changed in 1998 when the E39 version brought the famous nameplate back with a 394bhp bang. The aluminium suspension of the standard 5 Series was upgraded with firmer shocks while beefy anti-roll bars helped the M5 pull big cornering forces.  

Power was now courtesy of a V8 unit that could take the M5 to 60mph in 4.8s then on to lock horns with its speed limiter at 155mph. De-restricted versions of the E39 are capable of 186mph.     

BMW M5: E60 (2005-2010)

The E60 M5 went for a V10. Needs must when you’re embroiled in a Cold War style bhp battle with a certain rival from Stuttgart. The amazing high-revving 500bhp powerplant mated to a 7-speed sequential manual gearbox proved that BMW wasn’t about to blink first.

The 0-60mph sprint takes 4.7s in an E60 M5 and if the limiter is removed, a top speed of over 200mph is a realistic possibility. The E60 M5 Touring was the first M5 estate to be sold in the UK through official channels. 

BMW M5: F10 (2011-date)

The 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show lifted the lid on the F10 M5 with BMW citing the need to improve fuel economy as a key reason for the switch to a 560bhp twin-turbo V8 – a sign of the times.

The F10 can hit 60mph in a supercar-scaring 3.6s and the limited 155mph top speed could be increased to 190mph with the optional M Drivers Package. The Competition Package launched in 2014 offered a more focused suspension set-up and power increased to 575bhp. The latest M5 ‘30 Jahre’ edition takes the car’s output up to 592bhp, a fitting way to celebrate 30 years of the M5. 

Which is your favourite BMW M5? Let us know in the comments section below...

Group website editor

Steve looks after the Auto Express website; planning new content, growing online traffic and managing the web team. He’s been a motoring journalist, road tester and editor for over 20 years, contributing to titles including MSN Cars, Auto Trader, The Scotsman and The Wall Street Journal.

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