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BMW M5 Guide

The latest BMW M5 is a 500 horsepower V10 monster that willingly revs to an astounding 8,000 rpm in stock from. It's SMG transmission has 7 speeds and 279 modes. The E60 M5 will run you over $90,000 at your local BMW dealership, too. While there are certainly many of those who have pockets deep enough to afford this car, and certainly no shortage of reviews/hyperbole for this Bavarian beast, working stiffs like myself would have to live in a $90,000 car in order to afford it. However, that does not mean that a committed BMW enthusiast CAN'T afford an M5, which through its 4 (well, 5 if you count the E12 M535i, but we will get to that...) iterations has been a sedan that can hang with its more obviously sporting contemporaries at the 'ring or on any street (the Porsche 911 comes to mind). Below is a brief synopsis of the various generations of BMW M5's. Expect more detailed articles on each generation of the M5 in the future, exploring maintenance, parts prices, wear items, reliability, and current market pricing.
  • The E28 M5 debuted in 1984, although it was not officially sold in the US until late 1987 as a 1988 model. First shown at the Automobilsalon in Amsterdam, the first official M5 model was based on the E28 (1981-1988) 5 series platform. The M1's 3.5 liter, DOHC engine with individual throttle bodies and Bosch Motronic ignition was the pounding heart of this car, with 286 hp. Only 2180 E28 M5s were built from 1984-1988, of which 1235 (1988 only) were sold in the states. US-spec M5's had larger impact resistant '5 mph' bumpers, TRX metric wheels, self levelling suspension (frequenctly disabled or removed when the original suspension wears out), were down a good 30 horsepower (256 hp vs 286) due to compression, engine management, and breathing changes (catalytic converter, different headers etc), and were only available in black with tan interior. European market M5's sometimes made their way into the states in the 1980's via 'gray market' sales, and euro spec E28 M5's were available in all colors, have much smaller bumpers, and can have either cloth or leather interior. Like the E28 5 series of midsized sedan upon which it was built, the first M5 model has proven to be quite reliable over the years. The tall greenhouse/cabin of this car and its styling belie its 1970's origins. Compared to later models, it feels more raw and rough. This is the lightest of the M5 models, weighing in around 3100 lbs.
  • The E34 M5 followed. E34 5 Series M5's were hand built by small teams of BMW Motorsport technicians in Germany. Produced from 1988 until 1995, a total of 12,249 6-cylinder E34 M5's were made in three versions; the 3.6 and 3.8 liter Sedans and a Touring (station wagon!) model. 1,465 of these cars , all sedans, were sold in the United States, and 138 in Canada. US models, available from 1991 to 1994, have a 3.6 liter naturally-aspirated inline 6-cylinder engine with 315 bhp and 265 lb/ft of torque, with a redline around 7500 rpm. The S38 engine allows the E34 M5 to reach 60 mph under 6 seconds with a top speed of over 150 mph. The E34 chassis was larger and stiffer, but heavier, than the E28's, and infinitely more modern. The E28 platform was really a warmed-over E12 5 series design that dated back to roughly 1972 in its design origins. The hand-built nature of this car dictated a six week process to finish each one! The S38 was later elarged to 3.8 liters with 340 crank hp, but the US did not get this engine. The fastest BMW of its time, the E34 M car has significant sound deadening, NVH reduction, refinement, braking, and ultimate performance ceiling advantages over its predecessor. The E34 M5 sedan weighs in at 3,700 lbs.
  • The E39 M5 was the first M5 to offer a V8, and not the traditional L6 engine. This M5 was also the first to not be built at the BMW M GmBH factory, but rather at the regular 5 series assembly facility. It offered 400 hp via a six speed manual transmission. Far and away the most popular M5 with nearly 21,000 built. The S62 V-8 engine utilized dual VANOS and individual throttle body butterflies to rev to 7,000 RPM. The transmission is a beefed up version of the one found in the 540i. M tech suspension based on the E39 5 series macpherson strut design and massive floating disc brakes allow the E39 M5 to hang with c5 and C6 corvettes as well as the 996 911 Porsche on the track. During production, it's published 0-60 test times in the 4.6 - 5 second range made it the fastest production 4 door sedan in the world. The E39 M5 is the heaviest and most technology-laden of past M5 models. It is the most refined and visually the least discreet. The S62, by all accounts, is a much more reliable engine compared to BMW V8s, and its extensive use of alloys makes the car much less nose heavy than it has a right to be.
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