Pick a letter — say M — and put it together with a number — say 5 — and what have you got? Lovers of performance cars know the answer, for the BMW M5 has been burning rubber since it was introduced in 1985. This souped-up special is made by BMW Motorsport and has shadowed the 5 series over time, the first version being the hand-built E28 that started as the M5 meant to go on — as the world’s fastest production saloon.
Further evolutions kept up the speedy work as the E34 and E39 M5s were licensed to thrill, and the latest dazzler is the E60 M5, with us since 2005. This businesslike four-door saloon has a pleasant shape but little that hints at its performance potential. This is realized with the help of a BMW S85 V10 engine that socks out 500 bhp and redlines at 8,250 revs.
The ability to handle this massive power output is secured by a stiffened aluminium chassis and seven-speed SMG III electrohydraulic automatic transmission. Critics in the USA found this advanced system was perfect for track use but jerky in everyday road use, so BMW also offered a six-speed manual option. This, however, denies drivers the pleasure of using the SMG III’s launch control to make spectacular standing starts. That’s not all they lose, for SMG offers dynamic stability control and the Drivelogic system that gives no fewer than 11 programmes controlled from paddles on the steering wheel and a console shifter. Clever stuff!
If all the electronic gizmology can get rather confusing (it can), the M5’s true raison d’être remains plain. It’s a rather ordinary looking BMW saloon car that unexpectedly accelerates like a ballistic missile and would easily top the double-ton if some Teutonic killjoy hadn’t decided to fit a limiter.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
4,999 cc DOHC V10
Electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
An E61 M5 Touring estate car was introduced in 2007 – only the second M5 to be offered in this body style after the E34 and intended to go head-to-head with the Mercedes E63 AMG Estate and the Audi RS6.