RAC Cars News


30 years of the M5

By raccars Published

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The BMW M5 has been endangering executives' licences for 30 years now, so BMW is producing a special edition, called the '30 Jahre,' to celebrate the anniversary. How does a car become an icon?


Before the M5 became the M5, it was the E12 M535i, a kind of practice version for the company. It was powered by a straight six 3.5 litre engine, returning 218bhp. It was 'sported up' a bit with a close ratio gearbox, uprated brakes and the distinctive BMW Motorsport spoiler. BMW must have been pleased with the result of the experiment, as what came next was the start of something rather special.


The first real M5 was the E28 version, introduced to some fanfare and raised eyebrows at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1984. Its 282bhp were courtesy of the M1 supercar's 3.5 litre straight six and punters couldn't help but be impressed by the 6.5 second 0-60mph time and 153mph top speed. It's now a very rare and desirable example of an 'M' badged BMW, thanks to a production run limited to 2,191 units.


Having developed its confidence with the E28, a few years later, BMW went in for a few updates to bring the E34 version.

Starting out with 311bhp, BMW increased this to 335bhp in 1991, by switching from a 3.6 litre engine to a 3.8, resulting in 5.7 seconds to 60mph and a 177mph top speed, thanks in part to a never ending chase for horsepower with domestic rival, Mercedes.


After three years without an M5 in its line up, BMW rectified this oversight - with bells on. The E39 version's thundering new V8, with 394bhp, modern aluminium suspension set up and stiffer shocks, were a revelation. Its top speed was limited to 155mph but this hides a realistic potential for 186mph and a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds.


As if that weren't good enough, the next M5, the E60, got a 500bhp V10 with a seven speed sequential manual transmission, a combination BMW was sure would see off Mercedes. Unrestricted, this M5 could top 200mph and reach 60mph in 4.7 seconds. It was also the first time UK buyers could get their hands on a left hand drive M5 estate.

From 2011- present

The current, F10 M5 goes for something a bit different with a twin turbo V8, allegedly due to fuel economy considerations. Nonetheless, its 560bhp puts it in supercar territory with a 3.6 second 0-60mph time plus the option to boost performance even further with M Drivers and Competition packages.

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