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A family car which could reach 190 mph?

Very much a wolf in sheep's clothing, there are some who believe that BMW have deliberately understated the performance and potential of the M5, in order to avoid damaging the sales of more expensive cars they produce, such as the M635CSi. They may be right. The original M5 was handbuilt by BMW's racing design and engineering teams, and their expertise is obvious.

Was it fast?

The first M5 model, based on the E28 5 series and utilising the 535i chassis and with a 3.5 L straight six twin cam engine, sporting 24 valves, produced 286 brake horsepower, which, BMW claimed, powered the car up to a maximum speed of 153 mph with acceleration of 0 to 60 of 6.2 seconds. At the time it was hailed as the fastest production saloon car in the world. However, were these figures a little conservative? Certainly, the engine was capable of producing more power; a journalist claimed he got oneup to 190 mph by taking off the speed limiter, and a racing version was turbocharged; it produced a shocking 900 brake horsepower!

How about racing?

An E34 M5 was entered in the 1992 James Hardy 12 hour endurance race in Bathurst, New South Wales Australia where it was placed number one in it's class, and in second place overall.

Was it successful?

Ultimately, only 2145 of the E28 M5 cars were built, making it one of the rarest of the M series cars.

Was it innovative?

An unusual attribute of the original car was the design of the wheels. Initially these came in three parts; the wheel itself, a fin assembly and then a wheel cover. The idea behind this was to blast more air over the brakes, in order to assist with their cooling.

Later generations

The E39 variant was first introduced to popular acclaim at the Geneva Motor Show in 1998. The engine was upgraded to a V8 producing 394 brake horsepower, with front suspension components made of aluminium to decrease weight and improve handling. The top speed of road machines was deliberately limited to 155 mph; an unrestricted model reached a speed of 186 mph.

In 2005 the E60 was introduced. This had the world's first production saloon car to have a V10 engine, which gave it a claimed 0 to 60 time of 4.7 seconds. Again, there have been suspicions that this figure was deliberately made more conservative since independent testers recorded figures around 4.1 seconds. Over 20,000 of this variant were produced.


It would seem that the M5 series has always been a little bit better, and could've been a lot better, than BMW claimed. Whether this was because they needed to limit sales because of production difficulties, or because they wanted to encourage their buyers to choose more expensive (or more profitable) models is a matter for conjecture.

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