BMW M5 Evolution: Collecting The Skulls Of Enemies And The Hearts Of Gearheads

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This car proves the phrase “there is no such thing as perfect” wrong.

The hardest thing about making something epic is trying to follow it with something even better. With the E39 M5, the bar for the ultimate luxury and performance sedan had been pushed to the limit. So how did BMW follow the E39 M5? By using the same formula as last time: more power and more technology. BMW engineers were sick of the ever-expanding waistlines on modern cars, so they kept the E60 at 4,090 pounds, nearly the same weight as its predecessor.

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What they couldn’t get enough of was the addicting power, so just like on the E39 they added two more cylinders. A V10 graced this rocket, but despite the added pots, the engine only grew by 0.1 liters to rest at an even 5.0 liters. The increase that didn’t seem dwarfish was the power. The sweet-sounding V10 gained more than 100 horsepower over the old V8 to hit the 500-pony mark. This turned the seemingly innocent cruiser that you’d expect your yuppie neighbor with a better job than you to have into a car that could warp your sense of reality by hitting 60 mph from a standstill in 4.1 seconds. Like its older brothers, this Bimmer was limited to 155 mph but this was far from its true capabilities.

Sans limiter, this car turned into the first M5 to sail past 200 mph to top out at 205 mph. Like any good recipe, the end result always turns out better when you have the finest ingredients, and BMW did not skimp. By combining one of the best engines, chassis, and steering setups, the M5 became the ultimate performance saloon. The only component that constantly drew criticism was the seven-speed sequential manual gearbox. An outraged public chastised BMW for taking away their precious manual, so the company intelligently added a six-speed manual option to get rid of pitchfork-wielding purists. With a good gearbox completing the puzzle, BMW had arguably made one of the most impressive cars of its time.

It allowed owners to step into heavyweight performance territory while retaining the ability to keep in-laws quiet and satisfied on long road trips. With the performance aspect covered, BMW turned to luxury. With heated and electric leather seats, a pretty cabin, and a magnificent driving experience, there wasn’t much more luxury they could stuff in. So instead the Germans put the M5 on a silicon diet where it gained the infamous iDrive system, automated side bolsters, voice commands, automatic curtains, launch control, a heads-up display, and the ability to alter every driving dynamic including the harshness of the upshifts, engine noise, throttle response, and suspension dampening.

So how did this plethora of tech and power add up? If you pay attention to the 19,564 saloons and 1,025 Europe-only wagons that BMW sold from 2005 to 2010, pretty good. But the automotive world’s favorite person, Jeremy Clarkson, said it best. “It’s a world of motoring perfection. The driving experience just dominates everything…. It’s an epic car, just brilliant.”

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