The revitalization of BMW’s fortunes in the 1960s is one of the greatest comeback stories ever witnessed by the automotive industry. In the span of one model generation, the famed New Class sedans helped BMW rebound from near bankruptcy to become a manufacturer of sporty, desirable automobiles.

This was not merely a successful business turn around; BMW rise from the jaws of insolvency was also the pr‍‍‍opelled along by extremely successful marketing – the automotive world now looks firmly at Munich’s direction for benchmarks of dynamics.

As the New Class models aged and became ripe for replacement, the second phase of BMW’s revival kick-started in 1972 with the E12 5 Series eventually leading to the familiar 3-5-7 model hierarchy that continues till today.

Designed by ex-Mercedes man Paul Bracq, early versions of the E12 were nobody’s idea of a sports sedan. Yes, the dynamic foundations were there, but a 114 hp four-banger isn’t the kind of powerplant that would set any pulses racing.

At the same time that very first 520s were rolling out of the newly-christened Dingolfing plant, BMW’s racing operations were being consolidated to form BMW Motorsport GmbH, an organization that we’ve come to know today simply as BMW M.

The concurrent timing of these two separate developments were perhaps coincidental, yet it seemed inevitable that the 5 Series and BMW M would someday cross paths. That they did in 1979 with the M535i.

The original idea behind the BMW M road car programme was a ‘race on Sunday, sell on Monday affair’ making homologation specials, and the results were classics that are still remembered with fondness today – the 3.0 CSL Batmobile and M1 mid-engine sports car. The M535i was a first attempt at infusing race-derived technologies into a practical road car that can be used daily without compromise.

Though it was the most powerful member of the E12 family, the M535i’s 3.5-litre inline-6 was a standard issue BMW powertrain that also featured in the 6 and 7 Series of the era. At this point in time, BMW M was limited to just providing chassis tweaks and cosmetic upgrades, but the template was set and lesson learned – there is market for high performance luxurious sedans, an assertion reinforced by Mercedes’ success with the 190 E 2.3-16 that BMW did not have a direct answer for until the E30 M3 came along much later.

BMW phased out the E12 5 Series in 1981, in its place came the second-generation E28. A successor variant of the M535i was on offer as well, but with upgrades only to its bodykits and chassis, the E28 M535i was just a warm up ahead of the real deal – the original M5, which debuted at the Amsterdam Motor Show in February 1984.

Compared the M535i, BMW M expended substantially greater resources on the M5, throwing even the M1’s race-derived engine at it. Whilst 286 hp and 6.9 seconds are numbers closer to what we’d expect of a humble 2.0-litre 530i these days, in 1984, it was good enough to install the M5 as the world’s fastest production sedan. Despite not having any motorsports pedigree associated to its name, the M5 was an innocuous-looking sedan that murdered purpose-built sports cars for breakfast.

Less than 2,200 units of the original M5 were ever made; but they laid the foundations of a dynasty of performance ably carried by a succession of superbly-engineered high performance vehicles. Every generation of the M5 represented the very best engineering that BMW M can muster, pushing the envelope of high performance to its absolute limits, beyond what’s merely good enough.

Recently, the covers were pulled off the sixth-generation M5, the F90. Compared to the original, the newest one is built on a very different template and is significantly more powerful, with 600 hp and 750 Nm as its headline figures.

Against the original’s mechanical purity, the new one is tech-laden in comparison, the monstrous outputs of its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 shuffled across all fours with the aid of an automatic transmission. Its chassis has the largest array of electronic controls ever; and despite the amount of added features, F90’s is 15 kg lighter than its predecessor – outstanding when you remember that BMW slammed an extra pair of driveshafts up front.

As the coming together of BMW’s two most recognizable symbols – the 5 Series and the M division – the M5 is the car which most succinctly encapsulates BMW’s overall identity, and it therefore will always be the car upon which the company’s finest engineering ideas are poured in.

In that context, we can understand why BMW had so l‍‍‍ittle hesitation to rip the traditional M5 copybook apart to give us this slushbox turbocharged all-wheel-driven monster – a no-compromise pursuit of sheer performance. It is also why, despite already having the M550i xDrive that is faster than the F10 M5, BMW still invested that final tenth of an effort to give us the F90 M5.

‍‍‍For all of the M division’s motorsports pedigree, BMW has never raced the M5; but it has never needed to. The M5 was never meant to win races; but over three decades sheer dri‍‍‍ving pleasure, it has won something far bigger – the hearts of enthusiasts.


0 seconds

3.5 secon‍‍‍ds

3.6 ‍‍‍seconds

3.9 seconds

- AUDI R8 V10

- Pagani Zonda F



Lexus LFA
Ferrari California T
Jaguar F-Type V8 SVR
Porsche 911 Turbo S
Mercedes-AMG GT R

(just about there)
McLaren MP4-12C

560 hp

575 hp‍‍‍

580 hp‍‍‍

585 hp

600 hp

The origin of


In 1972, BMW introduced the first 5 Series and started ‍‍‍the M Division. In 1984, these two combined to become the M5, the most potent symbol of BMW’s famed t‍‍‍agline – the Ultimate Driving Machine.

words by BOBBY ANG

Why The F90 M5 Is A Machine To Be Feared



Without A Clutch‍‍‍

Until the X5 M and X6 M came along, BMW M cars were strictly rear-wheel driven. The F90 M5 now becomes the first BMW M passenger car to send traction to all corners. Although BM‍‍‍W already has its proven xDrive AWD system, the M5’s M xDrive is a specially-configured rear-biased setup that working in conjunction with BMW’s Active M Differential governed by a whole bunch of trick software. In normal conditions, the driveline sends power to the rear like a traditional M car, with forward traction deployed as needed. The thinking behind this is to make the M5 drive as much like a rear-wheel drive car as possible, but backed by the added confidence and security of all-wheel drive. Sideways action is still allowed, of course, so those trademark shots of M5s shredding tyres in drifts will still be coming. If you’re up for it, BMW will even allow you to switch the AWD system off together with the traction control, but we won’t quite recommend that outside a race track.

Dual clutch transmissions may shift faster, but the M5’s current level of performance requ‍‍‍ire something way more robust. Enter the familiar 8-speed auto you see across the BMW line-up, but appropriately geared for high performance and rapid shift times in the M5. A dedicated transmission oil cooler ensures that it will have the necessary endurance in the face of track punishment.

The highly-sophisticated chassis that is geared to enable the driver to squeeze the maximum amount of fun and performance out of the car without killing himself in the process. To that end, the engine, transmission, all-wheel drive, steering, DSC, and suspension are not only electronically-controlled, they are controlled from one centralized processor, ensuring all elements of the car act in perfect harmony to keep the driver in control at all times.

A C‍‍‍entralized Chassis Brain

Considering the amount of new tech being plonked into the M5, it is somewhat ironic that BMW M has chosen to power it with a carryover engine. Still, they were nothing if not thorough in their re-engineering of the 4.4-litre twin turbocharged powertrain. A pair of new turbos are in place, whilst lubrication and cooling systems both thoroughly revamped. Injectors have a higher maximum pressure of 350 bar. The engine can be as loud or as quiet as you want – just press the M Sound Control button. The efforts of BMW’s overhaul yielded a 40 PS and 70 Nm gain in performance over the F10 M5.

4.4-litre Twin ‍‍‍Turb‍‍‍o V8

BMW M535i‍‍‍

Paul Bracq