The M name is the stuff of legend anymore, adorning all makes of BMW’s. However, while most variants share a majority of their genetic make-up with the hoi polloi of their lineage, one particular generation struck out. Today it reigns high above the rest because of how remarkably unique it remains.
The first BMW to wear an M badge was the 530 MLE (E12) in 1976, four years later the M moniker would take the brand into uncharted territory with the introduction of the M1 – forever solidifying their performance pursuits.
Since then BMW’s best cars have long been recognized by the tri-color band and chrome letter M. As time progressed BMW began tuning more cars in their line-up to M-specifications: always more powerful and perpetually impressive. Scarcely is there a BMW wearing this badge that is more profound than the 2005 BMW M5 (E60) though, and we will tell you why on today’s Motoring Monday report!
The production version of the sedan was unveiled in 2004 at the Paris auto show, and three years later the touring (wagon) version would be released in Geneva. From the start, the world’s automotive enthusiasts knew that this was going to be a world-shaking performer. Where the last M5 shared many parts and looked far too similar to the standard 5 Series, this new M5 was a baby born almost entirely by the M works palace.
An M5 Exclusive
The powerplant, unlike the previous M5 (E39), in the new M5 was a “clean sheet” design, meaning it was only designed for this car. The uneven firing 5.0 liter V10, named the S85, was inspired by BMW’s current Formula 1 motor and takes the grand honor of being the first V-10 to be put in a production sedan. Rated at 500 hp, and with a redline of 7,700rpm, this engine was a hotbed of racing technology. All aluminum cylinder heads, an aluminum crankshaft (only 480 grams), hollow camshafts, individual throttle bodies, and lightweight valves (4-per cylinder) were just some of the big highlights this motor came included with from Bavaria.
The individuality doesn’t even end there, though. No, the E60 M5 also shipped with a “Clean sheet” designed Semi-manual gearbox (SMG), the third design by BMW. Although a 6-speed manual option would later be offered in the American markets the SMG III transmission was remarkable and moving power. It was a single-clutch unit with 7-speeds that, in addition to a launch control feature had 11 different driver settings for automatic and manual shifting styles.
Spirited Stopping and Suspension
Down below that magnificent V-10, BMW worked even more M-agic. The braking system sported ventilated and cross-drilled rotors hidden behind lightweight 19” wheels, unique to the M5. That braking system was far more intelligent than previous BMW’s too. With a stand-by brake feature, the car would preemptively prepare the brakes if rapid throttle-lift was detected. Also incorporated in the system was a brake drying feature, that cleared water from the rotors. BMW pulled all their computer assistants and put them to good use.
Although the general all-aluminum suspension layout (MacPherson front & multi-link rear) is the same as the standard 5 Series, BMW’s M boys knew where and how they could improve it. A wider front track, by .9 inches, was set up to accommodate the larger tires and wheels, plus it adds stability. Hollow half-shafts reduced rotational mass, stiffer bushings in the front & rear helped manage weight transfer, rear links off of the Z8 Roadster dropped weight, tailored spring rates for a lower height, and thicker anti-sway bars in the front & rear all tightened up the M5’s cornering nature.
The new M5 was mechanically unique to the standard 5 Series, a trademark of all M cars, but their styling aimed to be almost indistinguishable to those standard cars. This M5 was no different, but to the initiated car aficionado you can easily spot one. The M5 has a more aggressive front spoiler, a trademark M hood bulge, wider front & rear fender flairs, a functional rear diffuser, quad tailpipes, more aerodynamic side mirrors, and a functional side-gill vent that sports an M5 logo.
Inside the cabin is very reminiscent of the standard 5 Series, but a closer inspection will let the pilot know they are behind the tri-color stitched, 3-spoke steering wheel of something more exclusive. Peering through that wheel, when equipped with the SMG gearbox, is a Heads-Up Display that presents critical driving information to the driver.
Just below, the analog dials are breathed upon by the M division with red & white indicator mark coloring, M logos, and aluminum bezels. While driving, the M sports seats will move and adjust side bolstering to keep you firmly planted, and looking sharp through the twisties.
By the end of 2010, the E60 M5 had become the most successful M5 in history; over 20,000 were produced, with 1,364 examples of the M5 sedan with the 6-speed manual gearbox!
Nevertheless, it is not hard to see why the car was so successful. The screaming V-10 was more Italian supercar than a sedan and offered lap times with performance to match. Dropping a 4.2-second 0-60 time, a (de-limited) top speed of 205 mph, and an 8:13 second time around the Nurburgring, the M5 went untouched for quite some time. Ultimately by the end of its era, it was looked upon as one of the ultimate driving machines that have come from BMW’s best, and we love it for that.
- Years – 2005-2010
- Layout – Front Engine
- Drive – RWD
- Body Style – Sedan / Touring (Wagon)
- Seating – 5
- Motor – V10
- Displacement – 5.0 Liters
- Power (hp) – 500
- Torque (lbs-ft) – 380
- Transmission – 6-speed manual / 7-speed Semi-Manual
- Wheelbase – Saloon: 2,889 mm (113.7 in) / Touring: 2,880 mm (113.4 in)
- Weight – Saloon: 1,855 kg (4,090 lb) / Touring: 1,955 kg (4,310 lb)
- 0-60 mph – 4.2 seconds
- Quarter-mile – 12.4 seconds
- Top Speed – 155 mph (limited) – 205 mph (de-limited)