This could be another in the occasional Things I Like series. I like the M5. I have always liked the M5. I liked the M635CSi which was the first rendition of the M-car for the masses. The M1 was too rare and exotic and nothing like a practical day-to-day proposition. The M635CSi used the M1’s straight six engine in combination with a delicately pretty coupe bodyshell. The first E28 M5 came along a little later and used the same engine. I was mesmerised by the concept of it. I remember that CAR didn’t quite know what to make of it. They tested it against the Citroen CX for its ride and Jaguar XJ6 for its refinement. There was probably something against which they could compare its performance but that wasn’t an AMG Mercedes saloon. AMG was still a niche tuner of Mercedes cars and not as mainstream as it is today.
The second generation E34 M5 used the same classic straight six engine, ultimately in a 3.8 litre capacity which produced 340bhp, a considerable increase on the original’s 286bhp from 3.5 litres. It was the last of the truly exotic M5s. It was hand-built in small numbers at the M-Division in Garching. From the V8-engined E39, all M5s were built on the same production line as other 5-series. The E60 had a V10 which revved and revved and then revved some more and a sequential gearbox which confused with all its various settings. It had two states of tune depending on whether or not you pressed the M button, although why you wouldn’t press the M button is beyond me. It took the engine from about 400hp to 507hp. To go Twitterish for a moment; nom, nom, nom.
And now there’s a new one. It’s a twin-turbocharged, petrol, 56ohp V8 related to that in the 550i but heavily reworked. It’s also similar to the engines in the scabrous X5M and pointless X6M. Unlike those four-wheel drive munters, the new M5 is really quite handsome. The E60 broke with M5 tradition in being quite shouty. The new F10 version is slightly calmer than the E60 but still louder than the M5 norm. When you have more or less the same amount of horsepower as a Ferrari 458 you’re allowed to shout a little.
I think that the current 5-series is one of the more attractive BMWs of recent years. I’m not going to bash Bangle like so many have done. His BMWs were beautifully proportioned but had unusual surfacing and strange detailing. He also cam up with the frankly astonishing Fiat Coupe. That car drags my eyeballs around after it each and every time I see it, not that that happens very often. Anyway the F10 5-series is a calm, dignified but assertive design on the outside and clean and comforting on the inside. It has none of the unhappiness of the E60 or ungainliness of the 5GT. The M5 is a 550i Sport which has been to the gym for some intensive training then to a very good tailor for a new suit to cover it’s muscles without hiding them completely.
If I were to have a spare £75,000 and could only buy one car, it would probably be this one. The AMG is lairier, the XFR has silly lights now (that post is coming shortly) and the XJ Supersports is too big. The Audi S8 has also recently downsized from a V10 to a twin-turbo V8 and has one of those gorgeous places to be interiors the Gas Station Podisode would go “Ping!” at. I don’t have the necessary readies, though. Previous generation M5s are much more affordable. An E60 has been seen in the wild for £18k and that has to be some kind of bargain. It’s possibly with the Devil but that’s still a bargain. The V8-engined E39 is much less expensive – from about £6k with lots to choose from around £10k – and an E34 isn’t quite banger racer material but it’s not far off. An E28 is what the Germans call a Youngtimer and will only appreciate in value if you look after it. The least expensive I found on Pistonheads is £16k. It’s the one I would have and then keep for special occasions. Mind you, going to the shops for bread and milk is a special occasion if you make the journey in an M5.