Overview & Reviews
There are sport sedans, and then there's the BMW M5. No other car in recent memory has been able to represent the ideal for this segment as strongly as the Bimmer. For each of its five generations, the M5 has impressively blended sports car performance, sedan utility and luxury ambience.
The M5 is a product of BMW's performance-tuning M Division. It's based on the 5 Series sedan, and historical calling cards include a unique and more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes, special wheels and tires, and aerodynamically enhanced bodywork. Though the most recent BMW M5 is the fleetest of the group, any M5 still represents a fantastic choice for a luxury sport sedan. Even M5s from the 1980s and '90s were significant performers in their day, and the rare well-kept specimen still holds great appeal for enthusiasts.
Current BMW M5
The current M5 packs a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 good for 560 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. The optional Competition package bumps the power up to 575. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual are standard, while a six-speed conventional manual is available as a no-cost option. Unlike the rev-happy naturally aspirated engines that came before it, this turbocharged mill provides a mountain of low-end torque that seemingly never lets up. This is an astonishingly quick car.
How the M5 drives is largely determined by which of the myriad drive settings you choose. Steering weight, suspension firmness, throttle response, transmission shift programming and stability control parameters can all be adjusted to your exact preferences. On an ordinary BMW, the adjustable settings consist of three or four preset combinations, so this M5 represents a new level of customizable performance.
The overall result is a car that can function equally well as a docile commuter or a vicious, corner-attacking machine. There are several other cars that pull off a similar double-duty trick, but the M5 is the car that arguably inspired them all. Its engine may be a departure from past models, and its size may make it seem a bit unwieldy at times, but there's no denying that the latest M5 maintains its high-performance street cred.
Used BMW M5 Models
The current, fifth-generation M5 debuted for 2013 after a two-year hiatus for the nameplate. Like the 5 Series on which it's based, this M5 is larger than its predecessor, with an improved interior and more traditional BMW styling. In addition to swapping out the old V10 for a twin-turbo V8, it gains a superior dual-clutch automated manual transmission, a more capable torque-vectoring rear differential, upgraded brakes and enhanced adjustable drive settings. Unlike the regular 5 Series, the M5 sticks with more responsive and communicative hydraulic power steering rather than electric.
The current M5 received a handful of updates for 2014, including minor styling tweaks, a new steering wheel, a revised iDrive interface, a few additional options and the optional Competition package (comprising 15 extra hp, a sport exhaust, 20-inch wheels and sharper steering and suspension calibrations).
The previous, fourth-generation BMW M5 was produced for the 2006-'10 model years. It was powered by a screaming 5.0-liter V10 capable of 500 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission at first was a single-clutch automated manual called SMG that sent power to the rear wheels. Drivers could either leave the transmission in automatic mode or perform exceptionally quick gearshifts via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The downside was unrefined, herky-jerky upshifts, which were particularly unwelcome in ordinary driving. BMW offered an optional six-speed conventional manual starting in 2007.
The fourth-gen M5's suspension took more of a back-to-basics approach. Unlike the standard-issue 5 Series of that era, the M5 lacked active roll bars and run-flat tires. The major pieces were electronically controlled dampers, lightweight 19-inch wheels, performance tires and massive brakes. Our quibbles here mostly concerned the unnatural-feeling steering system with its variable ratio and effort. Otherwise, this M5 was a track-ready ninja with uncommonly precise handling.
Like previous M5s, the fourth generation didn't sacrifice much comfort to achieve its high-performance abilities -- just about every luxury feature came standard. Whether it's utilized for daily commuting, impressing clients or blasts on empty canyon roads, a used M5 from this generation will be up to the task. Be wary of maintenance costs, however, as BMW forums are rife with tales of eye-wateringly expensive repair bills.
Besides the addition of the six-speed manual, there were only subtle changes made throughout the fourth-generation M5's life. Most notably, model years prior to 2010 featured older versions of iDrive that made even the simplest stereo or climate control functions complicated to use. Extensive changes for 2010 made it far more user-friendly.
For some die-hard BMW enthusiasts, the third-generation M5 is still the best. Offered from 2000-'03, this M5 featured a 4.9-liter V8 good for 394 hp. At the time of the car's debut, the engine's output was considered quite outrageous for a midsize luxury sedan, as was its 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. The sole transmission choice was a six-speed manual. Eighteen-inch wheels and the requisite suspension and braking upgrades were part of the package, though some say it never quite equaled the raw athleticism of the previous M5. Numerous new technology features found their way into this generation, including an electronic "drive-by-wire" throttle with adjustable response and an early navigation system. It will no doubt be a future classic.
Prior to this there were two M5 generations, and both are rare sights on U.S. roads today. The second-generation M5 was available from 1991-'93. It had a straight-6 engine that displaced 3.6 liters and made 310 hp, a then-remarkable output that actually trailed the European-spec engine by 30 hp. This M5 was prominently featured in the 1998 Robert De Niro car chase classic Ronin. At the time, the only sedan capable of matching the M5 was the Mercedes-Benz 500E, which had a V8 engine.
The original BMW M5 was available for the 1988 model year only and was based on the second-generation 535i. For power, it had a version of the 3.5-liter straight six-cylinder found in the legendary M1 exotic sports car. In the United States, it made 256 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission was a five-speed manual, and the cars were offered with a black paint job only. Highly collectible now, it's said that only 500 were brought to the United States.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 209.00
400 HP Imola Red Super Sedan - 2002 BMW M5
By Kurt G. - October 12 - 6:58 pm
They say, use the proper tool for the job.This car is the tool for a proper driving experience. I couldn't say enough about it. It's great on the highway, with ample power to overtake the lemmings in the fast lane. It's agile on back roads, and twisties for spirited driving. It's true, they are a bit of bite to the coin purse when they break, but fortunately they have a bullet proof build quality, and breaks are infrequent. It's nice to have the ponies on tap at the press of a button. The car definitely wants to go when you press the sport button. Throttle response quickens, power and torque pin you back in the seat, steering tightens up, transmission shifts quicker. Truly a drivers car. Not for the person who just wants a personal conveyance.
Wouldn't Trade it for ANYTHING - 2002 BMW M5
By Althund - September 8 - 3:26 pm
Best all around car I have ever owned and my fifth BMW overall. I will drive this one till it dies. A lot of people have commented on high maintenance costs but I challenge anyone to say any high performance car from Audi, Mercedes or any other automaker is cheaper to maintain. They all cost $$$ for the performance. If you want cheap maintenance costs, by a Focus. Mine is a driver, not a show piece. But if I wanted a show piece, I would have bought a painting. I wanted a drivers car with the comfort of four doors. Sure there are faster car now, but they also have a multitude of complicated computers and active suspensions and systems that cost a fortune to fix. I have had mine for 3 years now, and all I have done is tires, brakes, oil and gas. My only complaint about the E39 M5 is the inability to change the nav/radio out in the car without a major investment due to the DSP system in the car. But like anything, if you are creative, you can get the system work with a tablet.
Don't Make the Same Mistake! - 2006 BMW M5
By brandon54 - December 21 - 11:34 pm
I bought an 06 BMW M5 in May with 68,000 miles. On the drive home, the oil cooler broke and started leaking oil. That was a $1500 repair, an addition to the money I just spent purchasing the car and approximately $1000 in taxes. A few weeks later, the passenger restraint malfunction showed up. The battery cable had to be replaced. I spent nearly $1000 on that particular issue, maybe more. Shortly after, I began to get transmission malfunctions, as well as engine malfunctions which placed the car in limp mode. I spent $7000 fixing the transmission problems and just a few months later, I'm having problems again. I've lost $15,000 this year because of the M5 and I'm done.
The E39 M5 probably the best saloon for the $$ - 2000 BMW M5
By nixjay5 - April 29 - 10:04 pm
I have owned the this car for coming up a year now. I bought the car at 111k and now have driven it to 138k closing on 140k soon. It has been a lot of miles the MPG isn't too bad when you consider the performance it offers. It goes through tires quickly. Plenty of people think that the car is newer than what it actually is. A lot of the technology is outdated and I wish I got the 01 due to the updates. But the car has been nothing but an amazing car for me. Drove it to Texas from California averaging higher speeds and drove it back without a worry. Also my driving style isnt always the smoothest or most gentle. Ive used it with a car seat and its a great family car as well.
E34 M5 - 1991 BMW M5
By notimportant - July 22 - 4:29 pm
Over 20 years later, the car is still a blast to drive. The limited run of US E34 M5's places you in a small group of proud owner, amongst a much larger group of enthusiasts who respect the automobile. The car has an amazing sound with the factory exhaust, more of a small camm V8 sound than a factory I6. Still nimble and quick, the car makes your drive to work fun again. The fuel consumption is a bit less than one might like, but it is easy to overlook for the combination of comfort and enjoyment offered by this emerging classic. Due to the limited parts availability and maintenance requirements, I would not advise for daily use. For ocassional use and weekend fun, it's simply perfect.
Can NOT go back - 2008 BMW M5
By blackm5_owner - May 9 - 12:35 pm
I have owned an M-5 for about 6 months now. I can say, I cannot go back to an "ordinary" BMW. The car is the most fun thing one can do with shoes on. It does drive a bit jerky at slow speeds, but I will say, it was not meant to go at slow speeds!. On a serios note, the SMG takes a little bit getting used to. I find manual to be a lot smoother. The only down side it gas milage, I am aroung 14.6-15 mpg. But it makes a statement, and turns heads whereever it goes. I love the growl it makes when I downshift. For all the folks who want an M experience, once you drive one, you cannot go back!
love it - 2001 BMW M5
By atorreon - April 1 - 3:27 pm
great car!!!! this is the most fun car i've ever owned. no matter how sucky of a day i have going this car always puts a smile on my face. the only thing i dont like about this car is the constant oil burnoff
Critics are too OLD! - 2010 BMW M5
By m3isme - March 24 - 1:52 pm
Have used my friends for a month (we traded I have an M3) and it's a great car! So many complaints from critics, but the trick is that you really have to tinker with the settings first. Everything is programmable. Set the M mode to everything power and it's frighteningly fast. For people who complain about the stability control not being able to fully disengage, you're testing the car in a controlled environment. In a real world setting, a car with this much power and this much mass needs it to be on. Steering is a bit numb however. Sound system and idrive are a big upgrade. Styling is still understated. Seats are very comfortable. Overall great car, but still love my M3.
"M Series are the real ultimate driving - 2003 BMW M5
By Bavarian5 - November 20 - 2:00 am
I had a 2003 BMW 330Ci, and I decide that I wanted more space, but at the same time I wanted more performance, and thats why I opted for the E39 M5. I wanted the E60 M5, but this one was more on my budget! Was a deal of the century. So far I am really satisfied with the vehicle. The ride is out of this world when in sport mode. It is a real sleeper. It moves like a rocket for a 4 door sedan, despite the car being 7 years old.I had to replace a few things, but most of them were tear and wear. So I am not complaining. I do recommend that before anybody buys one of these to check the clutch, bushing, get the carfax and try to find out the kind of maintenance the car received before you buy it.
M5 has character - 2007 BMW M5
By Mcardriver - October 11 - 2:00 am
I have owned several M3s, and liked them all. This is my first M5. Getting older I was looking for a more power and great handling but when not in the mood a little more comfort with the convenience of auto transmission in traffic. It tries to accomplishes all this but this is where it is flawed as it can't be a master of everything. At slow speeds the SMG is dimwitted. It doesn't react as quick as a manual and you can be beaten of the lights unless your on your game. Gear changes can be brutal when in attack mode. However I love it - the challenge you face is to know the car, set it up the way you want it and adapt to its shortcomings.Gives it a unique character.