BMW, MINI, Rolls-Royce. The three brands could hardly be more different, yet don’t think for a moment they have nothing in common. Their cars are all expressions of individuality on wheels, of a personal lifestyle. All three boast a cult following and have spawned one story after another, which we will be recounting here on a regular basis – patchy in detail and with no claim to completeness perhaps, but all from the heart. Let’s get things started with the legendary BMW M5.
It’s now 30 years since what was then Motorsport GmbH launched an all-new class of car: the sports car with four doors. Sporty sedans had always been around, but the M5 was not one of them. It was – as its maker intended – a sports car. With four doors.
An M had already popped up in a model designation of the E12 generation preceding the E28, and again in the E28 BMW M535i. This was the first sedan Motorsport GmbH had turned into a sports machine, complete with uprated suspension, eye-catching spoilers and the 218 hp engine from the BMW 735i.
However, everything changed in the 1985 model year. That was when Motorsport GmbH transplanted the engine from BMW’s M1 super-sports car into a 5 Series. 286 hp amounted to more in reality than the numbers on the page. 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.1 seconds and a verified 245 km/h (152 mph) top speed were the stats that really mattered, securing the M5 a cast-iron entry into the pure-bred sports car club. It drove like it had swallowed a Ferrari 328 GTS. But, in contrast to the fabled Italian, this car had four doors, five comfortable seats, the ergonomic gifts of a “driver-focused cockpit” and everyday usability unmatched by anything else at this rarefied end of the market. Just over 2,000 examples of the E28 M5 were built up to 1988. The main reason for such a paltry total was its heady purchase price of 81,000 marks. And it didn’t take much to push that into six figures by ticking a few options boxes.
Today that makes the first-generation M5 even more attractive, and not just for collectors. You don’t have to be a car buff to turn gooey at the sight of this car. Its clear lines, solid workmanship and outstanding performance have ensured the M5 has retained its youthful aura to this day. It’s a real driver’s car, one in which you can still sit behind the wheel with a pair of leather gloves on.
BMW M GmbH is now midway through production of the fifth-generation M5. Horsepower may have almost doubled since the creation of the original M5, but that car laid a mighty foundation stone for this now legendary model more than 30 years ago.
One final thought: while its mid-size classmate from Stuttgart was earning its spurs as a redoubtable barge in taxi ranks across Germany, the M5 was becoming best known as a “race taxi” taking guests on hot laps of the Nürburgring.