Since 1984, the BMW M5 has been rightfully regarded as one of the finest performance sedans on sale and Magnus Walker recently had the opportunity to drive a particularly nice example.
The latest-generation M5 is an absolute beast thanks to its 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. However, it is not the current car that is the subject of this review but the E39 that was produced from 1998 to 2003.
To our eyes, the E39 has one of the most timeless designs of any M5 and despite being more than 20 years old, its simple shape and refined lines make its contemporaries feel bloated and oversized.
The E39 M5 was the first M5 to use a V8, but unlike the current car that relies on forced induction, the E39’s engine is naturally aspirated and keener to rev. It pumps out a respectable 392 hp at 6,600 rpm and 369 lb-ft (500 Nm) of torque at 3,800 rpm and is coupled to a six-speed Getrag manual gearbox that sends power to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential.
An argument can be made that modern-day performance cars like the M5 have become overly reliant on outright performance at the sacrifice of driving pleasure. By comparison, the E39 M5 places the driver at the center of the experience and, according to Walker, it is a really pleasurable car to drive at its limits.