BMW E39 M5: The legend that revolutionized the sports sedan segment

When we talk about automotive icons, the BMW E39 M5 stands out as one of the most emblematic. Introduced in 1998 at the Geneva Motor Show, this sports sedan not only broke the mold but also set new standards in the industry. With an elegant design and brutal power, the E39 M5 is the car that every motor enthusiast dreams of having in their garage. Join me on this journey to discover what makes this BMW a true legend.

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An Elegant and Timeless Design

The BMW E39 M5 was designed by Ulf Weidhase and his team, who managed to create a silhouette that perfectly combines elegance and aggressiveness. With dimensions of 4,783 mm in length, 1,801 mm in width, and 1,412 mm in height, the E39 M5 has an imposing presence on the road. Despite its robustness, the design of this car is sophisticated, with fluid lines that give it a timeless appearance.

The details in its design, such as the “corona rings” in the front headlights (known as “Angel Eyes”) and the LED taillights, introduced in the 2000 facelift, added a modern touch that is still admired today. Additionally, the interior received various upgrades, including high-quality materials and exceptional ergonomics, making the E39 M5 as comfortable as it is fast.

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The Heart of the Giant: The S62 V8 Engine

The true star of the E39 M5 is its engine. BMW decided to equip this model with the powerful S62 V8 4.9-liter engine, the first M5 to use a V8 engine. This powerplant generates 400 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and a torque of 500 Nm at 3,800 rpm. Thanks to its electronically controlled individual throttle bodies, aluminum block and heads, and a semi-dry sump lubrication system, the S62 is not only powerful but also sophisticated.

This engine allowed the E39 M5 to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds, an impressive figure for a sedan of its size and weight (1,795 kg). Moreover, although the top speed was electronically limited to 250 km/h, it is known that some unrestricted M5s reached speeds exceeding 300 km/h. This performance was complemented by an exhaust sound that was pure music to the ears of any motor enthusiast.

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The Drive: Precision and Pleasure

BMW M GmbH ensured that the E39 M5 was not only fast in a straight line but also offered an unparalleled driving experience. The front MacPherson strut suspension and rear multi-link suspension, both with aluminum components, were specifically tuned for this model. The body was 23 mm closer to the ground compared to other 5 Series models, improving stability and handling.

One of the most notable features was the recirculating ball steering with a faster steering ratio (14.7:1) and variable power assistance through the Servotronic system. This system, along with the “Sport” button that adjusted throttle response and steering assistance, allowed the driver to tailor the car’s behavior to their preferences.

The brakes, with two-piece floating discs, provided exceptional stopping power and improved wear resistance. Although these discs were not available on the US and Canadian models, the E39 M5’s brakes were still impressive, capable of stopping the sedan quickly and confidently.

A Bit of History and Curiosities

Production of the E39 M5 took place between 1998 and 2003, with a total of 20,482 units manufactured. Unlike its predecessors, this M5 was produced on the same assembly line as regular 5 Series models at the Dingolfing plant in Germany. This not only reduced costs but also allowed for a smoother integration of the M5-specific improvements into the production line.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the E39 M5’s history is the prototype “Touring” model (wagon/estate) that BMW developed but never produced. This prototype, finished in Titanium Silver with exclusive black leather interior, would have been a fascinating addition to the lineup, combining the practicality of a wagon with the performance of an M5. However, financial reasons prevented this model from reaching showrooms.

Another interesting anecdote is the public and critical response. The E39 M5 was universally acclaimed for its balance between comfort and sportiness. “Car and Driver” magazine named it one of the best cars of its time, highlighting its ability to be a daily driver with the soul of a race car.

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A Lasting Legacy

The BMW E39 M5 remains a benchmark in the world of sports sedans. Its combination of power, precise handling, and comfort makes it a car desired by collectors and enthusiasts alike. Furthermore, its timeless design and impressive performance ensure that it will continue to be a beloved classic for many years to come.

For those fortunate enough to own one, the E39 M5 is not just a car; it is an unparalleled driving experience and a piece of automotive history. And for those who dream of having one, the E39 M5 remains the pinnacle of what a sports sedan should be: elegant, powerful, and above all, exciting.

Photo: ©BMW Group