Pure Power: History of the V10 BMW S85 engine in the M5 E60

The BMW S85: A V10 that Revolutionized the Roads

Talking about the BMW S85 engine is diving into an exciting and revolutionary chapter of automotive history. This engine, born from BMW engineering and Formula 1 inspiration, not only powered the legendary M5 E60 but also left an indelible mark on the industry. From its introduction in 2005 until the end of its production in 2010, the S85 became an icon of performance, innovation, and design. What makes this engine so special? Let’s find out.

Formula 1 Inspired Origins

The BMW S85 is not an ordinary engine. Developed directly from Formula 1 technology, this 5.0-liter V10 was the first of its kind to equip a production sedan. With 507 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 520 Nm of torque at 6100 rpm, the S85 was designed to offer an unparalleled driving experience. BMW engineers took the best of their racing track experiences and adapted it for the road, creating an engine that is both an engineering marvel and a work of art.

Photo: ©BMW Group

Technical Innovations

What really sets the S85 apart from other engines of its time are its technical innovations. With a 90-degree bank angle, an aluminum cylinder block, and an aluminum cylinder head, this engine was built to be light and robust. Additionally, it features a double overhead camshaft (DOHC) with variable valve timing (VVT) distribution system, allowing it to reach its impressive 8250 rpm redline.

One of the most fascinating features of the S85 is its ten individual electronically controlled throttle bodies. This configuration allows for incredibly fast and precise throttle response, significantly enhancing the driving experience. Imagine having direct control over each cylinder of your engine, a nearly telepathic connection between driver and machine.

SpecificationDetail
Configuration90° V10
Displacement5.0 L (4,999 cc)
Bore92 mm (3.62 in)
Stroke75.2 mm (2.96 in)
Block MaterialAluminum
Head MaterialAluminum
Valve SystemDOHC with VVT
Compression Ratio12.0:1
Max Power507 hp (373 kW) @ 7,750 rpm
Max Torque520 Nm (384 lb·ft) @ 6,100 rpm
Redline8,250 rpm
Lubrication SystemQuasi-dry sump
Engine Control SystemSiemens MS S65
Weight240 kg (529 lb)

Curiosities and Anecdotes

The S85 not only stood out in terms of performance but also made its mark in automotive culture with several interesting anecdotes. For instance, the S85 was the engine chosen by the German manufacturer Wiesmann for its GT MF5 model, and it was also adapted by Vermot for its exclusive Veritas RS III. Even Fisker, known for its luxury electric vehicles, produced a prototype with this engine, boosting it from 507 to 650 horsepower.

Another intriguing story is that of the “M5 Hurricane” by G-Power, an extreme version of the M5 E60 equipped with the S85 engine and enhanced to produce 730 horsepower. This model became the fastest sedan in the world at its time, reaching a top speed of 340 km/h and cementing the S85’s legacy as a true road beast.

Photo: ©BMW Group

Challenges and Solutions. S85 Engine Problems

Not everything was easy for the S85. Despite its achievements, it faced significant challenges, especially in terms of reliability. One of the most notorious issues was the difference in expansion coefficients between the magnesium engine block and the aluminum cylinder heads, which led to head gasket wear problems. Despite these challenges, BMW demonstrated its commitment to excellence by addressing and resolving these issues, maintaining the S85’s reputation as a high-performance engine.

Additionally, the seven-speed SMG-III transmission system, although advanced for its time, was criticized for its harshness in urban driving situations. However, many drivers learned to appreciate its direct nature and ability to offer quick and precise shifts in sport modes. For those who preferred a more traditional driving experience, BMW offered a six-speed manual transmission option in the US market starting in 2007.

The Legacy of the S85

The legacy of the BMW S85 extends far beyond its technical specifications. This engine won multiple awards, including the “International Engine of the Year” in 2005 and several other recognitions for its performance and design. Its influence can also be seen in the development of subsequent engines, such as the S65 V8 used in the BMW M3 E92, which derived directly from the S85 design, minus two cylinders.

The S85 is also remembered for its emotional impact. Drivers who had the fortune to experience an M5 E60 with this engine describe the sensation as almost spiritual: a deep and visceral connection with the machine. The sound of the V10 at high revs, the instant throttle response, and the feeling of pure power under the right foot are experiences that few other engines can match.

Conclusion

The BMW S85 engine is undoubtedly a gem in automotive history. It represents the best of BMW engineering, combining innovation, performance, and an emotional connection that few engines can match. Despite facing challenges, the S85 left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire engineers and car enthusiasts alike. If you ever have the chance to drive a vehicle equipped with this engine, don’t hesitate. You’ll be behind the wheel of a piece of automotive history, a machine that remains as impressive today as it was at its debut.

The BMW S85 is not just an engine; it is a symbol of what can be achieved when a passion for speed and precision is combined with visionary engineering.