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Here Are All the BMW M5 Generations Ranked From Best to Worst

There’s a brand-new BMW M5 that’s just hitting dealerships, so I felt this would be a good time to take a little trip down BMW M5 memory lane and reminisce on past models — and, specifically, I thought it’d be nice to rank all the old M5 models from best to worst. Every time I do one of these rankings, it’s great fun, but also it inspires a lot of controversy from people who are wrong. So today I’m going to show you the correct rankings, in my own opinion — and you’re going to tell me I’m wrong, even though you are. With that in mind, let’s get started.

1. 2000-2003 BMW M5 (E39)

There’s no doubt among any M5 fan that the “E39” model represented the high-water mark for the car. The M5 of the early 2000s had it all: a manual transmission, absolutely beautiful styling, a simple interior and a wonderful driving experience. The E39 M5 is already gaining rapidly in value, and I have absolutely no doubt it will soon be worth big money as enthusiasts look back on this period in BMW’s history with nostalgia.

2. 2018-Present BMW M5 (F90)

The latest BMW model is a return to form for the super sedan, as it offers handsome styling and truly delivers on what it “means” to be an M5: unbelievable performance wrapped in a subtle, luxury car exterior design. Just like its predecessor, the F10, the F90 drives like a smaller car than it is, and it’s tremendously exciting, tremendously luxurious, and filled with amazing technology. It’s the perfect car — unless you want three pedals.

3. 2012-2016 BMW M5 (F10)

The “F10” version of the BMW M5 is also a blast to drive, and it was the last M5 that’ll ever come with a manual transmission. Back when it came out, it was the “best M5 ever,” aside from the iconic E39 model — but with the arrival of the new version, it’s been pushed into the next position. Still, this car also did everything you’d expect from an M5, with blisteringly fast performance and business-like styling, along with all the luxuries you’d want in a pricey high-end sedan.

4. 1990-1995 BMW M5 (E34)

The E34 M5 was an excellent evolution of the car, bringing strong performance to the beautiful “E34” generation of the 5 Series. Styling touches were nice, and the E34 M5 initially used the famous — and bizarre — “turbine” wheels, designed to increase brake cooling, which makes the car look like it’s wearing white wall tires. The E34 M5’s primary drawback is engine power: With only about 310 horsepower, U.S. models weren’t raucously fast, though other markets got a larger engine with extra power.

5. 1980s BMW M5 (E28)

The E28 M5 is the one that started it all, and BMW lovers will forever be in its debt — but the E28 M5 was hardly the M5 we know today, as it offered just 255 horsepower from its straight-six. Still, the E28 M5 was the beginning of an important run, and we must appreciate it for its contribution to the BMW lineup — even if it wasn’t quite as explosive as its successors.

6. 2006-2010 BMW M5 (E60)

On paper, the “E60” BMW M5 should be the very best one — an impressive V10 power plant, an available manual transmission to run through the gears and (in Europe) a “Touring” station wagon version. Unfortunately, the E60 M5 was very different in practice. Reliability was off-the-charts terrible — and even though owners are loyal, everyone seems to have a cousin or a friend whose E60 M5 blew its motor thanks to the famed rod-bearing issue. There are a lot of reliability upgrades being offered now, but these cars caused many headaches for many owners.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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  1. They used to say, “you have to learn how to drive a 911″… those new to them said, “why, they must be poorly engineered” … I’d argue the same applies to the E60 m5 6-speed. They’re a momentum car, not a drag car, and, once mastered, my god, the thrill of this beast is like a cross between a 3.6 911 and a 454 big block that winds up. It’s awesome. My prediction, like many “wish I bought that 10 years ago” cars, the E60 M5 6-speed will too become that, “damn, I could have bought one for like $25K”…I am old enough to have been through that experience a few times. The future has been told.

  2. Well…I’ve been lucky enough to own all of the E model M5s and still own an E39 M5 and 2 E28 M5s.  E28s are rare, upright, handsome, fun-to-drive cars that are surprisingly nimble, capable and reliable with bulletproof motors and totally unhindered outward visibility.  The E39 is a modern driver’s car in nearly every sense of the word: comfortable, relatively reliable and blisteringly fast with a few minor mechanical issues common to all E39 models. The E34 is not quite modern and not quite classic, only an incrementally improved I6 engine from the E28 M5.  For this reason, and the fact that they currently cost about the same as an E39, they have not found a terrific following yet.  And the E60 is a big, plush, gawdy, bling-laden mothership capable of warp drive when it is running properly, which is more often than most reviewers indicate as long as you use the right oil and change it very frequently.  I will own another E34 and maybe another E90, but I will probably not bother with any of the F models because there are just too many better choices out there for the money and they will never be “classics”.  If you want a classic, go for the E28. If you want a fun, practical daily driver, go for the E39.  If you want comfort and the ability to pull out in front of just about anything and don’t mind spending twice as much to get it, go for an F model.     


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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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