Last week saw the induction of the Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 into our rapidly filling Fantasy Garage. While the detractors were loud and squawking, just over 83% of you saw the beauty of a bored-out German bullet train. However, Jalopnik is never one to let the tyranny of the majority drum out the feelings and opinions of the minority. One of the major complaints with the 6.9 write up was the absence of the 6.3. We hear you. In fact, while composing last week's screed, I was quite close to putting the matter to a vote. In the end, I determined that while the 6.3 is indeed an über-hot potato, presented with a choice between the two, any clear-thinking pistonhead would opt for the more-buff 6.9. I will not be making that mistake this week. BMW's M5 is the stuff of legend, dreams and I would argue fantasy. Thematically related to the 6.9 (big engine, four-door saloon), the Bavarians upped the ante by adding serious, sportscarlike handling and (usually) a manny-tranny. Gentlemen — and however many lady friends we've got — an M5 is going into the Garage, please let us know which one.
The first modern Q-Ship, the E28 M5 had no competition when it was nonchalantly introduced at the 1985 Amsterdam Auto Show. BMW claimed to have produced the car in response to customer demand for a fast, sporty four-door; a niche that had been vacant since Mercedes ceased producing the 6.9 in 1981. True, AMG would fire back at BMW's high-performance salvo with the lust-worthy Hammer a bit later, but that rodded Mercedes was much more a muscle car than the E28 M5, which really was a proper sports car with two extra doors.
Consider the vitals: The E28 M5 weighed just 3,153 pounds. Its engine, derived from the awesome M1 supercar, was a 3.5-liter inline-six, produced 286 horsepower in Europe — and a choked 256 hp for us Yanks (for context, the M1 sports car produced just 277 hp) — and featured six separate throttle butterflies for quick response. The E28 was hand built and is the rarest M-badged BMW, save for the M1. Factory zero-to-60 times were quoted as 6.2 seconds (6.5 in the US) but this was only because BMW didn't want the M5 to outshine its more expensive (and way heavier) M 635csi. The actual time was 5.9 seconds. Top speed was 153 mph, making the E28 M5 the fastest sedan in the world at the time.
The E28 is also the best looking M5 — by far. The E28 is both sinister (North American version only came in black) and sleek, but also quite stealthy. The only hints to the ferocious heart beating under the hood are a pair of M5 badges, found on both the grill and the trunk. Otherwise, it's just a shiny 535i. Not that it matters, but the European models could be had with water buffalo leather. That kinda rules.
Last week we told you the 6.9 was the camera car for C'était un rendez-vous. The only reason Lelouch didn't use an M5 was because BMW hadn't invented the car yet. We also discussed the 6.9's appearance in Frankenheimer's Ronin. More than one of you argued that these two cinematic appearances were all the arguing needed to convince them that the 6.9 was indeed Fantasy Garage material. Well, then, like, watch this:
Hooned around Paris with vicious aplomb by "Dee-dree," we know the only reason De Niro, Reno and the wimpy Peugeot caught the E34 was because she ran out of road.
True, the E34 seriously plumped up compared to the E28 (3,788 vs. 3,153 pounds), but power was also up. The engine was initially a tweaked version of the 3.5-liter mill from the E28, with a new crankshaft and revised cams raising the output from 286 hp to 315 hp. When the E34 was refreshed in mid-1991, the engine was bored out to 3.8 liters and power rose to 340 meaty horses. Zero-to-60 occurred in just 5.6 seconds, a slight improvement compared to the E28, but top speed (once the pesky 155 mph was killed) was a very fast 170 mph. Can I get a damn?
More important, these suckers were still handmade. In fact, BMW test drivers claimed they could tell from the handling responses which BMW tech had built a particular car. By the time the E34 finished production, BMW had fitted it with a six-speed manual, 18" wheels and mondo brakes. Autocar even clocked the E34 M5 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Finally, as under the radar as the E28 looked, the business suit tailored E34 was even more so. Damn, indeed.
I play poker. A lot of poker. One of the fundamental principles to profitability is controlling your emotions. If you're holding big slick and the flop comes AAA, it's better to quietly check than wildly push all in. But this is a learned skill, not exactly a natural inclination. I mention this because a few years back a red E39 M5 pulled into my neighbor's driveway during an open house. I've never moved so fast, nor spazzed so hard, in my life. There I was, a working auto journalist who had just returned from Maserati camp, drooling like teenager in the beer aisle. Embarrassing? Sure, but if you spend five minutes a week on Jalopnik you know damn well you'd do the same. That's the kind of car the E39 M5 is.
Released in 1998, the E39 was a crack to the jaw of all other manufacturers. Its performance rivaled Ferraris of the time, trumped most Porsches and embarrassed everybody else. Tipping the scales at over two tons (4,024 pounds), the E39 achieved its remarkable agility based on the strength of its engine. Still hand built (thought the car itself was now built on the same Dingolfing line as every other 5-Series), the motor was now a bored and stroked version of the BMW's 4.0-liter V8. For M5 duty, displacement was increased to 4.9 liters and featured Double VANOS. The latter is variable timing for both the input and exhaust valves. This gave the E39 M5 a 7,000 rpm redline, 394 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Performance? How does zero-to-60 in 4.7 seconds, zero-to-100 in 11.4, the quarter-mile in 13.2 @ 107.4 mph and a limiter-deleted top speed of 186 mph strike you? And remember, this was in 1998. A while back we talked about how the cliché, "Darth Vader's Ride" was popularized by the Buick GNX. Auto journos turned to a new meme for the E39 M5, "What would God drive?" We've driven this particular M5 and to paraphrase Homer Simpson, it was like how God must feel when he's driving an M5. For the record, Darth Vader would totally rock a black E39 M5.
Chris Bangle, iDrive, more electronic au pairs than a robotic pre-school, the first M car without a manual gearbox, horrendous ride, horrendous gearbox. The litany of doom and gloom leveled at the latest M5 is almost never ending. We know, we know. However, we've also driven the E60 hyper-sedan around a track a few times. All we can say is 5.0-liter, F1-derived, 507 horsepower V10 with an 8,250 rpm redline. Seriously. You have to experience it to believe it. Still don't believe me? Watch this, and don't say a word or think a thought until 1:07 in:
We know the E60 M5 has as much chance of getting into the Garage as Killdozer does winning a popularity contest against Linkin Park. But it doesn't mean Killdozer's not the better band. Anyhow, the curb weight barely ticked up compared to the E39 (an M5 first), with the E60 coming in at 4,087 lbs. This means zero-to-60 happens in 4.5 seconds (though Road & Track did the deed in 4.1), zero-to-100 in 9.4 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds @ 118 mph. Oh yeah, without the limiter the E60 M5 will do an honest 205 mph. Am I saying that I'd personally rather have am E60 M5 than all the others, even the E39? I'm not going to answer that here, but I will say that I agree with Mr. Clarkson completely:
In the end, as long as one of these wonderful cars gets in, I'm content. Because really, strong cases can be made for all of 'em. Happy Voting.
[The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage appears every Wednesday at noon. Readers vote the cars in or out. The idea is that we'll have 50 cars in our Fantasy Garage, the world's greatest mechanic and endless wads of cash. Would you like to nominate a car for the Fantasy Garage? Write firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Fantasy."]
The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage, So Far:
RUF RT12 | 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage | Honda 1300 Coupe 9 | 1931 Daimler Double Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe | Ferrari 288 GTO | Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 | 1970 Buick GSX 455 | First Generation BMW M Coupe | Bugatti Veyron 16.4 | Ford GT | Citroen SM | Porsche 928 | Jensen FF | DeTomaso Vallelunga | Audi Quattro S1 | Buick GNX | Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R | Honorary Fantasy Garager: The LS1 Powered Rotus | Lamborghini LM002 | Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe | Ferrari 250 GTO | Bentley Speed Six | Talbot-Lago T150C SS Figoni et Falaschi Raindrop/Teardrop Coupe | Porsche 917 | Audi RS4 Avant | Maybach Exelero | Lamborghini Miura | Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9