High Fives : BMW E39 M5 meets the F90 M5

By topgear, 17 August 2018

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SINGAPORE – ‘M’ is the most powerful letter in BMW’s lexicon, and for good reason too, because some of the most evocative performance machines to wander both road and track bear the ‘M’ badge.

However, not many are as incongruous as the M5, a stealthy, sports-sedan of such breathtaking exotic-baiting credentials that you’d have to experience it yourself to believe.

BMW’s executive performance sedan is an explosive combination of Usain Bolt, Manny Pacquiao and Joseph Schooling rolled into a tautly muscular package. It’s an athlete that transcends genres and defies categorisation.

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However, what’s remarkable is the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same, and there’s nothing like looking at where it’s been to be able to appreciate how far things have come, particularly if you’re talking about a titan like the M5.

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In a way, the progenitor of the M5 genus appeared during the time of the E28 5 Series in the late 1980s, and BMW realised it’d inadvertently tapped into a hitherto, unexplored segment – the stealthy, performance sedan.

It was the perfect mode of transport for business professionals; not only was it an eminently practical package with four doors, a generous boot and comfortable seating for cross-country trawls, it was also armed with the firepower and handling panache to harass more overtly sporting machines.

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At the Singapore launch of the latest F90 M5, we put ‘CM’, the owner of the pristine early 2000s third-generation E39 M5 you see here, into the F90’s hot seat to experience how far the model has come in almost twenty years since the E39 M5 was first launched in 1998.

Naturally, the differences to the powertrain are the most obvious, with the E39 M5 featuring a large capacity naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8, six-speed manual and rear-wheel drive.

Contrast this to the latest model’s variable 4WD system, eight-speed automatic and twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8.

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And how did CM enjoy the drive of the latest M5? “The drive of the new M5 was pretty exhilarating – it has a lot of power and it’s fun trying to put the power down, and this is where 4WD comes in useful.

In addition, there are the on-demand 4WD Sport and 2WD driving modes, which cater to the different driver skill levels, so you’re always assured of a scintillating time behind the wheel.

With traction control completely disabled, the F90 behaves like a true-blue rear-wheel-drive car. Also, compared to my E39, the volume of the V8’s soundtrack comes in at a much higher level, so there’s a greater sense of emotion when you’re pushing hard.”

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Both M5s may be packed with all the respective bells-and-whistles of their time, but the great thing is they never shout about their performance credentials.

CM tells us, “I really appreciate the little touches that differentiates my E39 M5 from its lesser brethren, and I’m glad to see the F90 is no different. Like the E39, the F90 has distinctive alloy rims and a bespoke body-kit, as well as features a host of BMW’s groundbreaking technology. It has kept to the M tradition, because although it looks like a standard BMW, there are subtle differences that set it apart as an M model.”

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

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