BMW M5. The extraordinary story of the first M sports sedan

The BMW M boss reveals the source of the sports sedan concept, which today is embodied in models such as the M5. Instead of studying the market or looking for pictures, this idea was implemented by practical necessity for BMW leaders.

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The latest M5 CS model perpetuates the BMW M sports sedan dynasty. Its origins are surprising.

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Sports sedans are a type of car that is now firmly rooted in automobile culture, particularly among premium German manufacturers. But when you think about it, turning a car designed to comfortably roll miles into a lap hunter seems paradoxical. Frank van Mel, Managing Director of BMW M, just revealed it How the famous motorsport division of the Bavarian manufacturer came to prepare wise roads To give birth to the M5 and relatives who are now essential in the brand’s range.

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In 1992, the four-door M3 launched a second family of BMW M sedans after the M5.

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Quick escort to the president

BMW Motorsport was founded in 1972. Its goal? Consolidation of Munich’s sporting activities into a separate division to ensure competition commitments as well as the development of high-performance road models. The first sports car created in this way was the iconic 3.0 CSL Coupe. On the sedans side, the story began with the first 5 series of the name (Type E12) in the seventies, and at first it fulfilled a purely utilitarian need inherent in the business of the company! The development stemmed from the release of the first 7 Series (Type E23), which were offered exclusively with six-cylinder engines providing at least 184 hp. Frank van Mel says: We were born from motorsport with the belief that contradictions can be resolved. When Eberhard von Koenheim was CEO (for BMW) in the 1970s, he drove in a BMW 7 Series.

His bodyguards sometimes had trouble keeping up with his BMW 5 Series cars, which led to the debut of the first high-performance 5 Series prepared by the motorsport department.

“This led to a discussion about having to choose between a sports car and a sedan,” BMW Chairman M.. And the answer is no, because we can do both at the same time. This was and still is one of the recipes for our success. M has evolved with this strong connection between motorsports and serial production, and it has retained that character today. »

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BMW M535i in blue

The M535i was the first mass-produced BMW M sedan.

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The beginnings of the BMW M535i

However, the first 5 Series reworked by BMW M goes back a little earlier. Early in the mid-1970s, with development of the 7 Series coming to a close for its launch in the spring of 1977, BMW released motorsport groups that improved the performance of the 525 and 528. In 1976, the South African subsidiary of BMW was designed by the M division in the 530 MLE ( Motorsport Limited Edition), the more powerful 530 was produced in 217 units for competition homologation purposes. These diverse tests and needs led, in 1979, to the launch of the M535i, BMW’s first production M sedan. Then came the original M5 (type E28) in 1984, replacing the 1978 M1 supercar designation.

The M3 “little sister” was introduced as a second-generation four-door (type E36) in 1992. The M8 Gran Coupé was added to the BMW M sedan family in 2020, replacing the M6 ​​Gran Coupe. Meanwhile, motorsports also addressed the brand’s own SUVs. It’s even this type of bodywork that was chosen for the future XM, the second model entirely designed by BMW’s sports department after the M1. As for the M535i designation, it designates today M Performance models (M135i, M340i or M340d) between the regular range and the “pure and solid” M versions.

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White BMW M8 Gran Coupe

The M8 Gran Coupé is the most luxurious BMW M sedan.

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