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'Bahn Razors: 1991-93 BMW M5

Blue by you...and you, and you, and...

Utter the name “BMW M5” in a room full of gearheads and you’ll instantly be the center of attention. Few make and model pairings hold as much sway with enthusiasts as that of the Munich marque’s mid-size megasedan, and with good reason: Now in its fourth generation, the current E60-based M5 boasts a performance repertoire that straight-up humiliates many purebred sports cars, while still possessing the capability of carrying four average adults (as opposed to two average adults, Vern Troyer and Wee-Man) in total comfort. But earlier iterations are not only much more affordable, but also much more primeval and connected-feeling. Take, for example, the second generation M5.

The original M5 – based on the E28 5 Series platform – was offered in North America just one year (1988) and just one exterior color (black), but its phenomenal handling and ferocious-at-the-time 256hp 3.5L DOHC straight-six (based on the engine from the M1 supercar) definitely made an impression. So much of an impression that the next M5 – riding on the E34 chassis – was also sent here beginning with the 1991 model year. And while it gained some girth, it also gained some power thanks to the likes of a forged steel crank, hotter cams, and an increased compression ratio, yielding 310hp and 265 lb./ft of torque in U.S. specification; that’s 10 ponies more than what the “cheap” Ferrari of the time, the 348, was producing. As with the E28, the only transmission available was a 5-speed manual. Other differences from more mundane 5ers included upgraded suspension and brakes, deeper front and rear valences, two-piece 17-inch alloy wheels, two-across rear seating with a console on early-build U.S. models, a blackout strip between the taillights, and M5 badges front and rear. Performance, naturally, was stout: Zero-to-sixty in about six seconds, and terminal velocity was artificially capped at 155 mph. But while a lot of modern midsize sedans – many hailing from much more modest pedigrees – might trounce the gen-2 M5 in a drag race, its peers will be few and far between in the twisties.

Though generally worth significantly more than any other E34 5 Series due to desirability and rarity (only 1,485 were built for the U.S. market), it doesn’t really cost that much to get into an M5. Prices start at around $5,000 for high-mileage examples, while really nice ones will easily surpass $10,000. Areas of concern include (but are not limited to) rust on cars from northern climes, as well as throttle position switches and sensors. As always, the more detailed the service history, the better. Best of luck finding your own second generation M5, one of the most thrilling sports sedans to ever land on our shores…at least until the third generation M5 landed on our shores…


  • Gustav 5 years ago

    Great article and thank you for the linkto as well!

    I really enjoyed the video as well!