The history of the BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series is iconic as cars get. Having been a household name for decades, the ever-popular German saloon has remained a key competitor in the saloon segment for a long, long time.

It’s been through several incarnations and ‘faces’, all the while retaining the same executive saloon layout that has buyers flocking in its direction even now. BMW has just released a facelifted version of its most recent 5 Series, so let’s see the history behind this latest version.

E12

BMW 5 Series
The first generation 5 Series was one of the earliest premium four-door saloons

The first-generation E12 5 Series hit the roads in 1972 with a range of four-cylinder engines, though a six-cylinder option was added later on. Though production stopped in 1981, it set the tone for future 5 Series models, and many of the E12’s design cues are visible on modern-day cars.

For the time being no high-performance M5 version was introduced, though a punchy M535i model sat at the top of the line-up.

E28

BMW 5 Series
The second generation 5 Series expanded on the work of the original

The second-generation 5 Series moved the game on, though it was still closely related in terms of design to its E12 predecessor. However, innovations such as a console angled towards the driver helped give the E28 a new edge over the competition.

The E28 also marked the dawn on the high-performance M5 – a name which is held dear by many motoring enthusiasts. With a six-cylinder engine, it was one of the most powerful cars of its time.

E34

BMW 5 Series
The third generation 5 Series boasted more technology than ever before

The E34 marked a seismic change for the 5 Series. Not only did it arrive with a variety of high-tech features such as adjustable damping and stability control, but it was also the first 5 Series to be available as an estate or ‘touring’.

Again, an M5 version topped the line-up with a six-cylinder engine beating away under the bonnet.

E39

BMW 5 Series
The fourth generation 5 series debuted a new look

The E39 5 Series was introduced in 1995 and ran until 2004. One of the biggest changes for this version was the increased use of aluminium; elements of the chassis and front suspension were created with the material to help save weight.

The range-topping M5 version ditched the six-cylinder engine for this generation too, instead utilising a punchy 4.9-litre V8.

E60

BMW M5 Estate
The M5 estate used a powerful V10 engine

When it comes to controversial styling, the E60 5 Series is a car which always crops up. Penned by Chris Bangle, the 5’s design was worlds away from what people expected and certainly got people talking.

But underneath the striking exterior was more tech than ever before. It got a full infotainment system – which BMW called iDrive – alongside active cruise control and even a heads-up display. The M5 got an upgrade too courtesy of a huge V10 engine.

F10

BMW M5
The 2011 BMW M5 used a turbocharged engine for the first time

The F10 arrived in 2010 and returned to its more understated looks after the E60’s flamboyant design. A fastback ‘GT’ version was also launched, arriving alongside the traditional saloon and estate body styles.

The M5 returned to V8 power too – though it was the first M5 to ever use a turbocharged engine.

G30

BMW 5 Series
The latest 5 Series packs more technology than ever

And here we are, the present day. The current G30-generation 5 Series arrived in 2017 and it’s just been facelifted too, adding a fresher look and a revised interior.

As it’s based on the same platform as the 7 Series this latest 5 is larger than ever, while the latest M5 debuted all-wheel-drive – a first for the performance model. Hybrid models have also been introduced as BMW pushes to bring in more efficient, cleaner cars.

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