Unlike previous M5's, the E39 M5 was not handbuilt at BMW's
M division, instead it was produced alongside the normal E39
5-series at the Dingolfing factory in Germany. BMW had originally
decided not to produce an e39 M5, believing that the 282 hp
BMW 540i offered enough performance. But when Mercedes and Jaguar
unveiled their 350+hp super saloons in the forms of the XJR
and E55, BMW developed the M5 in retaliation.
E39 brought V8 power to the M5 and made the car a whole second
faster to 60 mph over the previous M5 model.
Powering the e39 M5 was a 4.9 litre V8 which threw out nearly
400 horsepower. This was mated to a six-speed manual Getrag
The car's discreet styling meant the e39 M5 could hide its massive
performance potential under a cloak of sophistication until
it was needed.
Compared to the standard 5-series, the M5's steering ratio was
faster. It also featured a Servotronic speed-sensitive power
steering system which provided two levels of resistance controlled
through a console mounted 'Sport' button. The Sport button also
adjusted the electronic throttle butterflies for faster throttle
response. The E39 M5 is equipped with four-wheel vented disc
brakes measuring 345 mm (13.58 in) in diameter in front and
328 mm (12.91 in) in diameter in the rear. On European-specification
models, the rotors are of a "floating" two-piece design
for reduced risk of cone distortion. Their lower unsprung weight
improves ride quality and traction on bumpy surfaces as well.