It’s always fun reading positive reviews on the car you own. This is especially true if you’re a BMW enthusiast and M car owner. Usually you can be confident the reviews will be glowing, and your car judged superior to the competition.
That was certainly the case back in 2000, when my E39 M5 model was first reviewed. Respected source Car & Driver called the E39 M5 “quite simply the most desirable sedan in the world at any price.” It easily surpassed the two other super sedans in the comparison test, the Mercede-Benz E55 AMG and the Jaguar XJR.
But after BMW stopped making the E39 version of the M5 in 2003, things changed. By 2007, the E60 M5 had slipped to third place in the Car & Driver comparison, beaten out by both the Audi S6 and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. The E60 M5 also disappointed many would be owners due to BMW’s initial refusal to offer a manual transmission option on the car.
In the June 2012 issue of Car & Driver, history repeated itself. The new BMW F10 M5 came in third again compared to the Audi S6 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. The Audi won by a fairly wide margin, despite giving up 140 HP to the M5. The full story is not posted online yet, but here’s a pdf with the test specs.
So does Car & Driver have a grudge against BMW? I checked past reviews at Edmunds Inside Line, another trusted automotive source. The same pattern emerged. Here’s Edmunds reviewing the 2000 M5:
The M5 is the world’s finest sedan with stunning acceleration, eye-popping grip, anchor-imitating brakes, ballerina-like chassis dynamics, decadent luxury, and people-and-stuff moving practicality all rolled up into subtle but aggressive and purposeful-looking bodywork. At any price, this car, to take a page from a Jack Nicholson movie, is “as good as it gets.”
By 2007, Edmunds has the M5 being bested in a head to head competition with the Audi RS 4. No super sedan comparisons since then, so we don’t know about the latest models. The early Edmunds review of the new M5 last year was positive.
What explains this trend? There are a lot of possible reasons — the move away from normally aspirated engines, BMW’s (partly justified) fear of liability in this country and/or improvement on the part of German competitors. Others can argue about that — I’ll just enjoy all the impressive validation that my car is the best M5 of the bunch!
UPDATE II: 2013 Edmunds Inside Line review calls the new M5 “underwhelming.”