As many of you know, the BMW M5 has become one of the most popular sports cars in the world, and although it never offered the same track performance as BMW’s other performance masterpiece, which is the M3, the M5 has always offered something that other cars in its class couldn’t: the perfect balance of performance and comfort.
Throughout the years, the M5 has gone through quite a few different iterations, and with that, BMW has brought new engines to the M5, and because it’s so much larger and heavier than the M3, the M5 has almost always used larger engines.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at every BMW M5 engine ever, starting with the E28 and going all the way up to the current F90 M5.
BMW E28 M5 (M88/3 x S38)
To get this started, we have to rewind the clock all the way back to 1985, when BMW took their existing E28 5-series platform and gave it the M performance upgrades. Technically the M5 started in late 1984, but regardless, it made its debut at the Amsterdam Motor Show in February of 1995.
Before the M5 came around though, we had the M 535i, which was released in 1984 before the M5. Those early M 535i cars were pretty insane at the time. It was effectively a “regular” sedan, but with more power and performance than any other BMW production car up until that point.
Back to the M5 though, it featured the M88/3 engine, which was used on the 3.0 CSL race car and in the famous BMW M1. This is a relatively small and high-revving 3.5L inline-six engine. Technically it’s a 3.45L, but that’s beside the point. It uses a cast-iron block with a cast aluminum cylinder head.
This particular engine is nearly identical to the M88 that was used in the BMW M1 but with a few small modifications. On top of the engine, you’ll find dual overhead cams, 24 valves, and a Bosch Motronic injection system, which equals out to a whopping 282hp at 6,500RPM and 251lb-ft of torque at 4,500RPM.
Unfortunately, though, the version we got here in the States wasn’t quite as good. Instead, we received a detuned version of the M88/3, which was dubbed the S38B35, which received additional emissions components that dropped the power output down to 256hp. To be fair though, the S38 later became the worldwide replacement for the M88, so clearly it wasn’t that bad.
That being said though, there isn’t a direct predecessor to the S38, but it laid the groundwork for later BMW high-performance inline-six engines.
BMW E34 M5 (S38)
That takes us forward to late 1988 when BMW launched their next-generation M5 after just four years of production with the E28 M5. The reason for the E28 M5’s short lifespan was simply because of how late into the E28’s lifecycle the M5 was introduced, but regardless, we got the E34 M5 in late 1988.
Under the hood was actually nearly the same engine at the E28, with the 3.6L S38B36 and then later the 3.8L S38B38. Of course though, here in the States, we got the short end of the stick, since we only got the less powerful S38B36 and never saw the more powerful engine.
The B36 engine, specifically, outputs 311hp and 266b-ft of torque, and the B38 engine output 335hp.
You can ultimately thank the EPA and the US Government for that, as emissions standards were ultimately the reason we never saw the more powerful engine land here. As compared to the S38B36, the S38B38 not only got an increase in displacement, but also a massively improved ignition system and the addition of a dual-mass flywheel.
No one knew it at the time though, but this was the last time we were ever going to see an inline-six engine in the M5, as future M5s moved to larger and more powerful engines, which takes us up the next generation of the M5 with the E39 M5.
BMW E39 M5 (S62)
For me personally, this is my favorite generation of the M5, as its the first M5 with a V8, but it also has an amazingly timeless style, just as the E46 M3 will forever look amazing, the E39 M5 will also forever look amazing. Regardless of its looks, however, under the hood of the E39 M5 is the S62 V8 engine.
Around this time, BMW had built up quite a reputation for the high-performance inline-six engines, so while the move to a larger and more powerful V8 engine was great for improving the performance of the M5, it pissed off a lot of BMW enthusiasts.
The S62 in the M5 was heavily based on BMW’s existing M62 used in the 540i, but with changes to improve performance and improve reliability during extended high RPM use, such as when you’re on the track.
As compared to the M62, the bore was increased from 92mm to 94mm, and the stroke was also increased from 82.7mm to 89mm. With a larger bore and stroke, displacement was increased from 4.4L on the M62 up to 4.9L on the S62. Along with the increased displacement came an increased compression ratio from 10:1 to 11:1.
This equals an impressive 394hp and 369lb-ft of torque. Not bad a naturally aspirated V8 from this time frame. Hell, we didn’t see the Mustang’s V8 reach those power levels until Ford release the Coyote, so for BMW to do it in the late 90s and early 2000s is quite impressive.
Another interesting change to note is that the S62 was BMW’s first engine ever to feature a Double VANOS system. With variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust, this opened up a lot of tuning opportunities for BMW to really get the S62 to make some impressive power figures while also maintaining a smooth idle and decent fuel mileage.
To help improve airflow even further, the S62 also features individual throttle bodies, which means one throttle body per cylinder. This is something we saw on other M engines on the time, so no surprise there.
Other changes as compared to the standard M62 include an upgraded double-row timing chain in place of the single-row chain, a Siemens MSS 52 engine ECU, and a semi-dry-sump oil system to help reduce the possibility of oil starvation under high G conditions such as hard cornering or hard braking.
BMW E60 M5 (S85)
While the S62 is awesome in its own right, it, unfortunately, didn’t make the cut for the next generation M5 that was released in 2004, instead, we saw an all new engine that was unlike anything BMW had ever built before, and that’s the S85 V10 engine. What makes this unlike any other BMW engine is the fact that BMW had never offered a V10 engine, so rather than basing the S85 on an existing engine, that built it from the ground up as a new development.
In my opinion, this is one of the more interesting engines on the list. Especially considering naturally aspirated V10s are on there way out in favor of smaller turbocharged engines.
I think it’s also worth noting you can find this engine in the M6. The S85 is a 5.0L V10 that screams to nearly 8000rpm and produces a whopping 500hp and 384lb-ft of torque. It has a bore and stroke of 92mm by 75.2mm, which makes it insanely over square, which is one of the characteristics that give it the ability to rev so high. With a shorter stroke comes less piston acceleration and then it’s just much easier to rev high without things breaking.
As you’d expect for such an insane modern performance engine, it also features dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, dual VANOS, an all-aluminum construction, individual throttle bodies, and a very high 12:1 compression ratio. This is one of the engines on the list that probably truly deserved this award. The S85 sounds amazing, it’s incredibly smooth, has a ton of power, and it’s not actually as bad on fuel efficiency as you might think.
Out of all BMW M5 engines ever, you’d have a hard time arguing any of them sound better than the S85, and for those that don’t know, I’ll play a few sound clips here so you can get an idea of how insane this engine sounds.
But yet again the M5 changed and moved on to the F10 generation in late 2011, and with the new generation also came a new engine, yet again. This time around, BMW dropped the V10 and moved back to the V8 configuration, except this time around it was equipped with two turbochargers.
BMW F10 M5 (S63)
This engine is known as the S63, and because of that name, you might think the S63 is an evolution of the S62 found in the E39 M5, but that’s not exactly the case. The S63 engine, as a whole, features a few variants, but they’re all based on the N63, which also uses twin-turbos and can be found in a bunch of different BMW applications.
The specific version of the S63 used in the F10 M5 is the S64B44T0. You can also find this in the F12 and F13 M6 as well as the F06 M6 Gran Coupe. The big difference between this new 4.4L V8 and BMW’s previous 4.4L V8 engines is the fact that this one uses a reverse flow, meaning it has a hot V, which simply means the exhaust manifolds are in the V of the engine, rather than the intake being in the V of the engine.
Another interesting highlight to note is that on the T0 engine specifically, this was the first BMW M engine ever to feature Valvetronic, which brought variable valve lift into the equation. As compared to the N63, the biggest difference with the S63 is the addition of twin-scroll turbochargers which offer improved performance as compared to the standard single-scroll turbos.
And for those that don’t already know, BMW used the Hot-V design on the N63 and S63 for a few reasons. One is packaging, as the overall footprint of the engine is smaller by having the turbos in the V, rather than hanging off the engine. But, the biggest reason for using this type of design is harnessing thermal energy.
Exhaust flow and thermal energy are what ultimately drive the turbocharger, so you’ll almost always see improved turbocharger performance with a shorter exhaust manifold, as it better harnesses the thermal energy and doesn’t let it go to waste. With the hot-V design, this is taken to another level and offers much better thermal energy use as compared to a standard V8 with the intake in the V.
Overall though, the S63 is a beast of an engine. It uses an 89mm bore with an 88.3mm stroke, bringing total displacement to 4.4L. The heads are aluminum as is the block to help reduce weight and improve thermal efficiency even more. Total power output ranges between 553hp and 591hp depending on the specific model and year of M5 you’re looking at.
BMW F90 M5 (S63)
That takes us up to the F90 M5, where you were probably expecting an all-new engine, after all, most new M5 generations received a new engine, but this time around BMW kept it the same, with the F90 M5 using the S63 engine just like the F10 M5.
While the engine is technically the same, they did make a few changes. More specifically, they went from the S63B44T0 to the S63B44T4. According to BMW, this engine is an advancement of the S63B44T0 engine and is technically based on the N63TU2 engine.
As compared to the previous S63, displacement is the same, bore and stroke are the same, compression ratio is the same. Architecturally, it’s identical to the previous S63. The changes they did make include a different crankshaft, a slightly modified crankcase, slightly different pistons, different oil routing in the head, and some other small changes.
With those small changes and obviously some tuning, we saw the power increased to 591 – 617hp depending on the model of F90 M5.
And to be fair, I personally have no issue with BMW keeping the S63 around. In stock form, it’s already impressive, but with some mild bolt-ons and tuning, it’s an absolute animal. With modified turbos, bolt-ons, ethanol fuel, and the required supporting mods, it’s not uncommon to see these motors produce over 750whp, which is over 850hp at the crank.
Presumably, the next M5 will use a different engine, as the new M3 engine is based on the BMW B58 and we already see high-performance versions of their SUVs using the S58 with great success, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the S58 in the upcoming M5. If they’ll actually use the same engine in the M3 and M5, I truthfully don’t know, but in my opinion, it’s a real possibility.
So, that’s every BMW M5 engine ever. I want to know what you guys think though, which engine is your favorite? There are a few different configurations and ultimately all of them are great, but I know a lot of BMW fans really like the crazy sounds of the S85, but when it comes to making power, I’d have to argue the S63 is the best engine for the M5. Be sure to drop a comment down below letting me know which one you like the most.