There’s just something about an understated car.
The BMW M5 is the epitome of what a fast car should be. There are faster cars, more agile cars, and cars that are roomier and cheaper. But the M5 manages to balance everything almost perfectly into an excellent mix. Except for the fact that it never lets you forget it.
Look at it: the body kit, the M badges everywhere, the aggressive design, it never lets you forget that it’s a sedan that packs some punch. Now look at a standard E39 and an E39 M5:
There are a couple minor differences, but it’s still hard to tell that this is a 394 hp super sedan instead of a 530i with a Sport pack. Go further back until the E28 and there is virtually nothing to tell you the difference between a M5 and it’s lesser models.
Ever since Mercedes-Benz decided to stuff big engines into their limousines without changing the body in any way, sleeper cars have been with us. Nowadays the art of super fast, super discrete sedans is being lost. You need to look at your regular M3 to tell it apart from a normal 3-Series. Nowadays you can only but choose the model just under the super fast sedan if you want to be very fast and very unnoticed.
Only companies like Volvo keep the art on with their AWD Volvo S80 V8. As for the Germans that got the ball rolling, Audi has the S4, S6 and S8, which more or less still have the aura (or lack of it) that makes sleeper cars great.
Me, I’d have a BMW 335i of course. 302 hp, and it looks no different than a 320i. That makes it that bit more appealing than a M3. There’s also hope that the F10 M5 will go back to being a sleeper. Hope springs eternal.
E39 5-Series image source: Wikimedia Commons