The E28 M5 is a paragon of excellence even amongst other BMW stablemates and successors. A benchmark in its day, the first M5 effectively set the tone for the essence of what BMW would make its name offering: a high-performance vehicle wrapped in a functional form ready to confront life’s challenges on a daily basis. There is indeed a reason a large number of the E28 M5s you run across have accumulated as many as 200,000 miles or more; it’s a car that is undeniably designed around the driver, which features a near perfect distillation of utility and exhilaration. In fewer words, you might call the E28 M5 the ideal sport sedan.

In a recent editorial project, Road & Track embarked on what’s entitled The Search For The Greatest Sports Car Of All TimeAn ultimate comparison of defining cars from the 1950s to present day, with test subjects which include the likes of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, Shelby Cobra, and McLaren F1 among a handful of others, the E28 M5 was declared the, “definitive sport sedan.”

There are many that came before and after the E28 M5, but Road & Track summarizing the car as the definitive model within its segment is something we’re inclined to agree with. It’s easy to see why: When it was new, the first M5 packed Ferrari performance in a four-door sedan with seating for up to five. The trunk can easily swallow up multiple full sets of golf clubs, and the car isn’t going to break a sweat with the cruise control set reasonably within the triple digits. Drop into the low gears on your favorite backroad, however, and you’ll find the M5 is just as accommodating if not more so, and is just about always ready to let its hair down.

Such a multi-faceted personality may be relatively ubiquitous at multiple price points today, but in the mid-1980s, not far removed from the years of the 180-horsepower Corvette, the M5 was game changing.

For its comparison and shootout, Road & Track put a U.S.-spec (S38-powered) M5 through its paces at Lime Rock Park. The entire comparison is worth indulging, but if you’re short on time, reading just the M5 bit will certainly suffice—although you’re liable to be tempted to go back and read the entire thing afterward to see which car won and why. In the end, nothing quite so effectively describes the original M5 as Road & Track‘s closing statement, quoted below.—Alex Tock

“For 35 years, ever-faster supersedans have been tearing at the envelope this M5 established. None have matched this Bimmer’s tactility, character, class, and charm. And they likely never will.”

[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Pirelli & C. S.p.A.]

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