Supercars are intended to represent the absolute pinnacle of what is technologically possible, but that is a constantly shifting target and each successive generation outdoes its predecessor as it makes the most of new developments.
But how much has technology moved on in the past 25 to 30-years? Could a modern super saloon match these once untouchable supercars or is the chasm so wide that no amount of modern technology can overcome the basic laws of nature?
We set out to find out by comparing what is regarded by many as the benchmark super saloon, the BMW M5 to the very best supercars that were on sale in the 1990s.
Can the latest version of the car that started the sports saloon category as a modified 5 Series really take on and beat the fastest supercars from the 1990s, or is that asking too much of a 4,000-pound four-door family car?
BMW M5 Competition
The most powerful variant of the current M5 is also the quickest road car the company has ever built, it now features switchable four-wheel-drive, turbocharging and an automatic gearbox. All three would have been sacrilegious to include in an M-car even 10-years ago but BMW has done its homework and this M5 still offers the kind of raw-edged performance that the original did way back in 1984.
617bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8
0-60mph: 3.1-seconds (3.3 for standard M5)
Top speed:155mph limited (190mph with M Driver’s Package)
The first daily-driver supercar from Japan showed the Italians the way.
270bhp 3.0-litre V6
Top speed: 165mph
To some, the most beautiful mid-engined Ferrari ever and definitely the best sounding.
375bhp 3.5-litre V8
Top speed: 183mph
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
The first truly quick modern-era Corvette and still a very pretty design.
375bhp 5.7-litre V8
Top speed: 180mph
Lotus Esprit V8
The most powerful Esprit and the only one sold with a twin-turbo V8 instead of the usual turbocharged four-cylinder option.
350bhp 3.5-litre twin-turbo V8
Top speed: 175mph
The last Lambo to be built before the VW Group takeover, so loud, fast, scary and not guaranteed to start every time.
485bhp 5.7-litre V12 (up to 575bhp in later 6.0-litre GT)
0-60mph: 4.3-seconds (under 4-seconds in later variants)
Top speed: 202mph
The archetypal American muscle car that was all about straight-line speed. Think of it as Cobra for the ’90s.
400bhp 8.0-litre V10
Top speed: 165mph
Porsche 993 GT2
The fastest 993 you could buy and also the scariest.
444bhp 3.6-litre twin-turbo flat-six
Top speed: 187mph
Le Mans-based supercar that was built in very limited numbers.
450bhp 6.0-litre V12
Top speed: 191mph
Superb F1-derived V12 paired with a great chassis and a manual gearbox.
512bhp 4.7-litre V12
Top speed: 202mph
Mercedes CLK GTR (Straßen Version)
Limited-edition road-legal version of the GT1 race car, you could even get it in a roadster version if you were really brave.
604bhp 6.9-litre V12
Top speed: 214mph
The fastest road-legal Jag ever built (despite reverting to a turbocharged V6 instead of the original V12) and quite possibly the prettiest.
542bhp 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6
Top speed: 212mph
Bugatti EB110 SS
The most powerful iteration of an already very fast supercar.
603bhp 3.5-litre quad-turbo V12
0-60mph: 3.2-3.6-seconds (est)
Top speed: 221mph
The fastest naturally aspirated car ever produced and to some the best analogue supercar.
627bhp 6.1-litre V12
Top speed: 240mph
Clearly in terms of top speed, the M5 is eclipsed by the majority of these 1990s supercars, in some cases not by very much but if you are on the Autobahn, you’d better have the M Driver’s Package if you want to keep up.
Handling-wise one would assume that the lighter and lower supercars would show the M5 the way but the BMW is no slouch on a race track and has posted quicker times than many sports cars on challenging circuits like the Nurburgring.
When it comes to acceleration, the four-wheel-drive traction and massive turbocharged torque of the M5 gives it a 0-60mph time that only the McLaren F1 and possibly the Bugatti EB110 SS can match, that truly is an impressive feat considering the super saloon’s overall weight and is also a more valid and exploitable performance metric in the real world.
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