Does The Chevrolet SS Pick Up Where The E39 BMW M5 Left Off?5
We’re not sure if this is either the greatest compliment to General Motors, and subsequently Holden, or an insult to BMW. A posh Bavarian masterpiece pitted against a blue-collar Chevy? Blasphemy!
Well, it happened. Road & Track took notice of the Chevrolet SS’ new no-cost option to equip a six-speed manual, 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 and the fact power is being sent to the rear (read: correct) wheels. Similarly, between 1998 and 2003, BMW already had this formula down. Arguably in a better way than it does now.
When the E39 5-series arrived on scene, there must have been something in the water at HQ. A special kind of touch was bestowed upon this era of BMW, and when the fellas at Bimmer decided to hand over the 5-series to the masterminds at the M tuning division, it was bliss. Like the SS, a V8 is also employed here, a 4.9-liter to be exact, a manual gearbox was in place and power also went to the rear (read again: correct) wheels.
R&T sums the 2003 M5 up best saying, “With the exception of the old navigation system, this M5 could go into production today, and it would blow everyone’s mind.” It’s that good.
Though, while BMW was busy toying with new ways to make the M5, to be kind, different, there was a manufacturer at the corner of the globe who was benchmarking the E39 5-series. Holden gathered up its engineering department, and even a few who had a hand in crafting the M5, along with Holden chassis tuner Peter Hanenberger and wah-lah! The VF Holden Commodore was born.
Fortunately, Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president, ensured those of us stateside received the VF Commodore. Slap a bowtie on, and there you have it.
Everyone already knows how fantastic the M5 performs, but when the SS steps in, it begins to create the same grin R&T experienced while piloting the M5. The Chevrolet SS begins to make the difference between a fast four-door and a four-door sports sedan.
With a special place in the hearts of R&T it simply wasn’t enough to warrant the dethroning of the E39 M5. But the cars have more in common than you think. Both see the end of an era. Australian manufacturing will cease the rear-wheel Commodore and the smiles it brings with it. When BMW introduced the E60 M5 it never struck the same tone the E39 resonated.
That’s okay, though. Some things can’t last forever. But they can remind us how blatantly brilliant it is when someone decides to build a car that’s about more than point A and point B.
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Fear not, because Hyundai is prepared to pick up the torch with the next Genesis. And Dodge will do the same with the LA platform on the tail end of the decade.
The only sad thing here is that GM could offer an affordable Alpha sedan with I4, V6, and V8 options… and doesn’t.
Malibu should be elimated in the States with three similar sized Impala taking its place and an Alpha or Omega acting as Chevy large flag ship.
The new Malibu and Impala will be as seperated but by a few inches and the segments are destined to merge.
That’s taking it a bit too far. But an E2XX Malibu and an Alpha Impala is not a bad way to right the rudders… at least, at this point.
This is a pretty good article. The E39 M5 truly was an engineering gem in its day, setting BMW as the performance standard of the world. It’s also awesome to see the Commodore/SS following in the footsteps of the E39. Which makes it even more depressing to see such a wonderful car become what it will in the near future. I guess part of the blame rests on the consumers, since the masses are simply not buying such awesome vehicles. Instead buying the mainstream turbocharged econoboxes flooding the streets…….. I wish the current Impala was based on the Commodore, like it was originally intended to be in the first place. Oh well….. Circumstances have forced this on GM.
Let things work out here and lets just see what develops.
In an automaker you can not just do all models and projects at one time. Also some things have to happen first before others can take place.
The key to GM’s future is not the things you do know they are the thing you have yet to learn.
This is not GM of ten years ago that told you their moves 7 years ahead. Like the Bolt there are more things to come our of no where just 18 moths to 24 months before release.