From £71,470
Objectively it’s the best BMW M5 we’ve ever seen. Yet we can’t help but lament some of the low-speed sparkle that makes the best rivals feel lively and involving at any road speed.

Our Verdict

BMW M5
The latest BMW M5 gets twin-turbocharged V8 engine

The BMW M5 is crushingly capable, but some of the charm of old M5s is gone

21 November 2011

What is it?

Like you need us to tell you. The new BMW M5 has arrived accompanied by suitable fanfare and superlatives, but this is the first time we’ve experienced the new 552bhp, 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 super saloon in the UK.

Amongst the rafts of all-new elements that make up the fifth-generation M5 is the dual-clutch seven-speed ‘M DCT’ transmission, electric power-steering and adaptive dampers, all of which can be cycled through varying degrees of intensity independently of each other.

What’s it like?

Well we already know that it’s fairly mind-blowing in terms of the sheer brutality of its performance and delivery. And rest assured, prod the right buttons and the M5 becomes a devastatingly rapid way to cover ground very quickly, regardless of whether you’re in the UK or not. In fact, even on the more open B-roads that typify the best of Britain’s black-top you won’t be provoking the M5 for more than a few seconds before your public-road wariness will start ringing alarm bells.

And perhaps this is one of the niggling issues with the M5. Any car in this class is going to be fairly limited in terms of how far you can extend it in normal circumstances, but the M5 falls short of the sensitivity and delicacy that makes the obvious rivals entertaining even at acceptable road speeds.

Rather, as soon as you dabble in the M1 or M2 settings on the steering wheel, you’ll find yourself encouraged to ever-more ballistic speeds because the M5 is just so capable of them. It’s so well balanced, and so well set-up in terms of its body-control and damping that it almost suffers as a result of its own effectiveness, because it leaves you feeling a little less involved unless you plunder more of its potential than you might feel comfortable with outside a track.

The handling and comfort compromise here is the best you’ll find amongst any rivals. The variable dampers allow the M5 to perform just as well as a challenging back road bruiser, or as a seriously sorted and refined cruiser.

Undulations and off-camber sections of tarmac can have some kick-back feeding through the steering, but the grip and feedback on offer provides such confidence that you can punch through any of that whilst dialling in exactly the responses you need to without much consideration. There’s no denying that this is a firm car. You’ll feel the road surface most of the time, but it’s a subdued sensation that anyone considering an M5 would happily live with given the nature of the car.

Perhaps what we should be really bowing down to at this point is the gearbox. It is a night and day transformation from the previous M5’s jerky, inconsistent ‘box. Here you will find perfectly sorted ratios, which you can shuffle through via the standard paddles if you want, enjoying swift and near-faultless responses from the dual-clutch unit, or you can leave it in any of the three auto modes for well-judged and pretty much unnoticeable changes made for you.

But the M5 is not a perfect package. The steering in particular seems too clinical – and certainly too heavy in sport-plus mode – which is a disappointment in a car that should be fingertip brilliant to drive.

Should I buy one?

If you want the most crushingly effective super saloon out there, then yes. You’ll love every minute. But be careful with your decision if it’s outright driver reward that you want.

Putting the M5 to the test in the UK has only proved just what a tour-de-force it is. Objectively it’s the best M5 we’ve ever seen; bigger, faster, more efficient, vastly easier to live with and still an exercise in handling brilliance. Yet we can’t help but lament some of the low-speed sparkle that makes the best rivals feel lively and involving at any road speed. The new M5 isolates you too well from the speed it so effortlessly delivers, and has traded some of its soul in return for more liveability.

For many that’s no bad thing given that the M5’s appeal has always been in its everyday take on supercar pace. And it remains precisely that – an astonishingly rapid and absorbing everyday supercar that could outpace plenty of six-figure poster cars. Just expect a little more of the everyday and a little less of the super from the new M5.

BMW M5

Price: £73,040; 0-62mph: 4.5sec; Top speed: 155mph (190mph M driver’s package); Economy: 28.5mpg; CO2 emissions: 232g/km; Kerb weight: 1870kg; Engine layout: V8, 4395cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Power: 552bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 501lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox: seven-speed double clutch

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Comments
41

22 November 2011

I was a huge fan of the previous generation M5, what with it's revolutionary seven speed sequential gearbox and launch control system, and of course, the fact that it redlined at 9,000rpm. That V10 engine was something else, and the way that it was like no other car on sale made it even more amazing.

This new one, however, is far from revolutionary. It uses a 4.4 litre turbocharged V8, which has far less character than the V10 of old, as well as the fact that it is present in many other BMWs. The car looks as though the driver has been put second, after emissions. With the old M5, the exhilarating driving experience took priority, and to hell with global warming. That, in my opinion, is what is wrong with the new M5. It's not different enough, and it isn't driver focused enough.

22 November 2011

Whoever took those photographs needs a pat on the back and a pay rise.

22 November 2011

Autocar,

why mention several times that there are rivals that are better at low(er) speed without saying which, or why? The Audi RS6 is out of production, the E63/CLS63 should be equally ballistic, and the Porsche Panamera is a 2 tonne 4WD exercise in clinical efficiency. The Audi S8 just out is bigger but seems to suffer similar problems in terms of a remote driving experience and the Jag XJ is a different beast. The only obvious and unmentioned rival is the XFR, but that too has an autobox and plenty of weight, and similar performance figures. Is it any more fun along a country road?

The leftfield choice seems to be the Quattroporte, with it's Italian "character" and measly 430-440 bhp in GTS form. It does however make a glorious noise, and was usually faster round a track than the old V10 M5, despite an obvious power deficit.

Come on Autocar, if you're going to compare a car negatively to rivals you must say which and you must say why.

22 November 2011

Forgive me Vicky, but reading between the lines what I think this piece says is ...

"The M5 massively outperforms what is viable on Britains roads, and if you tone it down to licence saving speeds it is a disappointment"

I can't help but think we have reached the point where cars like this are now completely pointless.

22 November 2011

In black in particular it's almost too Q car - take the badges off and it could be any 5 series, just not quite enough hint of muscle underneath the bodywork for me.

289

22 November 2011

[quote Fidji]The car looks as though the driver has been put second, after emissions.[/quote]

Sadly Fidji, I think we are going to have to get used to this. Regulations are going to squeeze the life out of REAL performance cars.

We are being controlled in word, thought and deed...and stupidly we consider ourselves a free country.

I truly believe the last few years have been the last Hurrah of the petrolheads car world and their like will not be seen again.

Although Mercedes-Benz has produced extraordinary emissions and mpg from their latest V8, the days of V10's & 12's are numbered.

The last 10 years have been amazing in the power race between the Germans....even if they have been self indulgent and irrelevant in this world.

Drive one now before it is too late, at least you can say you were there to your children!

22 November 2011

[quote Fidji]

I was a huge fan of the previous generation M5, what with it's revolutionary seven speed sequential gearbox and launch control system, and of course, the fact that it redlined at 9,000rpm. That V10 engine was something else, and the way that it was like no other car on sale made it even more amazing.

This new one, however, is far from revolutionary. It uses a 4.4 litre turbocharged V8, which has far less character than the V10 of old, as well as the fact that it is present in many other BMWs. The car looks as though the driver has been put second, after emissions. With the old M5, the exhilarating driving experience took priority, and to hell with global warming. That, in my opinion, is what is wrong with the new M5. It's not different enough, and it isn't driver focused enough.

[/quote] this is all true of course, but you have to feel for BMW. when the E60 M5 was launched evryone criticised the gearbox and the fact the engine needed its neck ringing before you realised its full potential. people also criticised the ride and said at the time it was a car that was always 'on the edge'. so BMW make the gearbox better, they make it ride better, then they make the engine more powerful, more economical and easy to use. and now everyone criticises it again! I mean, you can't win can you??!!!

I was lucky enough to have a very long drive in a friend's E60 M5, and it was an awesome car. yes, the gearbox was AWFUL, but it was amazing. It was also tiresome after an hour or so. Personally, I like my BMW to be able to do the hardcore bit when i want and the luxury when i want, so probably this new F10 M5 is a better car for more people.

Does anyone know if the DCT gearbox is the same as fitted to the 335i? if so, I used one a couple of months ago and it is without doubt, an exceptional gearbox. and dare i say it, better than a manual...??!!

22 November 2011

[quote 289]

[quote Fidji]The car looks as though the driver has been put second, after emissions.[/quote]

Sadly Fidji, I think we are going to have to get used to this. Regulations are going to squeeze the life out of REAL performance cars.

We are being controlled in word, thought and deed...and stupidly we consider ourselves a free country.

I truly believe the last few years have been the last Hurrah of the petrolheads car world and their like will not be seen again.

Although Mercedes-Benz has produced extraordinary emissions and mpg from their latest V8, the days of V10's & 12's are numbered.

The last 10 years have been amazing in the power race between the Germans....even if they have been self indulgent and irrelevant in this world.

Drive one now before it is too late, at least you can say you were there to your children!

[/quote]

That is so true. What I think we will miss most is V6 engined family cars. Cars that didn't stand out at all, but sounded fantastic and went like stink. The thing is, these cars will rarely be used to cover many miles, so they aren't really damaging the environment that much at all. Also, they were all pretty efficient to make, unlike today's so-called 'eco-friendly cars'. A Prius that covers 75,000 miles per year and was hugely damaging in production costs no road tax to the owner, despite being constantly driven on the roads. An efficiently built Mondeo 2.5, which is driven just a couple of thousand miles per year costs the best part of £500 per year to tax. What's more, the Mondeo driver will probably keep his car for years, while the Prius driver will be likely to swap his Prius for another one when the 12-reg's come out a few months later, hence contributing to another car that is damaging the environment through its production. The inconsistencies of road tax is astonishing, but because they are in place, a keen petrolhead will have to make do with a turbocharged hybrid supermini for his weekend kicks if he doesn't wish to be broke.

22 November 2011

[quote il sole] this is all true of course, but you have to feel for BMW. when the E60 M5 was launched evryone criticised the gearbox and the fact the engine needed its neck ringing before you realised its full potential. people also criticised the ride and said at the time it was a car that was always 'on the edge'. so BMW make the gearbox better, they make it ride better, then they make the engine more powerful, more economical and easy to use. and now everyone criticises it again! I mean, you can't win can you??!!![/quote]

I also had a go in the E60 M5 when it was out, and I loved it from the off. This new one doesn't interest me half as much. I was actually awfully tempted to nominate it as 2011's most boring car, which is a surprise, as I am usually a fan of BMW products.

22 November 2011

My thoughts entirely...this nebulous 'some rivals' is lazy journalism. If it's not as good as the Quattroporte or the Panamera, than say so. I'd like to hear from a car magazine testing the 'king of the hill' why perhaps it's not, and if not, who is and why? Come on Autocar, this is very poor. Rewrite needed! Don't change the message, but provide evidence. I fear you're forgetting the other super-saloon 2-tonners out there and thinking about 911s, M3s.

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