9 July 2004

BMW has catapulted the performance saloon to meteoric new heights with its latest M5. Due to hit the UK next April with a price tag of around £60,000, Munich’s new four-door stormer packs 507bhp – leaving the 476bhp Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG, also shown for the first time below, trailing in its tracks. At the heart of BMW’s fourth-generation M5 is a new 5.0-litre V10. With BMW’s patented bi-Vanos variable valve timing, dual-flow stainless-steel exhaust system and a stratospheric 8250rpm red line, the 90-degree unit delivers its 507bhp at a high 7750rpm. This is backed up by a solid 384lb ft of torque at 6100rpm – some 332lb ft of which can be tapped from 3500rpm. Altogether, this represents a 107bhp and 15lb ft increase over the third-generation M5’s 4.9-litre V8 engine. With a weight of 1755kg, the E60 5-series-based saloon also boasts an impressive 289bhp per tonne – up 56bhp per tonne on the car it replaces, and well ahead of the CLS55 AMG against which it will inevitably be compared. Channelling the power to the rear wheels is a third-generation version of BMW’s sequential manual gearbox, now boasting seven forward ratios and new electronics that are claimed to quicken shift times by up to 20 per cent over the M3’s second-generation unit. There is also a launch control function for maximum-attack getaways. Another new feature is the M5’s gloriously named power button. At start-up, the driver is given access to 400bhp in a default program dubbed P400. Depressing the button unleashes the engine’s full 507bhp along with a more responsive throttle action, referred to as P500. In this configuration, the new M5 is claimed to reach 60mph from standstill in just 4.7sec, hitting a limited 155mph in a blistering 14.9sec. With its speed-limiting chip removed, BMW says its super-saloon will get to 205mph at the 8250rpm red line, though company policy prohibits official modification, even at dealer level.

BMW claims the new M5 is capable of lapping the Nürburgring’s 14-mile Nordschleife circuit, where much of its development has taken place, in 8min flat – 25sec inside the time of its highly lauded predecessor. Underpinning the new M5 is a modified version of the 5-series’ aluminium-intensive MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension. While the geometry and pick-up points remain the same, the kinematic properties have been reworked with reduced ride height and substantially more negative camber added to handle the cornering forces, which BMW claims can top 1.3g. Helping generate such levels of lateral acceleration are specially developed Michelin Pilot run-flat tyres – 225/40 ZR19s at the front and 285/35 ZR19s at the rear – with a unique rubber compound designed for the best compromise between dry- and wet-weather running. Ensuring the power gets to the blacktop in tidy fashion is a beefed-up version of BMW’s torque-sensing M differential. The new car also adopts electronic damping control (EDC), providing the driver with three different levels of stiffness – comfort, normal and sport. The EDC is linked to the M5’s Servotronic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, offering two distinctly different levels of assistance.

Impressive-looking 374mm (front) and 370mm (rear) ventilated and cross-drilled steel discs help to rein the new M5 in, grabbed by sturdy twin piston aluminium callipers to give top-notch deceleration. BMW has also included a sensor that monitors pad wear and calculates residual mileage before they have to be replaced. The understated appearance of the new M5 comes as no surprise, after a preview at the Geneva show earlier this year. Included among the modifications made to the standard 5-series is a deeper front air dam with large air ducts and accompanying flaps to reduce lift. It also gets prominent wheelarches to house the standard 19in aluminium rims, chromed gills behind the front wheelarches, reshaped exterior mirror housings, wider side sills, a reworked rear bumper assembly and the M5’s signature quad-tailpipe treatment.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Dallara Stradale
    The Stradale is the first road-legel car from Italian motorsport constructor Dallara
    First Drive
    16 March 2018
    The motorsport constructor's first road car is inspired by Lotus minimalism. Does it thrill on road and track?
  • Hyundai i30 N
    Standard spec is good so paint colour is our car’s only option
    First Drive
    16 March 2018
    What’s Hyundai’s first hot hatch and N-brand debutant really like? Let’s find out
  • Porsche Boxster GTS
    This is the new GTS version of the Porsche Boxster
    First Drive
    15 March 2018
    The 718-generation Boxster is our favourite roadster of the moment – so is this new GTS variant worth the extra outlay?
  • BMW 5 Series
    First Drive
    15 March 2018
    The BMW 5 Series is top of the mid-exec pack, but is there still room for a diesel saloon in everyday family life?
  • Audi A7 front
    First Drive
    14 March 2018
    The new Audi A7 Sportback looks the part, but how does the new Mercedes-Benz CLS rival cope on UK roads? We find out