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.