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.

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.

Back to top

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.


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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Citytiger 30 November 2011

Re: BMW M5 (UK drive)

Sorry, but give me an XFR or the rumoured XFR-S, similar performance, just as good on a back road, but comfortable going to the shops, and you dont need a degree from Microsoft to figure out the million and one different suspension, throttle, gearbox, steering etc etc etc options. Surely if Jaguar with limited resources can make it possible for a car to handle and ride properly for most occasions, why cant BMW. And on top of that the XF is far better looking than this pumped up repmobile.

gaco1 26 November 2011

Re: BMW M5 (UK drive)

I like this thread, some really good points made here which the mainstream car manufacturers should take note.

I think driver involvement at a variety of speeds should be the ULTIMATE objective. I was in the market for to buy any 30K car, and i ended up choosing an old (but dynamically acclaimed) car simply so that I could enjoy the pure mechanical interaction and sound of the engine, gear box, and feel of the controls at legal speeds.

You can have a lot of fun driving within the limits if you have a car which sports balanced chassis and communicative controls.

The power race is misguided and is of limited appeal. To me it appeases only the ego maniacs and those who lean towards one-upmanship.

Driving 26 November 2011

Re: BMW M5 (UK drive)

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