What is it?
The fifth-generation BMW M5 – the first of its breed to eschew a highly strung naturally aspirated engine for a torque led turbocharged powerplant. A big change in philosophy from BMW’s M division, then.
Due to go on sale in the UK in November, the new BMW M5 shares just 20 per cent of its components with the standard 5-series.
Its new twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 is a development of the unit found in the X6M. However, there are sufficient differences between the two units to lead BMW M officials to describe the M5’s engine as being new. The pair use the same block and crank, but the induction, cylinder head, internal architecture and exhaust system are unique. It’s not the truck engine many suspected, then…
The new engine delivers 51bhp more than the old naturally aspirated V10 engine at 552bhp. However, the power is now delivered 1750rpm lower in the rev range at 6000rpm. More telling, though, is the torque. It peaks a substantial 153lb ft higher than before at 501lb ft but can be tapped some 4600rpm earlier at 1500rpm – or just 700rpm beyond the engine’s nominal idle.
A further technical highlight of the new M5 is the adoption of a new seven-speed double clutch gearbox as standard. Essentially the same unit used in the M3, the Getrag engineered unit replaces the seven-speed sequential manual of the old model.
What’s it like?
In a word, rapid. It might weigh 1870kg, but in real world terms the M5 is considerably faster than the car it replaces by dint of its more accessible performance. BMW claims 0-62mph in 4.4sec – bettering the old model by 0.3sec up the strip. But I, for one, won’t be surprised to see independent tests better this figure by a considerable margin.
So it is fast – fast enough to be a real threat to your licence, so addictive is its performance and the deep thrum of its engine under full load. But what really distinguishes the new M5 from each and every M5 that has gone before it is the enormous flexibility of its power delivery. Bury the throttle at anything beyond 1500rpm – the point where peak torque is developed, and it surges forward with immense force, seemingly in any gear.
Its performance, molded in no uncertain terms by its new engine’s mountain of torque, is omnipresent. Overtaking is truly effortless, helped in no uncertain part by the effectiveness of the new seven-speed box. I’m not sure how BMW has done it, but the shifts are race car quick, accompanied on full throttle up-shifts by an alluring bark of exhaust and a hearty blip on downshifts.
Still, the added flexibility, while making the new M5 a more welcome every day proposition, does have its drawbacks. Chief among these is a curious lack of crescendo in its delivery. Because the torque is developed across such a wide range of revs, the engine doesn’t feel much stronger at 6000rpm – the point where peak power arrives, than it does down low. The shove is colossal, but it is also oddly constant.
The aluminium intensive chassis, with its new double wishbone front suspension and heavily modified multi-link rear end, offers superb body control. There is a moderate degree of lean as you guide the M5 into corners but it actions are wonderfully progressive thanks to terrific damping that ensures any movement is retained within a tightly dictated range.