First DriveBMW adds speed to its legendary super saloon, but fails to add value or address the M5's biggest shortcomings
First DriveThe addition of a £6700 package of options means the BMW M5 Competition Package is the most powerful road car BMW has ever built
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.
There’s also an impressive level of suppleness thanks to inclusion of variable damping that serves up three levels of stiffness – comfort, sport and sport plus. Despite the obvious lack of compliancy in the standard 265/40 ZR19 front and 295/35 ZR19 tyres, the overall ride quality is outstanding.
Even in the most extreme sport plus mode, the new underpinnings manage to retain a good deal of composure, seldom allowing anything more than a sharp ripple to upset progress. In this respect, it’s much calmer and more relaxed as speeds increase than its predecessor.
It’s the steering that slightly disappoints. The speed sensitive hydraulic steering is an improvement on the electro-mechanical arrangement used by standard 5-series models, offering a more convincing feel and greater levels of feeback. But it possesses a lifeless feel around the straight ahead. It’s a pity because, once you’ve negotiated this though, it is much more alert.
Should I buy one?
Yes. We don’t care how, just make sure you do sample the new M5 in one way or the other. It is in many respects a landmark car - one that’s going to have the fast car competition – Audi, Cadillac, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati among them - scratching their heads as they attempt to come up with a reply.
The sheer potency and accessibility of the new turbocharged engine alleviates any lingering doubts about BMW’s M division’s decision to turn a 25-year tradition of naturally aspirated engines on its head. The question that really needs to be asked is: why did it take so long?
What really marks the new M car down as something really special, though, is its superb combination of agility, ride and refinement. With an 80-litre fuel tank and combined cycle fuel consumption of 28.5mpg, it is not only the new muscle car of choice but also the perfect cross continent express.
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