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We rate the new F90 generation M5 as best in class. Will we think the same after three months with it?

Our Verdict

BMW M5 2018 review hero front

BMW’s legendary performance saloon takes the plunge into fast 4WD territory

  • First Drive

    BMW M5 long-term review

    We rate the new F90 generation M5 as best in class. Will we think the same after three months with it?
  • First Drive

    BMW M5 Competition 2018 review

    More power, lower and firmer suspension and sharper steering inject even more driver reward and drama into the M5
Matt Prior
6 September 2018

Why we’re running it: To ascertain if so much power and four-wheel drive are assets or unnecessary excess. And, well, because it’s an M5…

Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a BMW M5: Month 3

Transporting an entire Autocar back catalogue - 4th July 2018

Imagine a pile of magazines at shoulder height. Then multiply that by nine. That’s how many copies of Autocar you can fit in a BMW M5, using all of the boot, the rear seats, front passenger seat and respective footwells. I’m guessing it’s half a tonne, maybe more. But the suspension, albeit heavily compressed, coped admirably.

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Mileage: 12,124

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Never mind Alonso & Co in a Toyota: our M5 came away from Le Mans as a winner - 4th July 2018

The M5 has been back to BMW, at the request of the people there. Just want to give it a onceover, they said, and update some software.

Usually, we prefer to go to dealers for the full ownership experience but, well, they asked. And it’s their car, after all. Kindly, they repaired a windscreen stonechip, and replaced the two wheel centres we think had been nicked, and gave the rest of the car a once-over.

Wouldn’t usually, lads, but y’know: it’s a 600bhp super-saloon so we thought we’d just make sure things were fine. Which they were, and the next day the M5 was taken straight down to Le Mans, in the hands of my PistonHeads colleagues. (I can’t believe they actually put a sticker on it, but there you go. It’s a thing. It has come off cleanly enough.)

What’s good about it, though, is that it’s useful to get another set of hands and feet into the car, to give a second opinion. Knowing Le Mans, I know what the trip will have been like: supercars and sports cars everywhere, but although our PH correspondent asks “is the M5 too subtle?”, it apparently still garnered quite a lot of attention on the PH campsite, despite a Ford GT being parked next to it.

Quite rightly. I reckon that if you’ve got a Ford GT (or equivalent), you’re probably in the market for something like an M5 as a daily driver too. Which is a job it performs well.

“Brakes are fantastic”, although it’s “hard to measure out the throttle properly when pulling away”, which are both accurate. It has developed, though, a “screech under braking from the front right at slow speeds in stop-start traffic”, which I’d just begun to notice too.

There’s plenty of pad all round on the £7495 carbon-ceramic brakes, which are usually slightly less refined than iron rotors, but not this much. There’s nothing obvious, so I’ll stick the front corner on a stand and take a wheel off, to check the inside of the disc to see if a stone or bit of grit is stuck in there.

The good thing about second opinions, though, is that they don’t always agree with the first ones. PH is less impressed by the interior than I am; not that keen on the trim around the door handle or that the forward centre console lid is sometimes rattly, which I hadn’t noticed. I’ve had a play and think I’ve worked out why. It’s possible to unseat the lid from its runners very easily, but you can either push it back on or, if you close the lid, it re-seats it anyway.

Where we do agree is that it sounds “a little tame from the inside” (true), and it’s annoying that the electrics and stereo don’t turn off when you turn the ignition off (also true, even after you open the door and shut it behind you. Apparently, the latest X2 remedies this). And we all like the way it drives.

I have a bit of a beef with how wide the M5 feels, both parking it and down narrow lanes, but in France “you can still place it nicely on narrow roads”. It’s also “very comfortable for the whole journey” and “road noise is minimal even on the worst bits of the M25” but that there’s “noticeable tramlining on UK roads after being on the smooth roads of France”.

These last bits are the interesting ones. The UK has particularly poorly surfaced roads, which is why a lot of car companies come to sign off vehicle dynamics here, but how a car behaves still tells you a lot about where it was developed, and who it’s meant for.

The M5 is really very good in the UK and copes with our potholed, heavily crowned and narrow roads pretty well. But it’s even more brilliant elsewhere.

Love it:

ENTERING ADDRESSES So many different ways to input an address to the nav: say it, scroll the knob, use the knob as an input pad or tap it out on screen.

Loathe it:

HAND SIGNALS If you make flamboyant hand gestures, there’s every chance you’ll change the media volume, which has a motion sensor.

Mileage: 11,583

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Life with a BMW M5: Month 2

The mystery of the missing roundels - 27th June 2018

I don’t know how or when or why it happened, but the BMW roundels on the centre of our M5’s front wheels vanished. I thought somebody had changed the wheels while the car was out on a test, or they’d fallen off, but apparently not: is nicking roundels a thing? Anyway, BMW kindly replaced them: they cost £15 each from a dealer.

Mileage: 8990

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The humble car key doesn't get more useful, or complex, than this - 13th June 2018

The M5’s key can do all kinds of things from inside your house that it would be just as sensible to do from an app on your phone. Such is the array that, inevitably, it needs charging, but so little do I use the extras that I don’t tend to realise until it has been as flat as a bean for who knows how long. It still locks and unlocks and starts the car, though.

Mileage: 8778

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A 900-mile return trip to the M3 CS launch and N24 race? Be rude not to take the M5 - 30th May 2018

Among the blinding greenery of the Rhineland, there’s an isolated ribbon of Tarmac that flows between the sleepy spa town of Bad Neuenahr and the altogether less somnolent village of Nürburg.

It’s well surfaced for the most part and the setting is completely bucolic. Ideal, say, for an E300 cab: stick the dampers in Comfort, Bob Seger on the radio. Not a worry in the world.

The funny thing is that above a certain level of commitment, this same stretch becomes an utterly brutal examination of a car’s dynamic repertoire. There are second-, third- and even fourth-gear corners of capricious profile and camber changes where you wouldn’t expect.

One sequence isn’t unlike the infamous Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, for pity’s sake, and there’s a bend whose exit is not only blind but also concurrent with an unfavourable surface change and a vicious compression on the nearside. You’re spat out of it at the top of third gear.

It was mainly along this marvellous stretch that the new BMW M3 CS made a convincing case for itself as the most engaging device in M division’s current portfolio. But it was a close-run thing.

Why? Because our M5 long-term test car could also be found in that precise neck of the Adenauer Forest during the same weekend of the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

For outright zip, ultimately it failed to match a car some 400kg lighter and with a significantly lower centre of gravity, and nor was it quite so confidence inspiring when the Armco loomed. But it was arguably the greater feat of engineering purely for its astounding body control and the fact that it was actually enjoyable to punt along a road that could have been bespoke-laid for a Lotus Exige.

As you may have surmised, our long-termer was the steed between home and a gruelling race weekend during which BMW launched its latest M-badged road car, and therein lies the true appeal of this M5. Some back-road fun sandwiched by substantial highway blasts resulted in around 900 miles and an overall fuel economy of 21.4 mpg, for a total expenditure of roughly £260.

No, this 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 was never going to set records for frugality but, if the car impresses on more tortuous routes, it’ll blow your mind on a derestricted autobahn. How fast? An indicated (and restricted) 164mph, at which point your estimated time of arrival goes into free fall with that engine still pulling damnably hard.

Perhaps of greater significance is that proceedings remain serene enough that you’d barely have to raise your voice to be heard by those in the back. More prosaically, the M5 simply makes things easy on this kind of trip.

You can angle the headlights for Continental duties at the touch of a button and the head-up display converts your speed and speed-limit icons into km/h. It is comfortable, it is spacious, the Harman Kardon sound system is very good and you don’t worry about leaving the thing in a strange corner of an unfamiliar town after a mammoth day in the saddle.

It is quite stocky, though, with a track width that’s more or less equal to that of a Lamborghini Huracán Performante. It means there’s now a small nick on one of the alloy wheels, inflicted by the ghastly width restrictors on the top deck on the Eurotunnel trains.

Every time I’m lucky enough to drive this car, three things occur to me. The seats are set too high, the body control is simply a touch close for everyday driving, even for a super-saloon, and, God, how I wish they’d made a bit more of the wheel arches.

But while it takes me a little time to get onto the M5’s wavelength, once there I’m pretty much smitten.

Richard Lane

Love it:

CRUISE MISSILE No surprise that a 600bhp saloon with massage seats can seemingly condense international travel, but it’s a lovely sensation all the same.

Loathe it:

TOURING RANGE ‘Loathe’ is strong, but if the 70-litre fuel tank was just a little bigger, you’d easily manage 450 miles between cruising fill-ups.

Mileage: 9130

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Life with a BMW M5: Month 1

Best seat in the house - 9th May 2018

The steering column, seat back (lower and upper), under-thigh support, head restraint, plus the usual seat options – forward, back, up, down – all adjust electrically. There’s so much adjustment that I have resorted to using the memory function. Then there’s heating, cooling and massage too. I’ll bet the seat weighs more than I do.

Mileage: 3360

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Welcoming the M5 to our fleet – 2 May 2018

I can’t remember a car that has been busier on its arrival on the Autocar long-term test fleet than the new BMW M5. With decent reason, I suppose; it’s a new M5. They are rare and we want to see, as quickly as possible, just how good they are.

From the moment it was collected from north Wales, the M5 was being used in a group test alongside a Mercedes-AMG E63 S and a Cadillac CTS-V. It won. Then it was videoed alongside an E63 with two different testers — me included. It won again. (Albeit with a lot of love for the AMG, I’ll be honest.)

Since then, we’ve videoed it alongside an Alpina B5, photographed it alongside the B5 for a feature and, just two weeks ago on these pages, it was subjected to a full Autocar road test. Four and a half stars, my lovely. Four minor demerits; otherwise spot on.

Some of the highlights, then? The 592bhp four-wheel-drive 4.4-litre V8 saloon hits 60mph from rest in 3.3sec. Then there’s the 7.5sec it takes to reach 100mph, a standing quarter mile in 11.5sec at 125.1mph and a standing kilometre in 20.8sec at 159.1mph.

So even over a standing kilometre, the M5 is no more than seven-tenths behind a Ferrari 458 Speciale. It’s that fast.

Comfortable, too — for the most part. Our road test noted a slightly jittery ride on occasion and, mostly, I’m inclined to agree. If terrific body control is the trade-off, though, and presumably there has to be some kind of compromise in a 1940kg car that has to be an executive saloon and yet is also trying to be a sport car with supercar power, then I suppose that’s the rub.

What I can tell you is that I can’t think of another car that, when it comes to trying to be both engaging and sporty, and yet also luxurious and comfy, is so complete in its dynamic make-up.

Inside, it’s everything a 5 Series is as well. It’ll seat five in great comfort, there's a 530-litre boot behind them, with a can of foam beneath the boot floor in case you get a puncture because the M5 doesn’t have run-flat tyres.

Which is one reason why, I suspect, the M5 has such a bewildering array of dynamic capabilities and why the Alpina B5 (spoiler alert) doesn’t ride night and day better — something that's usually one of Alpina’s great traits.

You can slacken the M5’s suspension, plus its other attributes — powertrain, gearbox, steering weight — to a bewildering degree, too. On the centre console by the gearlever — on which there are three modes for upshift timing — you can select which damper modes, engine response, transmission response and steering weight you want.

Or you can select from pre-programmed variants. Or you can pick your own set-up and programme that into two discrete red levers on the steering wheel. That’s what I’ve done.

On the left lever is full comfort on everything. On the right is full angry on everything, stability control disengaged and a transmission that’s in rear-wheel drive mode. Sometimes I flit between these and select other things, as I get used to the car. But mostly I realise I’m doing it for experience and novelty. Were the M5 mine, I suspect I’d just rely on those two particular set-ups.

There are lots of other things to get used to and get your head around, too, in part thanks to a raft of options that include one of my other favourite steering wheel buttons: a heated wheel rim. I do like a heated steering wheel. And, the other day, somebody left a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds and I could still feel it at night!

Anyway, that’s part of the Comfort pack, which our road test reckoned was a good idea to spec, unlike the Premium pack. I agree; the M5 has a carbonfibre roof to reduce weight and make it lower, so I’d steer clear of too many options — such as the Premium pack’s soft-close doors — that add the kilos back on again.

Carbon-ceramic brakes also made the list, at £7495, and an M Sports exhaust, at £1100. The brake package is probably what provides a slightly oversensitive pedal at times — we’ll see if that improves with miles — and the ’zorst adds a welcome edge to the turbocharged motor, which otherwise resorts to relatively convincing speaker augmentation for some of its excitement.

Aural excitement, anyway. It relies on deploying 592bhp in great unhurried strides to deliver the visceral excitement. The engine is terrific. Less overtly V8ish than an AMG it may be, but there’s no arguing with the amount of oomph it provides or how it delivers it through the eight-speed automatic 'box.

It’s even capable, if you’re careful, of 28mpg, although 23mpg is more likely and 7.5mpg is possible on a track. I suppose owners don’t take M5s there that often, although they should, because it’s a great way to find out that BMW’s new super-saloon is unsurpassed in its dynamic abilities.

I’m looking forward to exploring those more as we find many, many more jobs for the M5 to do.

Second opinion

I love this car. I struggled at first to see why a 5 Series needed to be so hardcore but, after 400 miles, I just couldn’t get enough of its near-supercar steering and body control, plus its intoxicating acceleration, given the practical package and effortless delivery. Brilliant!

Steve Cropley

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BMW M5 specification

Specs: Price new £87,940 Price as tested £101,900; Options Premium package (including soft-close doors, massage seats, ceramic finish for controls) £1995, Comfort package (including steering wheel heating, seat heating all round) £1195, M Sports exhaust £1100, carbonfibre engine cover £1025, carbon-ceramic brakes £7495, M seatbelts £260, carbonfibre/aluminium-look trim £495, Apple CarPlay £235, online entertainment £160

Test Data: Engine V8, 4395cc, twin turbocharged petrol; Power 591bhp at 5600-6700rpm; Torque 553lb ft at 1800-5600rpm; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 3.4sec; Claimed fuel economy 26.9mpg; Test fuel economy 23.3mpg; CO2 241g/km; Faults None; Expenses None

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Join the debate


20 May 2018
You've been given a £100k car to play with for 3 months , I think the answer to your question will be yes .....

20 May 2018

Previous M5 suffered from the fuel injectors failing.   They stayed open, filling the cylinder with fuel.   Then you had 9 cylinders acting opon one that was full of petrol.   End result was blown engines.


Mostly happened as the BMW passed out of warranty.   It would leave you with a repair bill in the tens of thousands.


I believe there was also another problem with the gearbox on the M5 where an inexpensive seal would fail, but that seal was so difficult to get to that BMW opted not to do a preventative replacement.   It would take out both the gearbox and clutch system.


22 June 2018

The previous M5 was also v8. So with the "nine cylinders" reference, you must be referring to the one before that, the E60.

21 May 2018
It seems churlish and overly knitpicky not to give the full 5 stars to such a broadly and hugely able supersaloon, merely because of a few "minor demerits".

After all, no car is perfect. You (the Autocar) hand out 5 stars to various JLRs, McLarens and sporty Fords at the drop of a hat, and none of them are free of minor demerits, are they?

7 September 2018
Overdrive wrote:

It seems churlish and overly knitpicky not to give the full 5 stars to such a broadly and hugely able supersaloon, merely because of a few "minor demerits". After all, no car is perfect. You (the Autocar) hand out 5 stars to various JLRs, McLarens and sporty Fords at the drop of a hat, and none of them are free of minor demerits, are they?


The two tonne weight is enough to warrant a demerit IMO.

2 June 2018
Personally, between these two super saloons I'd still go for the Alpina B5.

I know it's a very personal decision, driven more by the heart than the head and in all probability you either want an M5 for what it represents and how it looks OR an Alpina for the same reasons.

The B5 may not give quite the visceral experience of the M5 nor be quite as tight at ten tenths but despite both cars capabilities and massive reserves, how many minutes per year would the difference really be noticeable?

Myself, I'd have the B5 Touring (not an option with the M5) in Alpina Blue with the decals and enjoy the capability of a car that can cover so many bases, whilst also being a far rarer sight on our roads and only on the radar of those in the know.

Interesting that you comment on the fact that neither the M5 nor B5 use runflat tyres (Alpina have avoided fitting them for years). Runflats may be considered safer but they hamper ride and control, especially when pressing on over the broken road surfaces we have in the UK. IMHO they are one of the first things to ditch on any BMW - replace them with a good quality sports tyre and a can of foam in the boot. You don't even need to spend a fortune, non-runflats are cheaper to begin with and aside from the main brands like Michelin/Pirelli, several other manfacturers like Vredestein, Kumho and Yokohama offer really good rubber too. Change from a runflat to any of them and you feel the difference immediately.

6 August 2018

 When your paying £100,000 for daily transport your not particularly bothered about running costs but, when the Engine grenades itself or a gearbox goes boom! These get your attention, not because of the cost,but because it shouldn’t happen, you trust the name the product, these you  shouldn’t have to foot the Bill for if it’s been serviced as per schedule by an approval BMW Garage then BMW should pick up the bill, how many fail in a year globally?, not going to ruin BMW to replace an Engine, no, if you have confidence in your product it should have a lifetime guarantee assuming you did the above....

Peter Cavellini.

6 August 2018
Peter Cavellini wrote:

you  shouldn’t have to foot the Bill for if it’s been serviced as per schedule by an approval BMW Garage then BMW should pick up the bill, how many fail in a year globally?


Mine was serviced religiously at BMW and only BMW.   So often was it there that the service manager is on my Facebook friends list!


When it came to replacing parts that are still warrented in the USA because they are known design weaknesses BMW weren't interested.   I was left with a car that was unsafe to drive on a motorway, and with bills running in to thousands.   It had already been in twice with me paying to replace parts that didn't fix the problem, and the bills getting larger each time but the problem not solved.   They wanted me to spend thousands more to fix it.


Never buying another BMW.


6 September 2018

 This Car had an abused life, first, who the heck loads a Car up with half a ton ( his words, not mine) of old Car Mags?!, why not hire a Van, or borrow your mates estate, no one have a Q8?,plus, if your buying a Car like this you know it’s not going to be a walk in the Park, there’s bound to be something go wrong, it shouldn’t, you’ve payed a lot for it,but, it’s par for the course these days, not many Cars like this at this price don’t have issues.

Peter Cavellini.

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