Review: BMW M5
Whether on track or on road, the BMW M5 remains relaxing and restrained. It’s practical, fast, focussed, refined and luxurious and there really is nothing out there with the breadth of capabilities that the M5 has.
Five generations of M5 have passed by, each getting faster, more capable, and possibly a little more sensible.
For this sixth-generation model, BMW has eschewed the possibility of returning to a V10 engine and installed a modified version of the last car’s 4.4-litre V8 with a couple of turbochargers bolted on for good measure. It develops a little more power, now up to 591bhp, but it’s how it sends that to the road that’s changed.
Instead of harnessing all of that power through the rear wheels, BMW’s M division has installed a complete four-wheel drive system under the chassis along with an incredibly advanced electronics system which can be set to allow as much freedom as you dare, or restrict you to having as much fun as having Lewis Hamilton in the room.
Never did the car feel too big, too fast, or out of its depth for the track.
They’ve done all this while reducing the weight of the car. Granted, it’s only by 15kg, or about half a Dalmatian, but the new M-powered 5 Series is bigger, faster, and has four-wheel drive. That’s an impressive achievement, but is all the extra traction-harnessing technology really required?
The best way to find out was to take the M5 onto the track, an environment not many of the cars sold will see. As the sun set and the temperatures dropped well below zero, the BMW began to look a little large out on the narrow circuit at Anglesey. Make no mistake, the M5 is a large car, and weighs in at close to two tonnes, but my concern was short lived.
Fast straights are dispatched without concern, while rapidly approaching tight corners require a firmer press of the brake pedal than might be expected - regardless of how wide the tyres are and how big the brakes are, it’s a lot of mass to stop. However, control the speed and the M5 feels beautifully balanced.
Getting comfortable with the width then allows you to get comfortable with the car itself
Turn in, wait for an apex, and then power out, gently rotating the car using the rear wheels while also grabbing some extra forward propulsion from the front pair of wheels being gently driven in 4WD Sport mode.
Dynamic mode allows more of the same, with greater rotation angles and more decisive changes in power. Never did the car feel too big, too fast, or out of its depth for the track.
Needless to say, getting to Anglesey required plenty of use of the fine driving roads contained within North Wales. That’s where the sheer bulk of the car makes its presence felt as it’s more than two metres wide - that’s often more than half the width of the road. Getting comfortable with the width then allows you to get comfortable with the car itself, something that can take a while thanks to the seemingly endless customisation settings.
There’s just so much power available, all without any fuss, and speeds increase to blurry without you even realising
Adjusting the steering, engine map, exhaust, four-wheel drive system, steering, stability control and probably a whole lot more can take an entire day, but a few pre-programmed settings along with two programmable steering-wheel mounted buttons allow easy access to most combinations you’d want.
On public roads that means comfort suspension and the exhaust turned up to volcano. Leaving it in Sport mode makes the ride rather more compromised than one might wish for on a long journey, although it’s preferable when making swift progress. Even in the softer setting it’s still pretty firm at low speeds, jiggling around a little over surface cracks and undulations.
The BMW M5 is relaxing and restrained. Cruise control keeps speeds in check, and passing manoeuvres need little more than a flex of a big toe
Find the open road and the M5 covers distance alarmingly quickly. There’s just so much power available, all without any fuss, and speeds increase to blurry without you even realising. Every turn is dealt with in a nanosecond, before the next straight disappears in the rear view mirror moments later. It’s composed, refined and oh-so-smooth.
Press on in Sport mode and there’s not much change. Yes it’s a bit quicker as the suspension controls the body with more resolve, and the revs are allowed to rise a little further, but you’d need to be truly antisocial to notice any significant difference in A-to-B times. This thing will get you there quickly regardless, the passing of slow moving vehicles being just a momentary distraction while 750Nm of torque is let loose.
It’s practical, fast, focussed, refined and luxurious and there really is nothing out there with the breadth of capabilities that the M5 has.
Find a motorway and the BMW M5 is relaxing and restrained. Cruise control keeps speeds in check, and passing manoeuvres need little more than a flex of a big toe. Autobahn speeds wouldn’t be a problem, I’m sure, with the car remaining solid and stable as it powers through the middle of Europe.
Elsewhere, it’s as normal as a 520d. There’s a comfortable, spacious cabin for the front passengers, and plenty of room in the rear for those relegated to being chauffeured. The boot is a decent size, and there’s plenty of toys to keep people occupied. Even promised economy isn’t too bad, with 26.9mpg being touted officially. Single figures are possible, though.
Residual values will be strong and, despite the enormous list price of £89,705, leasing costs aren’t too eye-watering. Insurance might cost you a bit though, and you’ll need to get on friendly terms with your local tyre fitters.
The BMW M5 is an example to the industry of what is possible. It’s practical, fast, focussed, refined and luxurious and there really is nothing out there with the breadth of capabilities that the M5 has. But in spite of all that there is one flaw. As brilliant as the M5 is, it’s just not exciting.
The capabilities of the car are so far beyond what you can access on the road that it’s almost irrelevant. If I had to drive to Monaco overnight the M5 would be my choice, but if I wanted to get there with an ear-to-ear grin? Probably not. But is being that good really a reason for complaint?
Model tested: BMW M5
|Average lease rate*||£1,533|
|Top speed||155 mph|
|Combined MPG||26.9 mpg|
|Luggage space||530 litres|