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Driven: BMW M5. Image by BMW.

Driven: BMW M5
Four-wheel drive and forced induction it might use, but the latest BMW supersaloon feels like a true M5 legend.

 



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BMW M5

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: It's the best M5 by miles

Not so good: It never sounds very exciting

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW M5 (F90)
Price: 5 Series (G30) starts from 36,275; M5 from 89,705
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed M Steptronic automatic, M xDrive all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 243g/km (VED Band 226-255: 1,760 in year one, 450 per annum years two to six, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 26.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited; option to raise to 190mph with M Driver's Package)
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Power: 600hp at 5,600-6,700rpm
Torque: 750Nm at 1,800-5,600rpm
Boot space: 530 litres

Our view:

I'm going to be selfish and write this review of the new 'F90' BMW M5 from my own perspective, rather than that of this august website. Cue lots of eye-rolling, by those who know me well, and exultations of 'oh lord, here he goes AGAIN, banging on about his bloody M5; enough already!', but (having already given the game away) I'm an M5 owner. Oh, not this new one, obviously; crikey, I'm a journalist, for goodness' sake, this sort of thing is way out of my financial league. And probably will be until at least 2033. No, instead, I own a 2007 E61 M5. And yes, I did just say E61 M5, not E60 - it's a Touring, rather than the four-door saloon.

The reasons I own this particular car are multitudinous, but I'll list them anyway: one, I have long said that every model of BMW saloon is outshone in the aesthetics department by its equivalent Touring - and it has been this way ever since the E30 wagon rumbled into view in 1987 (yes, I am aware there was a 2002 Touring, but that was a hatchback, not an estate); two, I've got a wife, a four-year-old kid and pair of large dogs (one Labrador, one... thing that looks like an unholy cross between a llama and a Shetland pony, and which has all the sparky brainpower of a Stegosaurus), so I need plenty of cabin space and a big boot in which to cart them all about; three, at some point in mid-2017, I clearly lost my mind and entered into a full-blown midlife crisis, in the throes of which I decided that, instead of buying a Harley-Davidson and wearing leopard-print three-quarter length coats over tight vinyl trousers, then a V10 estate which'll do 19 to the gallon at the absolute best and which has the propensity to bankrupt me and everyone I've ever known and loved if it goes wrong in even the slightest fashion would be a 'Very Sensible Family Car'; four, it's an (I hate myself for saying this, but here goes...) investment piece for the future (gaaaaaah!); and five, I have always loved the BMW M5. Come on, who doesn't?!

I'm very particular about M5s, too, having worked on a BMW-specific magazine for four years of my career, during which time I developed a deep, fanboy bond with the Bavarian marque. And, with apologies to one of my car-loving friends, who owned a lovely-looking white example (and whom I know will be reading this), the previous-generation 'F10' M5 never did it for me. Even in 600hp Competition guise.

My major beef with it - and bear with me here, as I know this will sound a preposterous argument at first encounter - is that it never felt like anything other than a very, very, very fast 5 Series. And, to me, that's not what the M5, or any self-respecting supersaloon, should be about in the slightest. The F10 gave drivers all the lazy midrange torque and automatic gearbox stuff that, apparently, M5 customers wanted, but it felt big and heavy and mechanically isolated. And on this last point, the main issue was that the F10 had an engine that wasn't far enough removed from the regular line-up.

To wit, all previous M5s had an engine and chassis that stood apart from everything else in their comparative ranges. The E28 used the first generation of the S38 (earlier known as the M88/3), which might have been 3.5 litres like the 218hp motor found in the contemporary 535i and M535i models, but which nevertheless had an additional 31 per cent more grunt for a 286hp peak - making that glorious, hand-built, shark-nosed M5 feel significantly elevated above its normal 5 Series siblings. By the time the Mk2 E34 M5 rolled around, the S38 was available in either 315hp 3.6- or 340hp 3.8-litre guises, neither of which could be found anywhere else in the range (it was always the power daddy, despite the presence of a couple of M60 V8s in the E34 family).

Then there was the majestic E39. Its wondrous S62 V8, all 4.9 litres of it (don't let anyone, least of all BMW, try and tell you it was a 5.0-litre motor - it was 4,941cc, after all), allowed a factory 5 Series to hit the magic 400hp mark for the first time. And finally, of course, there was the V10 model... and I don't really need to say anything apart from 'V10', really.

Whereas your F10 had a 4.4-litre biturbo V8, with 560hp and 680Nm, when the next model down - the 550i - had... a 4.4-litre biturbo V8, with 450hp and 600Nm. See? On paper, the F10 just looks like a 550i with the wick turned up. Even tuning it to 575hp/750Nm and then 600hp/750Nm at the end of its life couldn't save the F10 from being, for me personally, a bit 'meh'.

Naturally, you could accuse the F90 model of much the same thing. It uses the S63B44T4 evolution of the F10's biturbo V8, while the N63 eight-pot with a pair of blowers remains in service in the G30 M550i xDrive. And that thing can do 0-62mph in 4.0 seconds (making it, ironically, quicker-accelerating than any F10 M5), so are we once again looking at the F90 M5 as being a car to upset the swivel-eyed BMW M purists? Swivel-eyed purists like me, for instance...?

No. No, we're not. Maybe it's because we don't get the M550i xDrive here in the UK. Maybe it's because BMW M has done such a stunning job of making its M xDrive AWD set-up and M Steptronic eight-speed transmission feel so achingly special. Maybe it's because the company has just hit on some of the finest damned damping and general chassis tuning known to man. But this, for me, is not just an excruciatingly fast 5 Series. No. It's an M5 to die for.

There's categorically no situation, on road at least, where you will find it wanting, in any dynamic shape or form whatsoever. The pace it can summon up is relentless and intoxicating. It fires away from the line in standing starts of such fury and venom, you wonder if the 1,855kg kerb weight has got some of its numbers transposed. It'll catapult out of the tightest corners like it's entering warp. It'll ramp on midrange speed as if the laws of physics had simply ceased to exist. It is, in short, a cracker of a drivetrain, the 4.4 V8, M xDrive and M Steptronic all connecting to provide motive force that will suit any situation that comes the car's way. You could not need more performance than this, you really couldn't.

The handling, though, is otherworldly magnificent and it's linked to the car's comportment and refinement, which is similarly exalted. You can click the BMW through the various modes to affect its damping, but even with its shocks in their softest settings, the M5 retains exemplary body control and, going the other way, the ride is not unbearable when the BMW is fully tied-down. In any case, the M5 will breathe so intuitively and naturally with any road surface, even the bobbly ones, that you feel utterly confident in deploying every last shred of its cataclysmic power, no matter what you're looking at out of the windscreen. The M xDrive pulls off the extraordinary trick of making the car feel rear-drive rather than AWD, the steering - while not the last word in feel - is sharp and consistent, the brakes are immense.

All of which makes the latest M5 a sheer delight to drive, whether you're battering it along a back road and pretending you're at the Nordschleife, or ambling up a motorway, where - with its twin turbos sitting largely idle - it gave me back 33mpg on one long cruise. My V10 wagon would only return that sort of fuel economy if someone pushed it off a cliff. With a tailwind. Admittedly, 20.1mpg overall across a 310-mile week in the F90's company rather tells the story of how it was driven for the vast majority of its time in my care... and I'd better leave it at that, for the sake of my licence.

So, it all boils down to a succinct summation: the F90 BMW M5 is sublime. Apart from one tiny bugbear - which is that the motor always sounds a bit, well... muted, considering it's a 600hp V8 - this car is otherwise close to flawless. You do not need the 625hp Competition version; not unless you're regularly going to go on track in your two-tonne supersaloon, at any rate. The Competition just doesn't have the graceful damping of the 600hp, um, 'regular' model, which makes the M5 such a devastating on-road weapon, and it doesn't feel appreciably more remarkable for its 6,500 premium. Unless you really like black boot badges, that is.

Indeed, the only way BMW could make the F90 M5 any better would be to turn it into a Touring model. Imagine that. Imagine a 600hp, four-wheel-drive BMW estate. Imagine how it would finally be that mythical 'car that does absolutely everything to a standard of excellence that's scarcely believable'. Imagine what would happen to the values of good, used E61 M5s... like mine. Oh, hang on, wait a minute - Munich! Forget everything I've just said about wagon-ising this brute and stick with the four-door M5. Because you've already achieved supersaloon perfection, right here.

Alternatives:

Lexus GS F: we've talked about the 477hp GS F being hopelessly outgunned in terms of raw power in the supersaloon class, and it is. And it has rubbish infotainment. And some ergonomic quirks. But it's weirdly likeable and it sounds like angry thunder, too.

Mercedes-AMG E 63 S: this is such a good car. One of the best supersaloons of all time. Its 4.0-litre V8 is a work of art, and so is its chassis. So the fact there's a better supersaloon on sale, right now, is rather astonishing.

Porsche Panamera Turbo: looks a lot better in its second-generation skin than its first and has all the usual Porsche attributes, which means it's ace. But it costs from 113,000 and the M5 is, incredibly, the finer vehicle in nearly every respect.


Matt Robinson - 4 Oct 2018









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