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Week at the wheel: BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

Week at the wheel: BMW M5
BMW straps some turbos onto its new M5, purists revolt; we drive it and don't care - and smile lots.


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| Week at the Wheel | BMW M5 |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

BMW builds its biggest, heaviest and most expensive M5, but also makes it the fastest, most efficient and exciting yet. Too fast for the road? Probably. Is using turbocharging a cop-out? To some. Does it matter? No, not when the whole package is as good as this one.

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW M5
Pricing: £73,040 (£82,985 as tested)
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi RS6, Jaguar XFR, Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG
CO2 emissions: 232g/km
Combined economy: 28.5mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 560hp at 5,750rpm
Torque: 680Nm at 1,500rpm

Inside & Out: 4 4 4 4 4

The glut of M Sport body-kitted 520ds ploughing our crowded motorways actually means this new M5 already looks quite familiar. Certainly those finished in more subtle shades don't exactly stand out. Thankfully our car not only wears gorgeous 20-inch alloy wheels, but stunning Monte Carlo Blue metallic paint as well. The result is a car that grabs your attention at first glance, and one that delights as you examine the details.

The same can't really be said for the interior, which is even closer in concept to a cooking 5 Series than the outside. There is a new gear lever for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and the head up display does have an M mode. But save for some excellent seats and the ubiquitous M badging, it's all been seen before.

Ride & Handling: 5 5 5 5 5

The first surprise is the ride quality, even on the optional 20-inch alloys of our test car. That's partly due to the M division ditching the run-flat tyres normally found on the 5 Series, but also thanks to the excellent adaptive damping. Often a press of a suspension-logoed button leaves you wondering if a fuse has blown, but not so in the M5, as each press reveals a distinctly different damper response.

It's no surprise that with nearly 700Nm at little over idle it is easy to break traction in the M5, especially in anything less than totally dry conditions. However, even in the higher gears and at higher speeds you can detect some movement across the rear axle. This car is clearly stepping on some toes with regards the power and grip balance. Thankfully communication is just as important as performance to this car, and the fat steering wheel rim is bristling with feedback - no matter which setting you opt for.

And no matter how quickly you ask the M5 to change direction it does so decisively and without cause for concern. In fact at times it's easy to forget just how large and heavy this car is, shrinking around you like the old cliché book says the best do. Even the brakes, which are often having to work harder than you'd expect, remain fade free on the road and pull this car up to a stop with confidence - a word that could be happily used to describe this car's attitude overall.

Engine & Transmission: 5 5 5 5 5

When announced, M Division's forced induction strategy caused something of a BMW-bashing sensation. How could an M car, the purest example of the Munich breed, resort to turbocharging for its power? Where was the exotic V10 like that found in its predecessor? Why had the M division betrayed its roots (and going by the internet whinging, its customers too)? All utter tosh frankly. BMW was one of the first manufacturers to use turbocharging (with its 2002 turbo from 1973) and like every maker needs its cars to be more efficient than ever before. So here we have it, an M5 with two turbochargers - and even the briefest of drives should have doubters or naysayers convinced.

Epic is an overused adjective, especially in road tests, but in this instance it's time to make use and be proud. This engine is epic, properly epic in fact. Not necessarily at idle, where it sounds deep chested and pleasing rumbly like any other V8, but when on the move. With 560hp you'd expect that, but unlike the old V10, which relied on being worked hard, this new M5 has 680Nm at its disposal. At only 1,500rpm. Yes, from just above idle. And for that you can thank the turbochargers.

Even the most modest press on the throttle sees the M5 career down the road with startling speed. But it's not just the initial response that is so addictive; no, what's really surprising is the way the acceleration continues to build in ferocity as the revs rise, right the way to the 7,200rpm redline. It seems the harder you push it, the faster this M5 gets. It's not only addictive, but dangerous for your driving licence. The 0-62mph dash is dealt with in only 4.4 seconds, smoky tyres signifying the levels of commitment needed to drag this executive saloon across the tarmac so quickly.

Which is why many in the media have labelled the M5 as too fast for the public road, with not enough time, room or congestion-free roads to experience its unquestionable might. They're probably right, as you do spend more time braking than accelerating, but can you ever have a performance car that is too fast? With a dedicated supercar no one ever complains. We'd wager the M5 has come in for some stick due to its ability to play comfortable cruiser equally well. Even the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox can do civilised and subtle, though it's much more interesting to grab the paddles and shift for yourself.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Let's get economy out of the way early on. Yes this is the most efficient BMW M5 we've seen to date, but everything is relative - and it's still a 560hp bruiser with a near two-tonne kerb weight. And though officially this car should do 28.5mpg on the combined cycle, thanks partly to the start-stop system, in reality you're not likely to get anywhere near that. Think closer to 20mpg if you're doing the sums.

Deciding whether this car represents good value for money isn't quite as clear-cut. After all, it costs over £70,000 (even more in the case of our test car), but it also offers other-worldly performance. If money's at all tight then the M5 probably isn't on your radar. But is it worth nearly £8,000 more than the Jaguar XFR? Without a doubt.

Graeme Lambert - 13 Mar 2012    - BMW road tests
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2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by BMW.

2012 BMW M5. Image by BMW.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.


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