Driven - April 2018

New BMW M5 driven – Bigger, faster, better?

New BMW M5 Driven

The definition of a purist according to the trusty internet is someone who, “insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures, especially in language or style”. That would best describe most BMW aficionados to the letter. It is for this reason why there was a huge outcry from BMW fans when the brand first decided to turbocharge M products. Over time, the anger subsided and the die-hard fans soon saw the benefit of the new direction that BMW took.

 

A resurgence of this panic ensued recently, when the configuration of the new BMW was announced. Not only would it carry on with a forced induction motor, but now – it would be the first thoroughbred M saloon car to have all-wheel drive (The M760li is not an M Performance vehicle). Did the public miss something? Did we wake up in a strange alternative universe straight out of Black Mirror? No. And for good reason.

BMW M5 Generations

You see, for you to understand this new thought process you would have to go back to the previous generation BMW M5, the F10. Having had the privilege of driving one every day for some time in the past, this M car was one that demanded great respect. The relationship between your right foot and the accelerator pedal was normally where the tension brewed. One a cold day, with the rubber at odds with broken tarmac on our infamous roads, the vehicle would snap into oversteer or simply bog down with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) intervening and stopping that tree from humbling the often over-eager driver. But catch the vehicle on a warm day, with the right amount of tyre tread and the M5 would come into its own. It would gladly come along for the school run, and then change into Mr Hyde whilst leaving 295 section black lines at will – often accompanied with a trailing sports car in its cloud of smoke. It was a weapon, but a weapon that needed all the checks and balances in place, for you to get the best out of it. One of those checks was a huge bravery pill as the mass of an M5 and the power it produced could easily become a handful for most. It was a matter of time then, when the limit of power that could be sent to the rear axle, would reach its limit for a car such as this. Many would agree that the limit was reached with the F10 and its last iterations, such as the Competition Package. I’m sure the Audi guys sent out their “we told you so” emails to both Mercedes and BMW when they decided to go the all-wheel drive route.

Enter the F90 M5 with M xDrive. Kyalami raceway made for the perfect backdrop for the new M5’s local introduction. Cars like these often don’t need much of a press briefing as journalists have read up on all the specifications way before the time of launch. From an engine technology perspective, the revisions are just that, revisions. Even aesthetically, the F90 is not a major departure from the F10. The new car has followed in the footsteps of its predecessor of being a silent bruiser. The quad tailpipes, three-piece front air dam, rear spoiler and more pronounced wheel arches are tasteful, but discreet signs that you are not about to get behind the wheel of a regular 5 series with M sport package. Power driving this new M5 is the tried and tested 4.4l twin turbo V8 – this time producing 441kW/750N.m.  Mated to this motor is a ZF 8 Speed single clutch gearbox. Having experienced this configuration on the current X5/6M, you would be hard pressed to tell that this wasn’t a double clutch gearbox.

We went out on the first sighting laps just to get the various temperatures up and make sure that there weren’t any nasty surprises on Kyalami’s pristine asphalt. Warm up laps done with, Sport Plus was engaged – sharpening throttle response, dampers as well as steering feedback. Letting all this power loose came with a natural expectation of drama, but the weirdest thing happened. A sense of purpose that’s never been experienced in an M5 took over. The balancing act of keeping an almost two tonne beast on the black-stuff was no longer required. The sense of impending death was gone, replaced with no-nonsense straight line performance. In 4WD Sport, the new BMW M5 has reached a new level of grippy performance. With a road long enough, the vehicle gives you that tunnel vision experience, that you get from a supercar. The ability to shorten straights and have corners appear much sooner than you anticipated is nothing short of frightening. Should a vehicle this big be able to do this? The Bavarians certainly think so, especially since their friends from Affalterbach have done the same with the Mercedes AMG E63 S, but that’s a story for another day. The 0-100km/h sprint in the new M5 is claimed at 3.4 seconds. Yikes. The 0-200km/h run is achieved in 11.1. You read that correctly. What’s most impressive is the manner in which the vehicle does this. This performance is now accessible. All the time.

BMW M5 Dash

This begs the question, is this still a proper M car? Aren’t M’s meant to shred tyres and behave badly all the time? Things have changed. The target audience of an M5 is a mature audience, one that requires safety, luxury and refinement. When all that is taken care of, the vehicle then needs to perform like a sports car. Tough ask, right? The M5 now gives you that. During the cool down lap, the vehicle in its most normal mode is as docile as a 530d. However, engage 4WD Sport and you will find the DNA of its predecessor coming to the fore. Around corners, the front end turns in sharply, allowing you to accurately place the vehicle where you want it. The front wheels are not obtrusive, but rather pull you out of corners – working with the rear wheel biased setup of the vehicle. As a result, you can carve a better line and feel confident whilst doing it. In 4WD sport, the rears are still keen to light up, but in a very controlled fashion. For someone handy, this may be your favourite setting. But wait, there is more – 2WD mode. At the launch, the journalists weren’t allowed to use this mode as driving skills differ, which means the risk increases too. In this mode, DSC is automatically switched off, which is a scary thought.

BMW M5 Drifting

To demonstrate this, BMW very wisely brought in GTC BMW driver, Gennaro Bonafede, to show what the super sedan could do. In this mode, you’ve basically got a more powerful F10, one that is followed by a cloud of smoke. That being said, the vehicle still possessed tons of grip as Gennaro proved. So as much as that the setting is meant for fun, 2WD mode, doesn’t make the car undrivable.

BMW M5

Overall impressions.

The BMW M5 has for long been hailed as the benchmark in this segment. The competition has closed the gap over the years, especially with the likes of the new E63s around. Will the new BMW M5 remain the king? A more thorough test will be needed to conclude that. For now, we can tell you that this is the most accessible M5 since the e39. With a starting price of R1 732 300, we’re not referring to price but rather performance. The addition of M xDrive adds a new dynamic to the car, a welcome one for the average driver. This change has not ruined it for the enthusiast too, as the vehicle can still be exploited via the rear axle like M5’s before it. Altogether, you have a large nimble and blisteringly fast M5.

 

New BMW M5 Pricing in South Africa

The new BMW M5 starts at R1 747 500 and is available now.