M5 is softly softly, slam you into seat

Northern Outlook - - MOTORING -

not come at the ex­pense of re­fine­ment. The lim­ited-run mi­dengined M1 was its first, but most con­sider the true ge­n­e­sis of the M-road-car brand to be the 5-se­ries­based M535i of 1979, which in turned spawned the first M5 in 1986.

That orig­i­nal M5 was the world’s fastest sedan at the time (0-100kmh 6.5sec, 246kmh) yet still a top-line lux­ury car, with elec­tric win­dows and cen­tral lock­ing. That com­bi­na­tion of ex­treme per­for­mance and ul­ti­mate sedan-car lux­ury and prac­ti­cal­ity was ground­break­ing.

The lat­est M5 is very much in that mould. Make no mis­take, it’s still su­per­car-fast and the last word in M-tech­nol­ogy. But it’s also sump­tu­ous and so­phis­ti­cat­ed­feel­ing.

The per­for­mance is crazy of course and there are enough but­tons on the dash­board to keep en­thu­si­ast driv­ers busy for hours. You can ad­just the steer­ing, pow­er­train and adap­tive-damper sus­pen­sion in­di­vid­u­ally through three sep­a­rate modes. There’s an­other rocker switch on top of the gear­lever that al­lows you to ad­just the speed and ag­gres­sion of the gearchanges. There are also two set­tings for the ex­haust.

On each side of the steer­ing wheel you get bright red but­tons

(M1 and M2) that al­low you to save your favourite com­bi­na­tions and re­ac­ti­vate them with one touch.

Both BMW M and MercedesAMG are agreed that this level of power can­not be safely de­ployed through a RWD plat­form. The M5 is the brand’s first non-SUV AWD car – ex­cept it’s not re­ally, be­cause it’s very much rear-bi­ased ex­cept in ex­treme or low-trac­tion con­di­tions and it’s still fit­ted with a trick M-spe­cific rear dif­fer­en­tial. You also get the choice of AWD or AWD

Sport via the sta­bil­ity con­trol – the lat­ter re­ally keep­ing things fo­cused on the rear wheels right up to the point where your driv­ing tal­ent runs out.

And of course there’s still drift mode, although BMW is wise enough not to out­rage peo­ple by call­ing it that. It’s sim­ply ‘‘2WD’’ on the dash­board menu and can only be ac­cessed when other elec­tronic driver aids are off, so it re­ally is just for track use and es­pe­cially for do­ing big skids.

We did not have ac­cess to a track in our time with the M5 and we did not ac­ti­vate 2WD mode. Some­body at BMW NZ used the phrase ‘‘in­sur­ance im­pli­ca­tions’’ while ex­plain­ing this fea­ture dur­ing the han­dover, which is ac­tu­ally more scary than the pos­si­bil­ity los­ing con­trol of a su­per­pow­ered reardrive M5 mid-corner.

But even in full AWD mode it stills feel like a beau­ti­fully bal­anced rear-drive ma­chine, and with that ac­tive-dif­fer­en­tial at the back there’s a lot the car can do to max­imise trac­tion and re­main poised be­fore re­sort­ing to gauche tac­tics like send­ing lots of drive to the front wheels.

The engine is a de­vel­op­ment of that in the pre­vi­ous M5. But the key change is the move from a du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion to a con­ven­tional au­to­matic, which BMW says works bet­ter with the AWD – while still shift­ing as fast as the old DCT. We’ll take their word for it. It is fast, no ques­tion, but an­other ben­e­fit is that the auto is much smoother in ur­ban driv­ing.

You can dial up the ride to be as hard as you want. You can’t dial it back to be as soft as, say, a 530e. But it’s not ob­tru­sive ei­ther, sup­press­ing ur­ban bumps while main­tain­ing enough con­trol to re­main a good choice for brisk driv­ing: sus­pen­sion on Com­fort, ev­ery­thing else di­alled right up suits many Kiwi back­roads in this car.

The new M5 truly is a do-it-all su­per­car: it can do the school run in wet weather, over­steer around a track all day and ex­cel at pretty much ev­ery­thing in be­tween. It’s de­li­cious to drive at any speed and loaded with all the lat­est lux­ury equip­ment, in­clud­ing some very slick au­to­mated driver-as­sis­tance fea­tures.

The M5 is so, well, nice in ev­ery re­spect, it’s easy to for­get it’s one of the fastest, most dy­namic cars in the world. But it re­ally is.

How can one of the fastest cars in the world be so ut­terly lux­u­ri­ous as well?

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