M5 is softly softly, slam you into seat
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?