Wild thing

Re­port 7 BMW M5

Top Gear (UK) - - GARAGE | AWARDS 2018 - OL­LIE MAR­RIAGE

Here’s the M5 in rear-wheeldrive mode. Get­ting to this set­ting in­volves max­imis­ing the sch­porti­ness of ev­ery con­trol and then delv­ing into the menus. But that’s not the rea­son I haven’t used it that much, not least be­cause you can have it set up on the steer­ing as a de­fault M-but­ton mode – and I did.

But I don’t any more, be­cause it was just ba­nanas. I love rear-drive cars, but let’s be prag­matic. If you have a 600bhp, two-tonne su­per-sa­loon, 4WD is es­sen­tial. It has trans­formed the cross-coun­try ca­pa­bil­i­ties and man­ners of the M5 and its ri­val, Merc’s E63S. But I love the in­dul­gence of hav­ing a se­cret rear-drive mode, and will gladly pay the penalty of haul­ing around the front drive­shafts if oc­ca­sion­ally I get to use it in its silly-boy set­ting.

But for one thing. Why can you only have throt­tle-steer mode with ev­ery­thing off ? I’m guess­ing BMW sees it as a drift mode, to be in­dulged when you’re at that empty air­field you’re al­ways go­ing to. But I like to use rear-drive on the road, to see how it feels, what dif­fer­ence it makes. And I’d rather do that with some form of trac­tion con­trol on. But in the M5 (and E63S), I can’t.

Some­times I let it off the leash any­way, but as you can see here, it’s a wild ride. The M5 feels very big, very quickly when it lets go. Which it does abruptly, and for sus­tained pe­ri­ods. Once those back wheels over­come their ad­he­sion, 553lb ft en­sures it’s not re­gained for long enough to be very un­set­tling. Own­ers: bet you’ve tried it once and never again, right? I’ve used it far less than those who know me well might imag­ine.

I’m not sure BMW de­signed the M5 to be used in 2WD on the road. I do like the fact the steer­ing isn’t cor­rupted, but you’re still turn­ing a pair of fat tyres through podgy, por­ridgey steer­ing. It’s the car’s worst dy­namic facet. Af­ter seven months, I’m yet to de­cide if Com­fort, Sport or Sport Plus is the least un­pleas­ant pro­gramme. I know, the brakes are hor­ri­bly grabby at low speed, but as I wrote last month, at high speed they’re sod­ding sen­sa­tional. As is much of the rest of the car. In 4WD mode, at least.

If you’ve got a V8 push­ing out 591bhp, 4WD mode is wiser...

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