Report 7 BMW M5
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...