I was recently fortunate enough to be offered an entree sampling of the F10 BMW M5. It’s one of BMW’s most iconic models and I was eager to discover if hype and capability lived in harmonious existence.
Once behind the wheel I was immediately comfortable, the seating position is good and while the seats don’t hug you tight like a racing bucket they’re a pleasing compromise between sport and luxury.
I didn’t really get a chance to go through the many and varied iDrive settings, but if you’re a gadget freak I reckon you’d have a lot of fun customising the settings to your satisfaction.
When I began attacking my favoured stretch of black top the first thing I noticed was the M5’s head up display. It’s quite disconcerting at first, prominently in view well above the dash line, but I soon became used to it and with the level of configuration available it’s a very worthwhile feature.
For a heavy car—the M5 weighs 1870kg (unladen)—it turns in quite sharply on a tight mountain pass. You’re always conscious of its bulk, but never to the point of it seriously detracting from one’s driving pleasure.
It’s never going to match the directness and precision of a Porsche Cayman, for example, but within its own context, it rewards more than you might expect from a car of this size and weight.
The steering has a nice progressive feel that helps give the M5 a predictable nature. Similarly, the brakes were perfectly adequate during the test. I couldn’t say they excelled in their performance; this was a brief test and there was nothing negative worth noting. The initial bite was good and the brakes’ ability to rein things in as the pressure applied by foot increased was as you might expect.
Some purists may think a turbocharged M5 is all wrong, and while I’ve never driven any other M5, as a puritan myself I can understand their position. Having said that, it was impossible to fault the 4.4 litre twin turbo V8 working away in front of me. It seemed more than willing to respond enthusiastically to my every command.
The wall of torque in this car is staggering. Indeed, I could have driven the test route in third gear all the way it seemed. Such was the low-end pull of the 680Nm of torque, available from 1500rpm, while the 7000rpm redline offered plenty of scope as speed increased. And what a buzz the M5 offers as you take it past 5000rpm. It just keeps on pushing hard and the lift in the car’s spirits experienced as the revs climb and your foot remains planted is quite remarkable.
Of course, I didn’t leave the car in third gear and cycling through the 7-speed DCT proved easy thanks to well positioned paddles on the steering wheel. For the most part the double clutch trickery was handled with aplomb, although as transmissions of this nature are often afflicted, take off from standstill and flicking into reverse is accompanied with a slight delay.
The engine note inside the cabin has a muted tone that’s dulled just enough to leave you thinking some more V8 induction volume would be welcome. Perhaps they could just turn up the dial on the sound actuator. Outside the car, though, the M5 sounds fantastic and you’re left in no doubt there’s a V8 hard at work.
The F10 M5 is an immensely capable machine and even though I only scratched its surface I have full confidence it would handle anything public roads can offer. On a track I’d expect this heavyweight to be exposed, where the tolerances required are less forgiving.
It’s true the M5 does not provide immediate responses to throttle or steering inputs. However, that’s marking the car incredibly harshly. The M5 has always been a four-door saloon that ups the ante from its executive car roots. As such you have to judge the driving experience within those parameters.
Thanks to the M5’s brutal acceleration and very capable handling I can see the ownership experience would be a very enjoyable one. The ability to switch from luxury saloon to imposing performance weapon is quite addictive.
Long live the M5.
Thank you to Tiaan and Chris for their assistance.