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The BMW M5 has to move with the times but don't ever think it's succumbed to middle age spread. Andy Enright reports.
The BMW M5 might be the yardstick against which all serious performance saloons are judged, but that doesn't mean it can rest on its laurels. The latest car gets a 4.4-litre turbo engine, 552bhp and a fiendishly clever differential. It's more efficient, quicker and better looking than its predecessor. What's not to like?
BMW M5 version five has an awful lot to live up to. There hasn't been a duff one yet, although history might well remember this car's direct predecessor as a moment when the M5 form line wavered just a little. We're talking degrees of excellence here and BMW is determined to expunge any shred of doubt in our minds that when you've absolutely, positively got to destroy every supersaloon on the planet, accept no substitutes. Even the M5 isn't immune to the pressure for increased efficiency. Out goes the screaming fuel-hog that was the 5.0-litre normally-aspirated V10 and in comes a cleaner, greener but even more powerful 4.4-litre turbocharged V8, making this the first M5 to be fitted with turbos.
Performance. I suggest we can tick that box. With 552bhp on tap, this F10 generation M5 is a solid10 per cent more powerful than its E60 predecessor. Perhaps more significant, though, is the extra torque available, a whopping 153lb ft more than before. What's more, the 501lb ft peak can be tapped a remarkable 4600rpm earlier in the rev range, at just 1500rpm, giving the new M5 the sort of effortless thrust drivers of the more highly strung E60 M5 could only dream about. The engine is no lazy lugger though, generating peak power at between 5,750 and 7,000rpm. The upshot is ferocious broadband shove the like of which no M5 has had before. Use the throttle like you mean it and you'll smash to 60mph in just 4.4 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph in standard guise although should you opt for the M Driver pack, the limiter is lifted and you'll see 189mph where conditions allow. The Active M Differential is an electronically controlled multi-plate limited slip diff that communicates with the DSC stability control for optimum traction advantage. Power is deployed via a seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission although rumours persist of a manual gearbox being spied in testing. Other highlights? There are electronically controlled dampers that allow drivers to select from three settings - Comfort for normal road use, Sport for more fun roads and Sport Plus which is best left for the circuit. There are also three settings for the Servotronic power assisted steering. BMW has at last appeared to have responded to owner feedback about wilting brakes (especially when the car is subjected to track use) and has fitted beefier six-piston calipers.
Compared to its predecessor, this F10 generation car appears to have cut out the take-aways and hit the gym a bit harder, with a far more lithe profile and sleeker detailing. Being longer, wider yet lower will do that for you. Couple that with some more overt M styling touches and you're left with a more confident statement. The broad black grille slats and the trio of air intakes combine with the LED light rings and bi-xenon main beams to afford some serious rear view mirror presence. The wheel arches are gently teased over 19-inch wheels as standard or there's the option of 20-inch alloys if you're on first name terms with a decent chiropractor. The lowered suspensions means the car's stance is spot on, the wheel arches properly stuffed and with the perfect amount of ramp angle in the body to give the car a tense, poised appearance. The rear view contains a four-pipe exhaust pack, divided either side of the diffuser, whilst a small flap on the rear edge of the boot lid provides additional downforce at speed.
The price for all of this? £73,040 if you're asking. While that's not something you'd conjur up with a determined rummage down the back of the sofa, a little perspective pays dividends. The Mercedes E63 AMG is less powerful yet costs more to buy and to run. BMW is acutely aware that the gestation of this model began some time before the economy turned into a bad joke and has modified its sales targets accordingly, but there will always be a core of buyers for whom nothing but an M5 will do.
No car with over 500bhp is ever going to be inexpensive to run but if anybody can pull a rabbit out of the hat, it's BMW. With most of its competitors knocking on the door of 300g/km emissions, the M5 shows the way forward with 232g/km while fuel economy has improved by around 30 per cent, this latest car returning a combined figure of 28.5mpg. If you can replicate this figure, you probably don't deserve an M5 in the first instance though. Demand for used M5s is usually strong and with this model still in its first flush of youth, those who got their names down early can look forward to a very cheap first year of motoring. While residual values will do these early adopters a favour, they won't be getting too many freebies from their insurance broker.
The one statistic that best sums up the new BMW M5 is the fact that with the engine ticking over at 1,000rpm, it's making more torque than its predecessor did at max chat. The turbocharged V8 in this latest car is big on muscle, offering a handy horsepower increase on the outgoing V10, yet manages superior fuel economy and emissions figures. Purists may tut at the fact that an M car is fitted with a turbocharged engine but something the die-hards may well forget is that throughout its history, BMW has demonstrated its refusal to be shackled by dogma. The M5 is, in many respects, flying the flag for a genre of car that many deem irresponsible and outdated. By subtly and intelligently changing the way the game is played, BMW has breathed new life into the sports saloon.
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