What is it?
The BMW M5. The fast saloon car after which the whole genre is named. Its internal code is F10M – the first time an M car has been given a specific internal name.
Twin turbochargers, with unspecific modifications to both intake and exhaust systems. Official response to the question of power output is: 'Do you really think we would give it less than an X6M?'. An X6M has 547bhp. There's a seven-speed DCT dual clutch transmission with three different shift speeds and a fully automatic mode. Saloon only for now.
What’s it like to drive?
Is turbocharging a highlight? When it makes a car this flexible and plain accelerative, it has to be. Yes, the near-insanity of the old V10 makes way for slightly reduced throttle response, but it’s marginal. On a Swedish lake, you can still make tiny adjustments to sustain that all-important 1km drift. Does it feel turbocharged? A little bit. Does it make enough induction noise? No. But this isn’t the finished car, the BMW M-gurus insist that the final product will be different in this respect.
I only drove the car on snow, ice and the occasional patch of asphalt. It felt like an M-car in the correct sense: purposeful, but not too aggressive. The steering, chassis and powertrain each have three modes: comfort, sport and sport-plus, giving a myriad of options. The MDM (M Driving Mode) brings a higher threshold DSC intervention that requires steering correction from the driver, or you spin, It works brilliantly. Switch it all off and you have a circa 560bhp, rear-wheel-drive saloon with an LSD. If you can’t enjoy that, you’re a wally.
I can’t tell you much about ride comfort and steering yet, except that with the suspension set to comfort the car is compliant but never soft. The steering is faster than in a regular BMW 5-series.
How does it compare?
The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is too good to be a walkover, but this M5 will take some beating. For all current and recent E60 M5 owners know this: the new M5 has a gearbox as fast as the E60s that also works properly in Auto mode. It has a bigger fuel tank than a regular 5 (somewhere between 70 and 80 litres, but they won’t say exactly what – I’m cleverly guessing 75) which with the much improved economy gives a real range of 400 miles. So: range, gearbox, torque – BMW has listened, all of the E60’s vices have been sorted.
Anything else I need to know?
I can’t really comment on the styling because the car was disguised. On narrow winter tyres it’s lacking that delicious signature rear-axle camber, but the flared front wings give just the right suggestion of clout. Expect bespoke seats, masses of M badges, an oil temperature gauge and, hopefully, an M5 specific steering wheel.
To me this car feels like its DNA has been drawn from the E39 M5. It’s a less frenzied machine than the one it replaces: it has torque and flexibility but still the killer pace every M5 owner requires. Something will need to go badly wrong between now and the end of 2011 for the finished car to be anything but a triumph.