What is it?
You have to ask? The Doctor Who of fast saloon cars, regenerating for the fifth time. It’s also the first M car to have its own internal designation code (the standard 5-series is F10, this is F10M) and the first to use a turbocharged engine developed entirely by BMW Motorsport. (That last bit is a lie, but evo’s policy of not acknowledging the existence of the X5M and X6M must continue to be enforced.)
A dual clutch gearbox, plus a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 motor with the compressors sitting within the engine's vee and using a devilishly clever intake and recirculation system aimed purely at delivering the most responsive force-fed motor fitted to a motor car. The new V8 produces 552bhp and 501lb ft of torque.
More? Well there’s an active locking differential for the driven rear-wheels (despite rumours of 4WD, this is correct-wheel-drive only, for now at least.) You get six piston brake calipers up front, sticky Michelin Super Sport tyres, a completely new set of suspension components and an 80-litre fuel tank. Overall, we’re told that 80 percent of components are either completely new, or heavily modified, from those you’ll find on a standard 5-series.
And one technical lowlight: weight. At 1870kg, the new M5 is 90kg heavier than the old car, although it is a bigger machine.
What’s it like to drive?
Interesting. Mostly awe-inspiring.
There is no other powertrain like this in a series production car. Some produce similar results in terms of outright performance, but not in the same manner. It’s perhaps the first car to match the benefits of grossly-turbocharged-low-RPM-performance with high engine speeds. This gives the effect of having a gigantic effective, useable powerband of over 5000rpm because it will pull hard enough in seventh gear - from just 2000rpm - for the driver to assume he was in fourth. And yet there is still something to be gained from taking it all the way to the 7200rpm redline.
The relationship with the gearbox is about as harmonious as anyone could have hoped. BMW has learned a lot about double-clutch systems and this is a masterpiece of calibration, one capable of spanning the disparate disciplines of part-throttle chugger and vein-popping, manual-shifting beserker.
I tried to fool it and make it misbehave, but it wouldn’t. On flat upshifts, the throttle cut fires a great ‘bang’ from the four exhausts. Hit the rev limiter, then back away from the throttle and it sounds like a rally car with anti-lag switched-on.
The noise needs more space for discussion than we have available, but here’s the outline plot. This car doesn’t have a signature voice like all of its predecessors. In trying to make something musical from an inherently un-musical engine layout, BMW has given the M5 several different voices: under full load at low engine speeds it’s a hollow, almost flat-plane drone. Then there’s a Veyron-esque surging whoosh of low frequency that gives way to a fascinating top-end that owes as much to a highly tuned Impreza as it does any previous M car.
Steering, dampers and throttle sharpness are all 3-way adjustable. Much of this is unnecessary gimmickry. I want to drive the car in the UK before nailing my colours to the mast – but I couldn’t find a damper setting that did everything I wanted. Comfort did what it said on the tin, but ran-out of control earlier than expected. Sport restored control, but lost more compliance than expected. Sport Plus was a bucking-bronco.
The new seats are magnificent, the claimed 28mpg on the combined cycle looks unachievable in normal (fast-ish) driving. The performance is outrageous. I clocked it, perhaps very slightly downhill at 0-100mph in 8.7sec. Throttle response - the way you can make tiny adjustments mid-corner is the best I’ve encountered in a turbo.
This car takes everything that made the loveable E60 M5 a pain to live with day-to-day, and systematically corrects those problems. It has touring range, torque and a great self-shifting transmission. Oh, the brakes are fine for road use, but butter on a circuit.
How does it compare?
No point in answering that until we drive it on UK roads with a revised Jaguar XFR and the new Bi-turbo Mercedes E63 AMG.
Anything else I need to know?
Yes. In a first for an M5, you can order it new with a tow-bar. All other questions will be answered in a longer story in issue 163 of the magazine.
The new M5 takes the usable hyper-saloon to new levels of all-round ability. Some questions hanging over the ride and body-control still need answering when we get one in the UK later this year. But it’s a compelling package.