New BMW M5 review – is 4WD and 592bhp enough to raise the super-saloon bar?

The new M5 is immensely capable but it may not have enough character to topple its arch-rival, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S.

Evo rating
from £89,640
  • Agile, offers AWD traction and rear-drive entertainment
  • Lacks steering feel and engine character

At a glance, the new M5 (codename F90) might look a lot like the previous generation model (F10) but there are lots of small and medium changes and one major difference - the new car is four-wheel drive. But not permanent four-wheel drive; if you wish, you can make it just rear-drive, and then it becomes a very good drift car. In this sense, BMW is playing catch-up because the 603bhp Mercedes-AMG E63 S has already brought this novelty to market, to acclaim from oversteer fans (most motoring journalists) and tyre manufacturers (probably).

> F90 BMW M5 pre-production review

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to our exclusive new offer and SAVE 39% on the shop price, get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £20!

Engine, transmission and 0-60 time

The output of the 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 has risen to 592bhp (600ps), an uplift of 40bhp, while torque has risen even more, from 501 to 553lb ft, presumably because all-wheel drive means the car can handle more. Zero to 62mph is in a claimed 3.4sec – which is a whole second quicker than the previous, rear-drive model, even though the gearbox is now an eight-speed automatic rather than the previous model’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

Technical highlights

The twin-turbo V8 has been reworked with higher fuel injection pressure (350bar v 200) which has given more control over the combustion process, enabling the power uplift, and also helps the 4.4-litre V8 meet emission requirements more easily. The latter is also helped by the adoption of an eight-speed Steptronic auto, which gives a greater span of gearing than the DCT. Shift times are claimed to be similar to the DCT.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The all-wheel drive takeoff is from a clutch pack in a transfer case at the back of the gearbox and although the car is rear-drive in most circumstances, in default all-wheel drive mode, torque can be sent to the front pre-emptively when the car thinks the extra traction will help, or in response to rear slip. Or not at all, when rear-drive only mode is selected.

What’s it like to drive?

The test car was fitted with the optional M Sport exhaust system, which is claimed to add bass tones. Aurally, the more potent V8 has more about it than it did in the previous generation M5, but it doesn't have the woofle and bassy bellow of a conventional V8, even with extra, synthetic noise piped in through the stereo. There’s no doubt that the V8 delivers the goods, though, with stunning standing-start take-off and relentless acceleration thereafter.  

> Best performance cars to buy now

The ride is good and there’s a welcome, natural agility to the handling; the car wants to turn. However, there’s not a lot of feedback through the steering wheel so you don’t have that connection with the car that lets you feel what it’s doing. As a result, the car feels big and heavy on narrow roads where you want to place it accurately.

> For an in-depth review of the BMW 5 Series, check out our sister site Carbuyer

The usual tuning opportunities are there for steering weight, ride control and engine and gearbox response but now you can switch from all-wheel drive to rear-drive only. We tried the car on warm, dry asphalt, and in key-on, all-wheel drive trim, the car was grippy and secure. In rear-drive, traction control off, it could be coaxed into oversteer readily but controllably, though there was a bit of squirm at higher speeds as the diff tried to find grip. In all-wheel drive, traction off, it would kick the tail out as readily as in rear-drive at the corner exit but in other scenarios there was drive to the front and thus more stability.

Advertisement - Article continues below

So if you like a bit of power-on tail movement on the road, turn off traction but stick with AWD. And if you want to drift on a track, go rear-drive and you’ll find there are few big saloons more capable, predictable or entertaining as they shred a pair of rears.

Price and rivals

At a few hundred quid shy of £90k, the M5 aligns almost exactly with the AMG E63 S. It’s clearly the car that BMW set out to beat, and they haven’t quite managed it. It doesn’t have the engine character and better steering feel would improve the car in all scenarios. It’s an step on in many ways from the previous model, and a very good M5, but the Mercedes is more appealing. 


More on M5 saloon

BMW M5 saloon

New 2018 BMW M5 Competition review - better than an E63 S?

Competition tweaks add extra control and precision to already fast and poised M5. It’s still too big, though
7 Aug 2018
BMW M5 saloon

Manhart MH5 700 bumps BMW M5 to 712bhp

BMW’s M5 not enough for you? German tuner Manhart might have the answer
4 Jul 2018
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 Competition revealed – More powerful, more agile BMW supersaloon

Now with 616bhp, the M5 outguns AMG’s E63 S
9 May 2018
BMW M5 saloon

New BMW M5 Competition Pack confirmed for 2018

The BMW M5 MotoGP safety car will form a test bed for an M5 Competition Pack according to BMW
14 Mar 2018
BMW M5 saloon

New BMW M5 breaks world’s longest drift record in the US

The BMW M5 has managed an 8-hour, 232-mile drift. BMW also broke the tandem slide world record while it was at it.
9 Jan 2018
BMW M5 saloon

Can the new 2018 BMW M5 retain the supersaloon crown?

The BMW M5 has gone all-wheel drive for the first time in the model’s history.
21 Nov 2017
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 (F10) 2011-2016: review, specs and buying guide

Controversial but also mighty, the BMW M5 F10 was the first of a new breed of M-cars. Today you can buy one from just £30k.
6 Nov 2017
BMW M5 saloon

New BMW M5 MotoGP safety car revealed with M Performance options

The new BMW M5 a little too subtle for you? BMW’s M Performance options might be the answer
30 Oct 2017
BMW M5 saloon

2017 BMW M5 pre-production review - two cars in one?

New BMW M5 impresses during this first taster, with 4WD usability but a wild side to keep M-car fans happy
17 May 2017
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 F10 review (2012-2016) - the ultimate super saloon

Incredible performance matches ultimate luxury
13 Feb 2017
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 F10 review (2012-2016) - the ultimate super saloon

Incredible performance matches ultimate luxury
13 Feb 2017
BMW M5 saloon

Just looking – BMW M5 (E34)

Add £26k to an F10 M5 and you get the new Competition Edition. Half that gets the last inline-six M5...
23 Jul 2016
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 Competition Edition – 592bhp and only 200 made

Limited edition model packs more power than standard and BMW's M Competition Package
22 Jul 2016
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5s old and new at Classic Car Auctions' June sale

A selection of M5s, including a previous evo feature car, are coming up for sale this June
29 May 2015
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 30 Jahre edition Facebook Q&A - evo answers your questions on the super saloon

As promised, here's what you wanted to know about the M5
19 Feb 2015
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 to get four-wheel drive

UPDATED with demo video. 552bhp BMW M5 spied testing with xDrive four-wheel drive
27 Jan 2015
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M535i: The car that spawned the BMW M5 (video)

BMW gives us a glimpse into its history with a look at the M535i
8 Jan 2015

My evo Year: Dion Price Week 7 - BMW M5 to Ascot

The BMW M5 takes a trip to Ladies’ Day at the polo in Ascot, while the new Z4M gets a full detail and new set of M3 CSL wheels
1 Aug 2014
BMW M5 saloon

2012 BMW M5 manual review

European buyers have been denied a manual version of the M5 since 2003, but it's still on sale in the USA. We drive the latest 'F10' BMW M5 manual.
21 Dec 2012
BMW M5 saloon

BMW offers M5 manual in USA

As with the previous M5, BMW will offer the new F10 M5 with a six-speed manual gearbox in the USA.
10 Jan 2012
BMW M5 saloon

New BMW M5 F10 drifting video: BMW M5 F10 drifting

Drifiting, burnouts and very high speeds: BMW's track testers put the new M5 sports saloon through its paces
23 May 2011
BMW M5 saloon

Audi RS4 v BMW M5

The stuff-shifting version of Audi’s RS4 meets BMW’s new dog-friendly M5 in a pan-European hyperwagon showdown
27 Jun 2007