Ride and handling
The M5 is a high performance car, so it does ride with a degree of sharpness. In the Comfort damper mode, though, it’s far from being too stiff for daily use. In fact, it’s refined enough in normal use that the driver soon forgets just how much performance is on offer – the M5 has a rare duality that buyers will grow to love.
It also leads the way for dynamic ability in its class. It has very good body control and flat-bodied response through a sequence of corners, so the driver really can hustle it along a road at speed. Grip levels are huge, with a degree of safety understeer built into the chassis to let the driver know when the car is nudging up against its limits.
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The steering is impressively delicate, detailed and crisp for a car of this size, and the locking M differential does a good job of deploying the gargantuan power to the road surface. Naturally, the M5 is well-balanced and agile enough to pull off the most outrageous oversteer slides on the circuit.
That balance can also be enjoyed on the road without drawing too much unwanted attention because the stability control system has an intermediary M Dynamic Mode. It allows just a little more wheelspin and yaw to let the driver explore the car’s limits without throwing away the safety net altogether.
The adaptive dampers can be turned up to Sport and Sport Plus to sharpen the car’s responses, although the stiffest setting is too much for road use in the UK.
The standard cast iron brakes are up to the job in fast road driving, but for any track activity the optional M carbon ceramic brakes are worth their £7395 asking price. They also offer the added benefit of improving ride quality slightly thanks to their reduced unsprung weight.
'[On the 30 Jahre M5 special edition:] There’s a real sense of focus about this M5. The 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 has enormous power, of course, but you need the drivetrain set to Sport+ to get the right throttle response, then flick the dampers to Sport (the final setting is too stiff for the road), the steering to Sport, and turn up the M DCT gearbox for maximum shift speed. It’s a really good ’box this: so much crisper than an auto and the short paddle action matches the machined thud of each upshift beautifully. The optional ceramic brakes feel sensational, while the steering response is quick but intuitive. All the ingredients start to come together very quickly. With confidence high you can start to use that front-end response, then load up the M differential on corner exit and punch in those delicious upshifts.
Intensity. I think that’s the word that best describes the M5’s blend of fury, accuracy and balls-out excitement. It isn’t perfect – the engine does display a little turbo lag on corner exit, which can be frustrating, and as with the E63 the rear axle occasionally feels like it’s being tied in knots by the torque. But boy is it addictive. It feels big but nimble, scarily fast but in a life-affirming sort of way, and when all is said and done, it’ll get down and dirty like M5s always have. Maybe BMW knows how to celebrate a big birthday in style after all. Still invincible, still a step ahead of its rivals; the 30 Jahre M5 is the super-saloon of choice.' Jethro Bovingdon, contributing editor, evo 208.