Demand for eco-friendly electric cars and high-riding SUVs has pushed BMW into new territory with design-led niche fillers exploring new corners of the market. And you could argue the “most BMW” car on sale today is the X2 compact crossover, i8 hybrid supercar or best-selling X1.
Historically, though, that car would be the M5.
Based on the current-generation 5-Series the new F90 M5 brings an interesting mix of familiar and new ingredients that marks a return to form of the polished sedan with a focus on performance.
Priced from $199,900 plus on-road costs, the M5 offers plenty of gear as standard, including 20-inch wheels, a carbon fibre roof, multi-mode shock absorbers, BMW’s outstanding ‘driving assistant plus’ safety suite including autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and steering assistance, along with adaptive LED headlights and a 10.25-inch central infotainment display with 360-degree cameras and a 16-speaker stereo. Key options include an $8000 indulgence pack with soft-close doors, massaging seats and rear seat display screens, and a $3650 comfort pack including ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control and gesture control for the stereo.
Other options include Apple CarPlay ($623 for three years), a Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system ($6400), night vision camera with pedestrian recognition ($3700), carbon fibre engine cover ($2250) and carbon ceramic brakes ($16,500).
- Standard equipment: Merino leather sports seats, power adjustable front seats, dual zone climate control, proximity key and push button start, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear park sensors, 360 degree cameras, LED headlights with high beam assist, 20-inch alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: 10.25-inch colour screen, iDrive controller, satellite navigation, 20GB hard drive, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, DAB+ digital radio
- Cargo volume: 520 litres minimum
The M5 continues its place as the premium M sedan and its larger dimensions bring all of the comfort and space of the regular 5-Series line-up. Premium materials and executive panache are what the M5 encapsulates.
Traditionally it divides duties along performance and luxury lines, characteristics clearly expressed in a beautifully executed cabin where soft-touch leather, glossy carbon fibre trim and high-tech elements such as a head-up display system join supportive sports seats with a wide range of adjustment.
The infotainment system is crisp and easy to navigate via the typical BMW iDrive controller wheel and voice and gesture inputs. Apple CarPlay, while now a subscription extra, adds wireless phone mirroring connectivity for Apple users.
Some items such as the chunky steering wheel aren’t quite as focused as the M4 CS’ Alcantara-clad tiller, but its purposeful and red “M1” and “M2” buttons give quick access to customisable settings for the engine, suspension, transmission, steering, stability control and more.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 441kW at 5600-6700rpm/750Nm at 1800-5600rpm 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive with Active M Differential
- Suspension: Double-wishbone front, multi-link independent rear with dynamic damper control
- Brakes: Four wheel cross drilled and vented disc brakes,
- Steering: M Servotronic electrically assisted power steering
Powered by a 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 capable of generating 441kW, the 2018 M5 uses an evolution of the previous-generation sedan’s V8 – a motor also shared with the X5 M and X6 M performance SUV duo.
Resisting the temptation to chase ludicrous power figures, the new car has no more power than the special-edition M5 30 Jahre which celebrated three decades of M-badged sports sedans back in 2014.
But the car is is lighter and quicker than the old one, despite the fact it ditches the outgoing model’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive layout in favour of conventional eight-speed auto driving all four wheels, which BMW engineers claim provides priorities on traction, drivability and comfort for the latest M5.
The result is a car that can hit 100km/h in just 3.4 seconds before head-butting its 250km/h speed limiter shortly afterwards. BMW dealers overseas offer the option to raise the top speed limit beyond 300km/h, something the manufacturer’s local arm may offer in coming months.
Speed freaks bent on having the fastest-possible BMW should also consider holding out for an inevitable M5 Competition version likely to bring more power and a keener focus for a higher price in the near future.
Then again, few people could drive the new M5 and feel it isn’t fast enough. Testing the super sedan during its Australian launch at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne, we hit more than 250km/h on its relatively short back straight. The car’s rear-biased all-wheel-drive system allows for a touch of opposite lock as you slingshot away from slow corners, purchase its notoriously tricky rear-drive predecessor could never find.
You can really lean on the new M5, which moves progressively, clearly communicating its intentions. A full-sized sedan with six hundred horsepower would normally be intimidating at speed, but the new M5 just gets on with the job as if braking from the interesting side of 200km/h is part of its daily routine.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a car to respect, one that should have your full attention at pace. But it isn’t one to be feared.
A caveat is that BMW wouldn’t let us try the car in a special rear-drive mode which requires sophisticated traction and stability control systems to be completely deactivated. Ace rally champion Cody Crocker took us for a sideways lap of Sandown to demonstrate that this is indeed the car which holds the Guinness World Record for the longest drift (performed continuously over the course of eight hours, thank you very much) without the risk of a journalist smearing a $200,000 luxury car across track barriers.
Poised and planted, the new M5 feels lighter than its size suggests.
It’s even better on the road, where the smooth-shifting auto and sensibly calibrated suspension lend more comfort, and a wider breadth of ability than its arch-rival Mercedes-AMG E63 S sedan. BMW’s executive express feels relaxed and quiet on the road, with little of the blood and thunder brought by its opposite number.
No, the M5 doesn’t sound particularly raucous or hold the visual road presence of the meanest models from Audi and Mercedes.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Harking back to a more traditional recipe where revered M5 models such as the E34 and E39 added only warmed over wheels and parts compared to the executive sedan they were based on, the new M5 could easily be mistaken for a regular 5-Series.
But keen-eyed punters will spot the larger wheels and sport M-Pack that covers the beast beneath.
A potent mix of class and ability that honours some of BMW’s most desirable traditions, the new M5 represents a real return to form for the brand.
- Interested in buying BMW M5? Visit our BMW showroom for more information.