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Thursday 22nd September 2011

Driven: BMW M5

Twin-turbo V8 takes 'uber-saloonacy' to a new dimension



"We will find a bit more power in future, but it won't be in the sorts of increments we've seen before," admitted BMW M division head of engines Jurgen Poggel when I asked him last night whether the manufacturer power race was, just possibly, reaching its climax in the new M5.


The new M5, as you've probably noted, has twin turbochargers bolted onto a 4.4-litre V8 and makes sh*tloads of power and even more torque. To the extent that a quick spin in one yesterday brought Stirling Moss to mind. Or more specifically that thing Stirling said on his retirement, which was something along the lines of 'I've realised that if I'm going to go fast enough to win, I'm going to scare myself silly doing it.'

Watching the speedo nudge 240kmh on a brief straight section of single track Spanish tarmac between some excellent snakey bits felt a bit silly yesterday, and it did make we wonder where this whole thing is going to end. In prison, probably.

But it's not philosophical, cultural or even legal issues that are potentially slowing Herr Poggel's progress - it's heat build-up. Apparently, reducing capacity (the last M5 had a 5.0 V10) and adding turbos to (over?) compensate for the loss makes a lot more of the stuff, and getting it out of the car is a bit of a problem. Still, that's what these guys are paid for, and they'll probably think of something...


Turbochargers. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're getting everywhere and like the elephant and the kangaroo they seem to come in 'two-by-two' these days. So you won't be surprised to find a pair lurking under the bonnet of the new M5.

Nestling is probably a better word than lurking, as despite their size the twin turbos have been dropped neatly between the vee of the engine - as per the installation in the X6 M - which is to all intents and purposes the same engine. Herr Poggel says changes are limited to the M5's Valvetronic system, bigger intakes, bigger turbos and an oil system that has been 'race-prepped' to withstand Nurburgring Taxi duties, and other possible abuses.

Which is how you get 560hp and 502lb ft out of a 4.4-litre V8, while making your new business express a whole 30 per cent more economical than its predecessor on the combined EU cycle. Amazing stuff, eh?


So what's it like? Well, having been treated to the best part of a year behind the last M5's extraordinarily addictive V10 (albeit under the bonnet of the PH M6), my initial response to the news that it was being supplanted by an artificially aspirated V8 was disappointment. While the 'big picture' remains unequivocally stupendous, the new engine has indeed brought a distinct change of character which some might feel is not all for the good.

Wringing the nuts off the old 8,250rpm-limited V10 was a rewarding pastime, but it's less so with the new V8. Peak power arrives at 6,000rpm and is maintained at a plateau until just before the limiter comes in at 7,200rpm - which is impressive, but leaves you with a distinct feeling that not shifting before 6k was a bit of an oversight. There's a nice V8 engine note, but just a little too muffled for my tastes, which is probably the fault of those turbos again. (And I have spent the last 20k miles in an AMG C63...)


But don't mistake any subjective lack of character for an objective lack of performance, because thanks to its elephantine wallop of max torque available from idle (actually from 1500rpm) right up to 5,750rpm, the M5 explodes into action with just a dab of throttle. Official figures claim 0-62mph in 4.4secs, and 0-124mph in 13.0 dead. Maximum speed is limited to 155, but that's raised to 190mph if you specify the driver's pack.

On the road, the performance is just mind-boggling. With a super-smooth 7-speed twin-clutch robot manual gearbox similar to that in the M3, you can grab a couple of gears with the left hand paddle while you floor it, and your overtake will be over pretty much the moment you thought of it. It's too fast to contemplate, really and, without an unrestricted autobahn to play on, definitely a potential licence loser.


That problem (if it is one!) is exacerbated by the other side of the M5's character, which is to make going stupidly fast feel just a bit too easy.

The chassis, while undoubtedly a marvel of balance and poise, rides rather softly and even in Sport+ damping mode (adjustable, along with the engine response and steering via the M set-up menu), the car remains relatively soft.

The steering too, hydraulic instead of the 5 series' horrible electric option, is direct and accurate but lacks that finger-tip incisiveness of - say - recent Jaguars. All in all, it's as though BMW has taken an executive express and given it super-hero powers, but without that added dash of 'darkness' that used to give this sort of car so much of its personality.

So what we're left with is a technological tour-de-force, certainly, but will this iteration of the M5 recipe resonate across the decades as other M5s have before it? Time will tell, but if you're into the business of going properly fast and in comfort, I'd be amazed if there's another big saloon out there to touch it.






Chris-R
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Author Discussion

Gatsods

Original Poster:

301 posts

53 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
This or a performance pack'd E63 AMG?

Speed_Demon

2,040 posts

73 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Sounds like it's a great car but has lost some of its character, predictable but still a real shame.

rockandrollmark

1,030 posts

108 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Loss of character or not, that really is a shed load of power to put in a four door saloon. Top marks to BMW to still have the balls to produce such a car. I have a feeling this will be one of the last of a breed.

On a slightly different note though, does anyone else think that BMW have become slaves to themselves (//M division?) with the whole M sport styling thing? I think (particularly in darker colours) the F10 is a damn handsome car, but with that aggressive bumper it almost looks a bit max powery

Olf

11,396 posts

103 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Half hearted write-up that. And what's this about about a scary 240kph? Really?

C-

B16JUS

2,361 posts

122 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
I love it !
Advertisement

Schermerhorn

1,963 posts

74 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Door mirrors are too plain. M cars have been aesthetically defined by their door mirrors from the mid-90's onwards. Its parts of one of the reasons how you could tell an M3 from a 330 or a 530D Sport from an M5 for example.

I feel they've missed a trick here.


Chris-R

739 posts

72 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Olf said:
Half hearted write-up that. And what's this about about a scary 240kph? Really?

C-
I guess you had to be there... smile


Beefmeister

11,938 posts

115 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Autocar seem to think it's rather good too:

Autocar said:
Should I buy one?

Yes. We don’t care how, just make sure you do sample the new M5 in one way or the other. It is in many respects a landmark car - one that’s going to have the fast car competition – Audi, Cadillac, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati among them - scratching their heads as they attempt to come up with a reply.
The sheer potency and accessibility of the new turbocharged engine alleviates any lingering doubts about BMW’s M division’s decision to turn a 25-year tradition of naturally aspirated engines on its head. The question that really needs to be asked is: why did it take so long?
What really marks the new M car down as something really special, though, is its superb combination of agility, ride and refinement. With an 80-litre fuel tank and combined cycle fuel consumption of 28.5mpg, it is not only the new muscle car of choice but also the perfect cross continent express.
From here:

http://www.autocar.co.uk/CarReviews/FirstDrives/BM...

Oh, and this is a rather nice shot posted by Chris Harris on Twitter of the launch:



Mmmmmm, toys!!!

loudlashadjuster

1,158 posts

69 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
'mon you, mental.

M5 is pretty much my ultimate car, love it.

Twoshoe

193 posts

69 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
That colour is fantastic - suits it so well.

Pablo16v

1,050 posts

82 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
A Touring please..........even though I'm unlikely to buy one in the near future

belleair302

5,034 posts

92 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
No tourings sorry! For that you will need an Alpina!!

louiebaby

5,600 posts

76 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Pablo16v said:
A Touring please..........even though I'm unlikely to buy one in the near future
Is it on the cards???

I think I prefer the look of the previous generation 5 series, but I suspect I'm in the minority...

jbi

7,916 posts

89 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Heat
Turbo Reliability
Complexity
Redline
Character

Are all new factors to consider that were previously absent

A 5.0 litre NA V8 would have been better.

Stuart

11,585 posts

136 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
louiebaby said:
I think I prefer the look of the previous generation 5 series, but I suspect I'm in the minority...
If you are, you're in a minority of two. I like the E60 over the F10. I just think that it is a sharper looking car all round. The F10 is fantastic to drive though, and the design of the whole range has a more family feel to it, but I love my E60.

gumsie

566 posts

94 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
As a drivers car, I've no doubt this will be better than an E63, it usually is. (Just like the 3 bests the C). It's always been this way.
But cannot BMW though put a proper classy looking interior in their cars? I'll take the Benz(es) everytime thanks.

Mermaid

17,682 posts

56 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Closer to the Audi RS6 than ever before for the M5?

Quinten

793 posts

126 months

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Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
My next car.... in 12 years smile

kambites

40,599 posts

106 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Sounds like BMW have taken another step towards AMG when it comes to how to build big fast cars, but without the characterful engines? Shame.

anything fast

976 posts

49 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd September 2011 quote quote all
Business as usual then! bravo
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