RE: BMW M5 (F90): Driven

Monday 4th December 2017

BMW M5 (F90): Driven

Will a more subtle approach take the M5's competition by surprise? Matt Prior finds out...



Is it better than the Mercedes-AMG E63? That, it seems, is the question people ask when you start talking about the latest BMW M5. OK, we'll come to it.

First, then, the sixth-generation BMW M5. Here it is. It still looks subtle, doesn't it? A bit like the last one did and, like that, it still has a 4.4-litre V8 engine with two turbochargers, albeit different turbochargers, a new exhaust system, new, higher-pressure injection system and more efficient cooling. From there onwards it only diverges further from the previous model, as you'll have probably heard.


The biggest news is that it has four-wheel drive. Second biggest is that you can turn it off, and still have a rear-drive M5. Goodie. Somewhere beneath both of those in terms of importance and interest are that it no longer has a dual-clutch transmission, but gets a torque-converter auto instead, has 600hp, a carbon fibre roof, costs all but £90,000 and has lots, and lots, of driver-selectable things.

They include - big breath, here - three-stage adjustable dampers, three-stage steering weight adjustment, adjustable engine response, and gearbox response, and exhaust loudness, changeable stability control interference levels, and even different 4wd system responses: conventional 4wd, Sport 4wd, or 2wd. You can't adjust the brakes, but you can select from conventional discs or carbon ceramics.

Which strikes me as, well, quite a lot to think about. Luckily there are some preset modes, and two programmable buttons on the steering wheel for saving your own preferred modes.

Between all of them, though, the M5 has a consistent, and rather likeable, character. Inside, it feels like most other 5 Series, only with even better seats and an overburdened steering wheel and transmission tunnel.


Otherwise the cabin is as understated as the exterior, which apart from more aluminium body panels than other 5s, big cooling capacity in the front and a diffuser and quad pipes at the rear, doesn't shout 'fast' like, say, an M2 or M3, or, in fact, an AMG E-Class. Carbon fibre roof aside, of course.

The noise doesn't, either. When an AMG V8 cranks into life, you know about it. When a BMW M5 does, you'd have to know what you're listening for. But, as with the appearance and, as with the driving experience, to an extent, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Restrained outside, restrained inside, restrained to listen to, then. And the new M5 is also relatively restrained to drive. BMW calls it a 'business sedan' and I guess it's important to remember that's still what it is. Turn up at a client meeting in an AMG E63 and I suspect they'll know you've arrived in an AMG. Arrive in an M5 and they might only think you've arrived in a generic 5 Series. That might be important.

The hardware, though, fairly quickly makes it clear this isn't an ordinary 5 Series. The steering, at not much more than two turns between locks, makes the M5 feel more agile than its girth - 1,930kg, down around 15kg on the previous-gen car - would suggest. It's not a new trick, but it's one that works. The ride is controlled, composed; softer than an E63's, from memory, but you'd want a back-to-back test to say for sure. And regardless of which mode you stick the M5 in, its inherent character doesn't change that much.


The 4wd system is predominantly rear-biased, so on the road, even if you're starting to demand a bit more of it, it feels naturally quite well balanced, with no corruption of the relatively light, accurate, responsive steering. Body control is good; it gets firmer as you slip through the damper response modes, obviously, with marginal losses in compliance as you go. But even with soft dampers, and the 4wd system in 'normal', there's still some throttle adjustability on the way out of a bend; that pleasing balance that's inherent in a long, front-engined, rear-drive car.

That 4.4-litre V8 is a curious thing. Not because of the way it delivers its power. It makes its peak torque of 553lb ft from just 1,800rpm, and holds onto it all the way to 5,600, where the 600hp power peak starts, and stays constant until 6,700rpm, so it's incredibly potent, all the time. Perhaps the conventional autobox shifts gears slightly more slowly than a dual-clutch transmission. I dunno. It feels fast enough to me, has the advantage that it's even smoother at low speeds, locks-up pretty much as soon as the car is rolling and, besides, when you make 553lb ft from not much more than idle, there are only so many gear changes you need.

The thing that makes it a bit curious, though, is the noise. BMW has upped its volume compared to last time around, but it never approaches AMG levels. It still has some augmentation through the speakers, for heaven's sake.


So it's a capable car, an agile enough and responsive enough car, even an extremely powerful and - honestly - absurdly quick car. But somehow it feels like it does all of this without going to more than about six or seven on the dial.

Unless, that is, you turn the stability control off completely, and engage two-wheel drive. In which case, the M5 has magnificent poise, a deft balance, and the ability to smoke up its rear tyres like one of the very best super saloons of all time. BMW is quite proud of all the electronics systems, which match all of the M5's prodigious tech together. But it ought to be equally pleased with what happens when you turn all of them off.

Which brings me back to the E63 question. And, I'm afraid, I don't know. What I can tell you is that it's less exciting, less obvious, and less loud than an E63. But whether that makes it worse, or better, or otherwise is, I'm afraid, a question for another day. I suppose, with the M's subtlety, it's actually possible that it will leave you a little cold; although it didn't me. Because I suspect that's exactly how BMW wanted it to feel.


SPECIFICATION - BMW M5

Engine: 4,395cc, twin turbocharged V8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 600@5,600-6,700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553@1,800-5,600rpm
0-62mph: 3.4sec
Top speed: 189mph (with M Driver's package)
Weight: 1,930kg (including driver)
MPG: 27 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 241g/km
Price: £89,640

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

alex_123_fra

Original Poster:

353 posts

170 months

Sunday 3rd December 2017
quotequote all
This will be a cracking purchase a few years from now when its around a third of the price.

Guvernator

8,692 posts

99 months

Sunday 3rd December 2017
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Sorry just too subtle for me and it's retained one of the biggest disappointments of the last version, namely that effective but soulless engine. How on earth anyone can make a 4.4 twin turbo V8 boring is beyond me but BMW have given it a good go.

If I want to disappear into the crowd, I'd by a 530d, an M5 has to be a little more than just an anonymously faster 5 series.

Bendrix

16 posts

37 months

Monday 4th December 2017
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Guvernator said:
Sorry just too subtle for me and it's retained one of the biggest disappointments of the last version, namely that effective but soulless engine. How on earth anyone can make a 4.4 twin turbo V8 boring is beyond me but BMW have given it a good go.

If I want to disappear into the crowd, I'd by a 530d, an M5 has to be a little more than just an anonymously faster 5 series.
I’ve read a few reports on it today and seen a couple of videos. Not one has mentioned it has a soulless or boring engine. I suspect if you drove one you’d be jizzing in your pants just like the rest of us.

David87

4,977 posts

146 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
E63 for me, plus you can get an estate. Not that it matters to me anyway; I’m not rich enough to be able to stomach the depreciation of either of these beasts. biggrin

Zad

11,652 posts

170 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
I'm guessing that this bit was designed in their USA design studio. Just put all the things on. ALL THE THINGS. AND MORE!!!



Shame about the gearbox and the fake sound, but hey, I'd cope if they gave me one!

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Mr Tidy

6,488 posts

61 months

Monday 4th December 2017
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No thanks - I'd much rather have the earlier V10!

ajvuk

2 posts

103 months

Monday 4th December 2017
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I wonder what the real fuel consumption is ?? probably a lot closer to my E61 M5

Esceptico

1,450 posts

43 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
Cars have reached the point that motorbikes did some 20 years ago; each new car has to have more power and more performance (and more electronic aids to control it all) so that they are “better” than the model they replace. Yet for most drivers on real roads those performance gains mean little in day to day driving and all the electronic aids and excess power actually detract from the driving experience,

When I had my first 5 series (E39 530d) the then M5 was objectively very different - in the real world there was a big gap (0-60 in just over 5 seconds compared to around 8), plus the M5 was not that much heavier, only come with manual, only RWD. On the Autobahn the 530d would struggle make 140 whereas the M5 was limited to 155.

Nowadays the current 530d hits sixety in under 6 seconds and is limited to 155 like the M5. In the real world not a significant difference and on a long journey you would be quicker because you would not need to stop for fuel so frequently.

Besides bragging rights of having bought the most powerful 5 series what are you getting for all the extra money?

peteA

2,378 posts

168 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
Looking at the guvenators garage I suspect you are an AMG guy from your past cars - loud, shouty, in your face, etc... good, don’t get me wrong, petrol heads love an AMG but its extrovert all the time and it’s never switched off, never toned down.

I doubt the others commenting have been in t either the F10 or latest versions?

The M5 isn’t like this - it’s meant to be a thinking mans super saloon, a bit more subtle and well, less obvious. Similar if you like the Jag XFRS too?

You might have guessed that I have an F10, is it perfect...? No. Would I change much...? No. It’s a bloody great car with two distinct characters that suit my driving needs perfectly and I’m so glad I bought it - in normal mode it could be a ‘kitted up’ 520d to the untrained eye (perfect for meeting clients and attending meetings, etc) but in m sport it’s a fire breathing beast of a thing (it’s no sports car, to heavy for that, but it goes down the road ok trust me!)

I’m glad the new one is similar in ethos because as mentioned above it will be a bargain further down the line when 3 years old and it’s the only thing I can see replacing my current car?

I’m glad there are alternatives on the market with different characters to suit all our tastes but can’t see the point of having a go at the BMW or the M5 for ‘not being an AMG’ - it’s exactly what BMW wanted. If this isn’t what you want then that’s fine, off to merc (and Audi?) you go I guess?

Edited by peteA on Monday 4th December 07:13

SidewaysSi

4,655 posts

168 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
I really have zero desire for this car which is a real shame.

In fact all M cars these days seem a bit fat and dull.

Axionknight

8,338 posts

69 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
Mr Tidy said:
No thanks - I'd much rather have the earlier V10!
One of those in estate form would be fantastic, yes

This is too, though, I quite like the fact that it flies under the radar as much as it does and those performance figures are outrageous - I'll take one in grey, please!

AER

976 posts

204 months

Monday 4th December 2017
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The V10 with the vicious SMG gearbox...?

I passengered in the back seat of one from Kleinleinwalsertal to Stuttgart and the gearchanges were most uncomfortable. It was 240kph limited due to being on winter tyres, but there wasn't that much time spent at that speed. Ironically, the 320d that was also doing the same journey and left after us arrived earlier due to not needing to refuel...

je777

238 posts

38 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
Changing DCT to auto - maybe ok in a car like this, but how long before this (presumably cheaper) decision makes its way into sports cars as well.
And, as with electric power steering, journalists will complain at first, but then, after a few models, they'll be telling us it's as good as what came before.
I haven't driven, say, a Porsche 991.2, but is its steering really as good as a 997, back to back? I have my doubts.

NJJ

91 posts

14 months

Monday 4th December 2017
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Would rather have the new XJR 575 as it is more of an analogue driving experience and the last of its kind. Wish premium manufacturers locked in the current power arms-race would focus less on driver modes and more on back-to-basics driver smiles.


GroundEffect

10,966 posts

90 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
That is a beast of a torque "curve".


kambites

55,084 posts

155 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
je777 said:
Changing DCT to auto - maybe ok in a car like this, but how long before this (presumably cheaper) decision makes its way into sports cars as well.
I think the writing has been on the wall for double clutch boxes for a while now, at least in mainstream cars. They were arguably necessary to prod the makers of conventional automatics to improve their products but in mainstream cars, a good planetary torque convertor box is simply better, IMO.

edo

16,699 posts

199 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
I like it. Red paddles aside.

My F10M5 is really lacking in traction in anything other than dry conditions, and a 4wd system you can turn off for fun is cake and eat it.

Given what I paid for my 1 year old M5, I will wait a bit though wink

E65Ross

21,062 posts

146 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
ajvuk said:
I wonder what the real fuel consumption is ?? probably a lot closer to my E61 M5
Epic lurking, I must say!

Fuel consumption, I think you're quite wrong though, I'm afraid. My old man had an E92 M3 (which in itself was better than the V10 M5) and went to an M6 coupe (F13?), the fuel consumption was considerably better. He used to get around 21mpg in the M3 yet around 26mpg in the M6. Over 20% better!! Even if the new one is the same, it'll still be vastly better in that sense than the V10 M5.

Carl_Manchester

4,616 posts

196 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
‘three-stage steering weight adjustment’ - i think this is quite significant. looking forward to reading more about the engineering behind this and the results.


BMWBen

4,493 posts

135 months

Monday 4th December 2017
quotequote all
Carl_Manchester said:
‘three-stage steering weight adjustment’ - i think this is quite significant. looking forward to reading more about the engineering behind this and the results.
I assume it's roughly the same system that's already there in the F10 M5.