I know it's a worn motoring cliché, but the PH BMW M5 has genuinely become the choice car for a "cross continental hack". Well, kinda. Recently it has been to Germany to support our spectating (and some road testing) at the Nurburgring 24 hours, and as this story is published it'll already be covered in Arnage dust.
Which is the kind of job it excels at. (The driving, not gathering dust.) Partly that's because it has a 600hp V8 that makes for the easiest overtaking this side of an electric motor, and an eight-speed auto lets it turn over at such an easy pace that, with a 68 litre fuel tank and economy, if you're careful, you an approach mid 20s mpg and get 350 miles out of a tank. Sure, that's not the 600 miles of an exceptional diesel, but, heck, I'm 43 and drink a lot of tea, so I need to stop at least that often anyway.
But mostly it's good at this sort of thing because the M5 when all's said and done, is more than anything still 5-Series. So it's big and quiet. The infotainment system is massively comprehensive (although charing £235 for CarPlay is a bit of a swizz), and the seats are magnificent. As standard they adjust so much that even the backrest has two adjustable sections, notwithstanding adjustable lumbar and bolster support. They're cooled, massaged, and heated by option, too.
I sometimes wonder how many electric motors there are in a car: I suspect there are almost as many in each M5 chair as there are in my house. At 9000 miles the M5 is saying it doesn't need a service for another 8000 miles, too, which is respectable for a car of this kind of potential. BMW did take it back for a software update prior to its latest trip: at which time it kindly made a repair to a tiny windscreen stonechip, and replaced the wheel centre caps that had gone missing from both front wheels, presumably because some toe-rag had pinched them. Is this a thing?
The crew there noted there tyres were down to 4mm of tread depth. Still comfortably twice the legal limit, but BMW would recommend replacing them at 3mm. This M5 has been exercised: on circuit for group tests and road tests. With the more gentle road use I'll see how they get on. If it were the end of summer, I'd start thinking about it already.
Meantime, though, the 4wd system means there's precious little slip, even when I have to pull out of my driveway onto a poorly-sighted 50mph road, (which makes life in the family Defender when stone cold interesting). The dampers can be put from 'nicely controlled' to 'really uncomfy' very easily, ditto the steering. The optional (£7495) carbon ceramic brakes have terrific stopping power and, under bigger braking efforts, give terrific feel.
Niggles? Precious few. Slowing in traffic to a gentle stop can be awkward: you approach stationary, the stop-start system cuts the engine, which causes you to decelerate suddenly and harshly, so you lift off the brake pedal to smooth that ... and the engine cuts back in, which makes coming to a chauffeur-worthy stop incredibly difficult. A mark of its sporting pretence, I suppose.
Unless it's just me and my clumsy old feet. As I write, the M5 is in the company of somebody younger and perhaps more deft of foot, so if you so if you see Matt Bird at Le Mans, you can ask him.
Car: 2018 BMW M5
On fleet since: April 2018
Run by: Matt Prior
List price new: £87,940 (As tested £101,900, because: £1,995 Premium Package including soft-close doors, massage seats, ceramic finish for controls, £1,195 Comfort Package including steering wheel heating, seat heating all-round), £1,100 M Sports exhaust, £1,025 carbon engine cover, £7,495 carbon ceramic brakes, £260 M seat belts, £495 carbon/aluminium-look trim, £235 Apple CarPlay, £160 online entertainment)
Last month at a glance: Big miles for the M5 - smiles, too