The King of the Super Sedans regains the throne in convincing fashion
Words by: Adam Allen
So, the new M5…it’s good right?
Oh my, yes. It’s an incredible car, one that every enthusiast will surely covet; but there’s more to it than that, so press on, dear reader.
What’s the deal with the previous generation M5 acting as a lightning rod for haters?
What a time to be a car enthusiast when people see fit to lambaste a car that would blitz the 0-100km/h mark in less than four seconds served alongside handling and braking to compete with the world’s best. The real problem everyone kvetches about wasn’t the performance metrics but how they were delivered. The outgoing M5 was cold and aloof- it seemed to be looking down its nose at the driver with a bemused smirk, like it was saying I’m better than you. This F90 version? It is way more approachable and amiable, and it feels like it wants to throw a friendly arm around your neck and invite you to play. Although only separated by one generation, the two M5’s feel miles apart. The best part about the current M5 is that is doesn’t require a racetrack to reveal its delights- you’ll know this thing is special in mere meters at the helm (although with its organ scrambling speed which we’ll get to later, having a racetrack at your disposal couldn’t hurt.)
This is clearly a dramatic evolution of the M5 species.
Where to start? Obviously, the platform itself is all-new, but there are some major upgrades that are significant. For the first time ever, the M5 sends its monumental power to all four wheels. Purists have had a good fit over this, howling that an M5 should have power sent to the rear wheels only. It’s a good thing the M engineers did not heed these cries for two major reasons- one, the M5 can now deploy its weapons-grade power to the ground much easier, and two, high performance junkies across our great country can now justify such a car that now becomes a serviceable mode of transportation in all weather conditions. Plus, if you really must have your rear Michelins barbequed into expensive billows of smoke or enjoy a lurid display of oversteer occasionally, BMW will allow you to select two-wheel derive mode which effectively gives you two cars for the price of one. Those who indulge in this behavior better have their car control skills honed to a respectable level because there are no driver aids that will come to the rescue while in 2WD mode. You might never even use the rear drive only setting because the all-wheel drive is so well set up (and rear biased) that the M5’s driving dynamics feel dialed in anyhow. The final big change for 2018 admittedly struck fear into our hearts when we learned that both the manual and dual clutch gearbox were being turfed in favor of a conventional 8-speed automatic; yeah, the same design found in your neighbor’s minivan. But this is no slushbox. Although very much related to the same transmission toiling away in an average family sedan, to compare the unit in the M5 to that pedestrian suff is kind of like saying that Gilbert Godfried and The Rock are the same because they’re both male humans. Now we know our worries were completely misguided- the gearbox is incredible, offering right-now cog swaps when in its most aggressive settings and imperceptible shifts when you ask it to relax, including doing away with the around town clumsiness of the old DCT. Oh, and they’ve puffed up the 4.4 litre’s horsepower to an even 600 and the torque figure swells to 553 foot pounds, but there are murmurs that those numbers downright conservative. The above changes make a huge difference in the M5’s character for the better.
Yet it can still play the luxury card effortlessly- that interior is a feast for the eyes.
We admit that yes, the interior is beautiful…but we didn’t spend a great deal of time taking in its sumptuous details because we were too transfixed at the rapidly blurring scenery unfolding in front of the windscreen as a result of savoring the mind boggling performance. Here’s what we can tell you: it’s a really nice place to be. We couldn’t find any evidence of nickel and diming, and refinement is what you would expect of a 5-series Bimmer. We must call out the seats-complete with their illuminated M5 badges that glow in the seatbacks- that are seriously comfortable and allow for a spot-on relationship with the controls. We also love the reimagined gear lever and the digital gauges with there edgy fonts, and the Bowers and Wilkins sound system is worth the extra dollars it commands. Rear seat passengers don’t have it as good as those up front, but any complaints can be easily silenced with a flex of the accelerator. Although we never had the chance to do so, we could imagine that the M would be the perfect choice for a briskly paced road trip from St. Johns to Victoria.
OK, enough with the superlatives- how does it drive?
We get a bit giddy recalling the driving experience of this awe-inspiring machine so allow us to indulge ourselves. The M5 is crushingly, enormously, devastatingly fast. From any speed and in any situation, heady velocities are yours at the flex of a right foot and the click of shift paddles. Some car mags have strapped their test gear to the M5 and recorded an almost incomprehensible sub-three second time from naught to highway speeds. For a car this large and heavy, that is a genuine achievement. That you can mention its blistering acceleration in the same company as a Ferrari 488 Pista, McLaren 720S and Lamborghini Huracan Perfromante is even more so. Its gargantuan brake hardware at all four corners are more than adept in turning kinetic energy into heat, slowing the big machine down with confidence and security. And the chassis? It has somehow been able to recapture the magic of the old E39 version with its faithfulness of feeding information to the driver about what’s happening at the four Michelin Pilot Sport 4S contact patches. You’d need a racetrack to explore this car’s bandwidth, but during our week with the M5 we couldn’t come close to exploring its limits in the slightest. Nor could we expose any flaws of the truly excellent gearbox, which will cause you to recalibrate what you think you know about how good a torque converter tranny can be. Despite all that, perhaps the biggest compliment we could issue the M5 is that it has become the answer to the question we get asked often: if you could only have one car, what would it be? The M5’s combination of luxury, outrageous speed and breathtaking handling and dynamics coupled with its versatile, customizable drivetrain make it the obvious answer.
What might go wrong?
Honestly, not much. It is truly a bargain with its asking price of $133,800, so we can’t gripe about it being great but frivolously expensive. Our tester was equipped with a sports exhaust- a mandatory option, folks- but we wish the sound it emitted were a bit louder, a trifle more keyed up. It’s already a massive improvement over the digitally synthesized sounding unit of its predecessor but it could use a little more social irresponsibility. Lastly, and since we can’t think of anything else of substance, the gesture controls for the stereo’s volume are on the gimmicky side. During an animated discussion on one trip where hand gesturing was very much a thing, the volume would rise and fall without us asking for it. But really, that’s all the griping you’ll hear from us. You can probably read between the lines that BMW wasn’t messing around on this one, so sorted is the whole package and therefore there isn’t much to complain about.
Should I buy an M5?
Of course you should. How could you not have such a mesmerizingly brilliant car in in your life, one that excels in running to the corner store for milk in comfort as easily as it shames all other super sedans with its towering performance? If you bought the last generation M5, you might have already rushed over to your local dealer to sample this version and became so smitten and you realize that you must have it. No matter your situation, if you’re thinking about a high-performance sedan, you should be thinking M5. You can justify your purchase by pointing out that relatively speaking, the M5 is a screaming bargain. For that price you get a car that will excel in the nastiest weather, cosset you and your passengers and then go out and shame purpose built exotics in speed. Ladies and gentlemen, the King is back; all Hail the M5.
2018 BMW M5 Sedan– Specifications
- Price as tested: $133,800
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger Sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Engine: 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 600 @ 6,600 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 553 @ 1,800 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,945 kg (4,288 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.6L/100km (19 mpg)