ROAD TEST: BMW’s gripping new 2018 model M5
WHEN the going gets tough, BMW's M division goes all-in. The outgoing M5 was a bloody good car absolutely aced by the arrival of the all-wheel drive Mercedes-AMG E63 S.
That isn't going to happen with the sixth-generation of the high-performance sedan.
The new M5 now plays the same AWD hand to help tame the output of the potent twin-turbo V8. The engineers even installed a 2WD mode for when you want to shred rubber at track days. Impressively, the performance potential is housed in a 5 Series package that doesn't look, sound or ride like it wants to intimidate everyone on the road, including the driver.
In short, BMW has made a sharper, smarter vehicle to match the AMG in just about every area. For the record the AMG's pair of massive digital displays on the dash still look more impressive.
To compensate for the lack of visual bling in the cabin, BMW has managed to undercut its archrival by almost $40,000, bringing the M5 in at $199,900 before on-road costs. That's going to buy a lot of tyres and brakes for those who drive the big sedan as it was intended.
To achieve that price, some of the kit standard on the previous generation has been shoved into options packs, such as $8000 for soft-close doors, a seat massage function, television screening off the eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and screens for the rear-seat passengers. Then add $3650 for ventilated front seats, four-zone aircon and roller sunblinds, along with an ambient air kit and the yet-to-be-perfected gesture control.
ON THE ROAD
The M5's ability to soak up bumps is its most impressive feature. With the drive mode set to comfort it rides almost as well as a regular 5 Series sedan, rolling over road imperfections with very little cabin disturbance.
Drive-mode selection and right-foot application determines whether the M5 is docile or dominating.
Even when the performance parameters for the engine, suspension and steering are set in the default comfort mode the M5 is capable of an eye-watering turn of pace. It carves corners nearly as well as the much-smaller M2 and obliterates it when the accelerator hits the limit.
Step things up through the pair of configurable M buttons - now mounted on the steering wheel - and this is a luxury sedan that will obliterate Commodore SS-V sedans off the lights without waking the neighbourhood.
ON THE TRACK
Sandown Racecourse is infamous for low grip and claustrophobically close barriers. The first highlights the M5's all-paw grip; the second means there's no margin for error.
Fortunately the software has all of that factored in.
The M5's exhaust note doesn't quite match the way it gathers speed. It feels fast but doesn't sound furious. The readouts on the head-up display show supercar levels of acceleration but the aural accompaniment is remarkably civilised.
Corner turn-in is superb for a car of this size and the chassis refuses to be thrown off by abrupt actions on the brake or throttle. Even when the rear tyres are tormented by the 750Nm of torque they'll squirm well before they snap sideways and are hauled back into line by the electronics.
The composure encourages progressively later braking and earlier pressure on the accelerator and it makes the BMW a genuine treat to drive for those whose abilities may not necessarily be as elevated as their egos.
Before driving the M5 I thought it might come close to the E63 S. Having driven it, it will take a direct head-to-head to determine which of these cars has a marginal edge. And the BMW has already the edge on price.
Four and a half stars
BMW is back in the game big time. If not a royal flush, the M5 is now packing a full house of attributes.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $199,900 plus on-roads
WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km
SERVICING condition based; $3641 for 5 years/80,000km
SAFETY Not tested;
ENGINE 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol, 441kW/750Nm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic, AWD
THIRST 10.5L/100km (98 RON)
SPARE Tyre repair kit