BMW M5: Ultimate stealth weapon
The mighty BMW M5 is back to challenge the likes of Mercedes and Jaguar. We were at a rain-soaked Aldo Scribante Racetrack in Port Elizabeth to put it through its paces...
What is it?
The swish new M5 represents the pinnacle of the current 5 Series range - a furious saloon car tweaked by the rock stars over at BMW M GmbH.
Dwarfing its V10 predecessor in the power stakes, this fifth-generation model now sports a twin-turbocharged V8 engine that muscles out an incredible 412kW; a figure that makes it the most potent M product ever produced.
Despite these enviable bar-room bragging rights, fuel consumption has been slashed by 30% and carbon dioxide emissions now weigh in at a highly respectable 232g/km - or 53g/km down on the BMW M3.
Wrapped in a brilliant package that fuses high practicality with fine driving manners, the M5 is an everyday performance hero that can be all things to all men.
How does it look?
Those expecting fireworks might be mildly disappointed by this German's seemingly relaxed armour. Pretty much the definition of the word "Q-Car", M5 version 5.0 is a subtle machine with only a few muted tweaks to help distinguish it from lesser 5 Series models:
A muscular new front apron design
large double-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels.
Chrome-lipped cooling gills cut into the front fenders.
These are all finished off with a rear air-diffuser flanked by two sets of twin exhaust tailpipes. The M5 isn't a car that feels the need to sing its own praises.
But then with a 0-200km/h time of just 13 seconds (the time your family hatch takes to reach one hundred), it doesn't have to. Many will lament the way such awesome performance credentials have been downplayed but, in a world filled with rampant extroversion, I actually kind of like it.
What's it like to drive?
Biblically quick in a straight line, the M5 chases down the horizon like a hellhound possessed. In fact, after the Porsche 997 Turbo, I'd have to say this is the quickest car I've had the privilege of driving. That high-revving V8 engine only adds to the overall experience with its gruff, turbine-esque howl.
Capable of devouring supercars as if they were a serving of Beluga caviar, the new M5 is also impressively nimble despite such sizeable proportions. Indeed, even though this BMW tips the scales at 1870kg, it sliced through the curvature of Aldo Scribante racetrack with all the elan of a much smaller vehicle.
Adding to this prowess is near perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a rear-wheel drive layout that lets you use every last one of those 412kW to help alter changes in direction. With two turbochargers and an ultra-flat torque curve there's not a lot of progression in the M5's throttle, which means it's easy to get out of shape when coming back on the power out of corners.
You'll get away with it in the dry but in the wet you'll need to keep your wits about you - especially with the car's Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) turned off.
Conversely, when not asked to scream around racetracks and turn rubber to smoke, the M5 is an exceptionally civil beast that's happy to chill out and take things easy.
Stick the steering, suspension, engine and gearbox maps into Comfort Mode and you'd swear you were actually tootling around in a 520i. It's the ultimate all-rounder.
Any special features?
Well, aside from that epic 4.4-litre V8 engine, the one thing that stands out on the new BMW M5 is its trick, Active M Differential. A sophisticated locking differential that's wired to the car's DSC system, it ensures maximum traction no matter what the driving conditions may be. Taking into account everything from yaw rates to the position of the throttle pedal, this system is capable of sending the power flow to the side of the car that needs it most - all in a matter of nanoseconds.
Another highlight is BMW's M Dynamic Mode that half neuters the bite of the DSC. This means that you can enjoy a little more sideways action before the electronic powers that be reign you in.
I tested it on the track and it worked beautifully with just the right amount of compromise. Finally, there's that seven-speed M-DCT gearbox that swaps cogs without interrupting power delivery to the rear wheels.
Almost identical to the transmission available on the current M3, it's as brutally effective as Porsche's PDK system. Good thing too because, at the moment, there's no manual alternative on offer.
Should you buy one?
You most certainly should. For, even though the competition is admittedly rather tough out there - both the supercharged Jaguar XFR and turbocharged Mercedes-Benz E63AMG offer comparable levels of performance - the new BMW M5 comes across as the most talented all rounder.
Dynamically speaking, it's also the best of the trio to drive, thanks to the way BMW M GmbH have tweaked the chassis, steering and suspension setups.
It's got the soul of a muscle car and the heart of a lithe European sports saloon. For that, the BMW M5 comes out at the top of its class.
Engine: 4395cc V8 twin-turbo
Power: 412kW at 6000 to 7000rpm
Torque: 680Nm at 1500 to 5750rpm
Top speed: 250km/h (305km/h with M Driver's pack)
Fuel consumption: 9.9l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: from R1145500
Acceleration is out of this world
Fine handling despite its weight
Ticks almost every automotive box
We don't like:
Looks may be too reserved for some
Brakes could do with some more feel
No manual gearbox option available