King of the 'Bahn
It was last week when I was at work and was asked to provide a new car to give content for the news section and my mind was drawn to a specific genre
The super saloon has always intrigued me so my mind immediately took me to the new BMW M5. When I first saw the leaked pictures, I must be honest, my first thought was "it kinda looks like the current M5, what's new then?" It was only once I read the details and noticed this was the first M5 to be fitted with BMW's X-drive system, but more on this later.
My first introduction to my love-affair with these rarebreeds, and cars in general, was in my parents' 1989 Vauxhall Carlton GSi. It was the 3.0 12v model and pulled like a train in any gear, it was a tremendous car and many a tear were shed when it finally came time to say goodbye. It was an odd choice becuase the family car was previously a granada [shudders] which in my opinion is just a car. You could therefore imagine my relief when we got the Carlton.
Once this was gone, my dad had the fast saloon bug and, after test-driving a BMW 535i and a Vauxhall Omega MV6, settled for a Vauxhall Senator, a 1993 luxury model fitted with mod-cons that by today's standards are considered pretty special. My mum couldn't stand the thing because of the 'love it or hate it' grille, but once that was painted black to suit the body, she was happy. The day we picked it up we went for a blast and what I thought was fast was re-confirmed. This was in essence the same engine but a 24v, meaning it had less low-down grunt but, once the Ram-air opened at 4,000 rpm all hell broke loose and hit the dizzying hights of 70mph... cough cough.....ish. This was all good and well, but there was always word mentioned of a fabled beast which was always slightly out of reach and merely whispering the name of it can cause people to faint and all funny, the illusive Lotus Carlton, ooooohhhhhh.
In 1991, Vauxhall decided to give a 24v Carlton Gsi to the boys at Lotus who boared the engine out to a 3.6ltr and strapped on a couple of turbo's. The outcome meant 377bhp, 0-60 in 5.1 second and a top speed in excess of 175mph, in a family saloon. My first experience of this was on the way to a car show when a friend turned up in one and before he'd finished asking me and my brother if we wanted a ride, we were strapped in and ready to go. It didn't disappoint. I was also fortunate 170 on a track day in one, shooting past pretty much everything except an Ultima GTR, not bad.
However, at this point I was entering my teens and a little known car company called BMW (ok, so they're pretty popular but it sounds more dramatic that way) released their latest M5, again a family saloon, with a 5.0ltr V10 powerplant. I must admit, the Lotus' reign was shaken,but it took BMW 13 years to sway me. The sound of a V10 is synonymous with the likes of Formula 1 cars and the widow-making Porsche Carrera GT, not a family saloon! And that's the point I'm trying to make, I'm sure the 535d is hardly a slouch, has good range and can take you & your 4 favourite friends anywhere in reasonable time, but someone's worn their silly pantes to work one day and has decided that what we need to to take our 4 favourite friends anywhere a bit quicker and in a cloud of smoke.
This Lunacy began for BMW in 1985 when their Procar M1 flopped and they decided to chuck the 3.5ltr straight six into a 5 series, giving birth to the M5. Over the years the styling has changed a bit, as has the engine, but the basic layout has been the same, engine in the front, rear wheel drive, big boot and Manual transmission.
However, in the M5's eighth guise, X-drive has been adopted, this might seem a bit out of character until you read the spec sheet. This thing will do 0-62 mph in 3.6 seconds. To put that into persective, in 2003 the Holy Trinity if Hypercars were the Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT and Mercedes McLaren SLR. The new M5 will hit 62mph quicker than the latter. That's mental. Talking of firsts, it's also the first M5 to only offer a twin clutch 'box, good for the lights but is that what it's really about? In my opinion, nothing beats the raw feel of a manual gearbox, and as times go on in seems to be a dying breed. That's a conversation for another day but I surely hope it hasn't damaged the feel of the super saloon.
Fast saloons will always have a place in my heart, and one day I hope, on the driveway. But for now they'll always be Kings of the Autobahn. Keep it up boys!