Why the new BMW M5 is the undisputed king of super saloons
The very first thing that strikes you about driving the 2018 BMW M5 is the sheer velocity of the thing.
In real-world driving situations, everyone and everything is slower than you. In pretty much any case of “show me what you’ve got,” the new M5 is quicker, more involving delivering brutality with relative ease.
When I say quicker, I mean you get 591bhp and 554lb-ft of torque-laden quickness from the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine translating into a 0-62mph time of just 3.4 seconds making it the fastest M5 ever built. Find yourself on an Autobahn, and it will crack 189mph with the limiter removed, if not you will have to ‘make do’ with a puny 155mph.
Apparently, there is the big debate as to if the car’s dynamics have been affected by the addition of four-wheel drive. According to BMW this new model tips the scales at 15kg lighter than the previous generation, a massive engineering feat when considering the additional weight of a four-wheel drive system.
So, the new M5 is faster, lighter and carries more tech than the old car, but is it any good?
To answer this question, I embarked on a 900-mile cross-country road trip to find out.
Anglesey Circuit, Wales
First port of call was the formidable Anglesey Circuit in Wales. For those of you not in the know, this stunning track sits atop a cliff face overlooking the Irish Sea.
After a few ‘practice’ laps I finally began to get to grips with both the circuit and the M5. Here, virtually all of the cars massive performance was accessible allowing me to dig deep into all that fury lurking beneath that bonnet.
At the limit, the four-wheel drive gives it a tonne of balance and grip. Even at cornering speeds of over 100mph it never once faltered allowing me to learn the track improving both my times and my driving in equal measure.
The nicely weighted steering allows you to precisely aim your entry point into a corner, with the massive twin-turbo grunt and four-wheel drive combining to give maximum thrust on the exit without any hint of lairyness at all whatsoever.
Despite the car's heft and weight, it corners brilliantly, remaining nimble and open to delicate steering inputs at high speed without showing any sign of becoming unsettled.
After ten hot laps of the track and a steep learning curve, I am in no doubt that the M5 is a massively capable thing on a circuit. In maximum attack mode, the gearbox gives you the quickest shift setting making for both lightning fast and super-slick shifts between ratios.
There is just something about tackling tight technical corners in such a big heavy car, at all times it needed full driver involvement while offering enough feedback as to what was going on beneath you making it huge fun to drive.
BMW gave us three track-only M5s to drive on the day with the tech guys confirming that even after a week of continual track abuse, the cars performed perfectly without even the need for a tyre change.
Road tripping in an M5
After I’d survived the track session, BMW handed me the keys to my rather pretty-looking Marina Bay Blue test car to answer the second question, ‘is the new M5 any good on the road?’
To find out I set off from Angelsey with my target being Edinburgh, some 320 miles away on the opposite coastline. For this journey, I dialled in ‘M1’ mode which sets the engine to ‘efficient’ with the steering and suspension in ‘comfort’ setting.
Even with massive 20-inch wheels and a slither of a tyre, the M5 does an outstanding job of hiding the sometimes poor road surface beneath you. Yes, it is hard sprung to an extent, as you’d expect for a super-saloon. But at no point was it uncomfortable making easy work of the long distance.
One of the most astonishing things though is the somewhat fuel-sipping nature of that torque-laden bellowing V8 motor. I fully expected to be caving in for a fuel stop way short of the finish line in Edinburgh, but the M5 just kept going.
After a smooth and comfortable motorway cruise, I’d covered the total distance achieving close to 30mpg in the process. Not the best fuel economy by some way, but for a car of this type, it’s an excellent return with so much available power eaisly exceeding the figures achieved by its rivals by some margin.
A true daily driver of a four-door supercar
The F90 M5 is a big car, measuring in at over 2 metres wide at the wing mirrors. So, the prospect of driving it in a city that’s a bit tight on space may not be everybody’s idea of fun. Despite this drawback, moving the M5 around town is a simple task with the eight-speed Steptronic gearbox and light steering making it easy to drive at low speed.
On the inside, the current generation five-series boasts one of the best-designed cabins in the sector. The M5 takes this a step further with super comfortable M Division seats and a host of useful tech making it easy to drive, operate and park in a city environment.
During my stopover in Edinburgh, we treated the M5 as a daily driver with it proving more capable of the task. When driving it around town, it almost becomes just another car, until you remember the 600 horsepower available at a quick prod of the throttle.
Even during this period of city gridlock, this brute of a car returned around 20-25mpg, proving that the new M5 is as happy in the urban sprawl as it is on a track.
Carving the borders in an M5
Having tested the car on the track and on a very long road trip, a final test was looming. Is the new M5 fun on the back roads?
To find out, I set out at dawn with the epic scenery of the Scottish borders as my target. Out here in the wilderness, the M5 showed its pure brilliance. Dialling in ‘Sport Plus’ mode you’re taken to a time and a place where everything else merely falls in your wake.
The optional M Sport exhaust system produces a bellowing noise confirming a proper V8 lurks beneath that bonnet. Some of the sounds may be synthetic, but I don’t really care as under hard acceleration the exhaust pops and bangs that accompany gear changes and lift off provide a genuinely mega soundtrack.
During cornering the four-wheel drive system gives masses of grip giving you absolute cornering ability. The nicely weighted steering allows you to put the car exactly where you want to in a corner, with the optional ceramic brakes offering immense stopping power with no sign of fade. With the suspension dialled into ‘Sport Plus,’ the ride is firm as you’d expect, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for the vast level of accuracy and poise under your control.
Combined with the lightning quick gear shifts in manual mode, the M5 made short work of the border roads delivering me to England in a very short time. As I stood with Scotland behind me taking in the view, there was only one overwhelming thought, to turn the car around and do it all again, so I did exactly that because a car like the M5 just begs to be driven.
The job BMW has done with the new M5 is an astonishing one. They have implemented the most significant shift in models dynamic setup taking it to a new level of ability and pace. All the while, they have ensured it remains a true M Division special.
All in, it’s a real supercar, a family mover and a daily driver offering colossal ability and pace; it is above all else a proper bonafide BMW M5.
What are your thoughts on the new M5? Is it the king of super-saloon's? Let us know in the comments.