We take the M5 to the BIC to find out if it’s really built for both – road, as well as racetrack?
If I were to declare my favourite cars of all-time, a number of BMW ‘M’ cars would appear at the top of that list. And, of those, many iterations of the M5 would feature throughout.
I’ve always been a big fan of these relatively understated power-packed sedans from BMW’s in-house tuning arm – it’s a concept that just seems to make sense. Take a regular luxury sedan – well, not exactly regular, because the 5 Series is (and always has been) a fun-to-drive car – put in an engine from a supercar, stiffen the suspension slightly, give it bigger brakes, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a storming full-sized sedan.
The first M5, the E28 in BMW-speak, was introduced at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1984. At the time, with just 280 horsepower, it was the fastest production sedan in the world. Essentially, BMW took a 535i and plonked the 3.5 litre straight-six motor from the M1 supercar into the engine bay – thereby creating a car that would grow to become a legend.
The best part about the M5 was the fact that, outwardly, there was very little that pointed to the firepower concealed in the engine bay. As a result, you could pull up at the lights alongside a sports car, and leave the driver in a trail of wonderment as he or she struggled to get back alongside. Naturally, things moved forward very quickly from the first generation onwards. The second gen M5 (the E34) retained the 3.5 straight-six, but had over 300 horsepower and a more aggressive stance. Anyone who’s seen Ronin knows what I’m talking about – Robert Di Nero, as Sam, trying to chase down Natascha McElhone’s character, piloting an M5, is one of the most incredible car chases ever captured in film.
The next generation (the E39) was even more extreme – replacing the straight-six with a thundering V8 that produced 400 horsepower resulted in a 0-100km/h time of just 5 seconds. The E60, of course, took this philosophy to a completely different level by shoehorning an F1-derived 5 litre, 500 horsepower V10 into the engine compartment to create the ultimate sports car killer. It was about as discreet as a secret service agent. And about as brutal as well in some cases – every time you pulled the paddle to change gears that is! The Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) had it sights set on dislodging a vertebrae or two – it could be that harsh. That apart, though, the M5 defined a generation of power hungry sedans.
But, in a world where F1 cars themselves are headed towards turbo V6 power (as of 2014, believe it or not), 5 litres and 10 cylinders just aren’t politically correct. So, the latest generation M5 (the F10) now comes with a 4.4 litre turbocharged V8. But just because its 30% more efficient doesn’t mean it can’t be even more powerful than before. With 552 horses from 6,000 to 7,000rpm, and 680Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm, it’s the most powerful M car ever produced.
It has twin-scroll twin-turbos that display no sign of lag whatsoever. The pair of turbos are ingeniously positioned in the 90-degree V between the two cylinder banks. This not only enables compact packaging, but also ensures reduced pipe length for minimal pressure losses. And, on the EfficientDynamics front, there’s also brake energy regeneration and auto start-stop to keep the Green Party happy.
But, this is an M car after all, so it’s not exactly the folks at Green Peace that they’re catering to – it’s the fortunate few (such as I) who manage to worm their way into the drivers’ seat. And there is simply no way, I’m afraid, in which I could accurately describe how this machine chases down the horizon. Put your foot down and, at first, it accelerates like a very fast car – as well it should. But then the turbos start spinning even more violently than before, and it feels almost as though the M5 is being sucked towards the horizon by an invisible force. On the 1.2 kilometer back-straight of the BIC, it achieved 240km/h without even breaking a sweat. If it weren’t for the multi-colour, multi-information Head-Up display, which has a full rev counter with shift lights in M-view, I wouldn’t even have known that we had breached the 200km/h mark – that’s how comfortable this car is at speed.
And to shed said speed, it’s fitted with massive six-piston brake callipers that proudly adorn the M logo. The now trademark gills in the front fenders also display the M5 logo to ensure you’re aware that this is a special machine. And that’s about the best way to describe the styling of the M5 – it’s perfect, in that it simply makes the car look special. The front air-dam snarls at the horizon, while the quad exhaust creates a wave of turbulence in its audacious wake.
The sound emanating from the exhaust, though, is perhaps the biggest complaint regarding the new M5 – it’s just too muted. So much so, in fact, that the folks in charge of acoustics at BMW have actually gone to the trouble of pumping in a synthesized exhaust note through the speakers in the cabin. And this is actually one of the biggest challenges facing engineers working with these new turbocharged powerplants. In fact, the one thing keeping F1 supermo, Bernie Ecclestone, up at night is the fact that Formula 1 cars will lose the ear-splitting wail of their naturally aspirated racing engines in 2014. And arch rival of the M-division, AMG, is worried too. Fearful that the next generation of monster Mercs may struggle to retain the howl from the current 6.2 litre naturally aspirated monster of a V8. AMG has even set up a special team to deal only with sound, in order to keep the aural pleasure of its cars intact – something that the M division has failed to do with this M5.
The flip-side, of course, is that this machine is that much more of a luxury car than ever before. It’s got soft-close doors, heated seats that are electrically operated to contort and caress in ways unimaginable, surfaces that are clad in the finest leather, a navigation system, and much more. Plus, it’s large enough to seat four comfortably and even put in a baby-seat in the back – if the infant in question craves speed that is. In Comfort mode, it also has a ride that’s compliant enough (despite having 295/30 R20’s in the back) that defies the ‘supercar cloaked in a sedans body’ character of the car. Moreover, the new double-clutch 7-speed gearbox is as far removed from the SMG of yesteryear as possible. The gear changes are seamless – but what’s more, they’re as smooth as they are quick. So, for the road, the new M5 is – in many ways – the perfect machine. It can comfortably seat a full-sized family, or induce the ‘fight-or-flight’ response in a carful of close friends. But, what about at the BIC – does it have what it takes to get two-tonnes of luxury metal to feel at home on a track?
The one thing that BMW manages to achieve, in all its cars, is create machines that are predictable at the limit – and this is very much the case with the M5 as well. Needless to say, that goes a long way in allowing you to be adventurous on the track. So, you can attempt – and, quite easily, hold – the most lurid powerslides imaginable. Yes, you do have to be a little careful when you pitch it into a corner, and you do feel the girth of its two-tonnes when the M5 settles back into a steady-state after hanging the tail out, but at no point does it complain about being subjected to such adolescent behaviour. The chassis is brilliant, and the electronically-locking rear diff controls the 550-plus horses being channelled through it with perfect precision.
But, it’s not a case of just get-in-and-drive. You have to set the car up first. You can alter everything from steering to suspension, as well as engine and gearbox – each with three settings. The M5 is the Starship Enterprise of the automotive world. So, with everything set to Sport-Plus, and the gear changes at their fastest, I set out of the pitlane of the BIC – only to get a message shortly thereafter that informed me that the brake pads were on their last legs, and that I must drive at ‘moderate speeds’ only. At the time, I believe my speed was about 200 – and rising!
And, as you can well imagine, brakes are an important tool to have in a car this fast – and this big. As you can also imagine, this put paid to our attempts to set a representative lap time in the M5. We managed a 2:25.4, versus a 2:22.7 in the C63 AMG the previous month. Now, the C63 has almost 100 horsepower less, but accelerates to 100km/h virtually as quickly as the M5 – in 4.5 seconds. And that’s purely due to its lower weight. As a result, the C63 also feels agile and light on its feet – a feat never quite achieved by the M5. Yes, it responds immediately, has a phenomenal amount of grip, and powers out of a corner like a bat out of hell – all physics defying triumphs of engineering – but it just doesn’t feel as tactile as you’d like because of the underlying mass.
It was only when I got back into the pits for a breather that the M5 really started to make sense. You see, I noticed two buttons on the steering wheel – M1 and M2. Well, they should have said Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – although I fear that may have been hard to fit on the button. You see, a lot of car companies talk about the ‘duality’ of their products – in that they have the ability to serve more than one purpose. For instance, a vehicle can be both an off-roader and a luxury car. And it’s this that the M5 pulls off so well. No, it’s not an off-roader, but it is both a luxury car and a supercar rolled into one. The C63 may have been quicker in this instance, but it’s a much more focused machine. It has a ride that will encourage the rear seat occupants to take you off their Christmas cards list. The M5, on the other hand, will urge them to shower you with gifts – but what do you give a man who has everything (if you have an M5 that is)?
M1 and M2 can be configured using the iDrive screen. In M1, you set everything to balls-out for the track – Mr. Hyde at his destructive best. And, in M2, you set it all to comfort – Dr. Jekyll at his most dignified – for the drive home. Even with the engine set in ‘Efficient,’ the reserves of power are such that there’s simply no indication that there could possibly be more to come.
Oh, but there is. And so what if we didn’t have brakes, because all I had to do was turn the traction control off and enjoy virtually five kilometers of powerslides on every lap – the M5 will light up its rear tyres even in a straight line. And so it was, during this ballet of opposite lock, that I got completely won over by the M5. Is it suited to the track? You bet. Will it require an endless supply of brake pads, tyres, and, most importantly, fuel? I’m afraid so. But, it’s nothing that a big enough bank account can’t handle. So, before you make the mistake of convincing yourself that you absolutely must have an M5 – check your bank balance first. Otherwise, be prepared to learn the hard way that reality bites – life just isn’t the same without an M5!
- BMW M5
Engine: ,395CC / V8 / 32 VALVES / Direc t Injec tion / TwinPower Turbo
Transmission: -SPEED Dual Clutch Transmiss ion / REAR-WHEEL DRIVE
Power: 552BH P @ 6000-7000 RPM
Torque: 680NM @ 1500-5750RPM
Accelerat ion (0-100km/h): 4.4 sec onds
Price: Rs. 98.90 Lakhs (EXSHOWROOM, Delhi)
Lap Time:2:25.4 | Top Speed: 238 (Km/H)