Reviewing a legend such as the M5 is a mix of trepidation and unadulterated joy. Over the years it has changed, been modified, had a new frock and generally fiddled with – but it is, was, and remains the fastest super saloon car on sale today.
The first M5 model was hand-built in 1985 on the E28 535i chassis with a modified engine from the famous M1 that made it the fastest production sedan at the time. M5 models have been produced for every generation of the 5-Series since 1985. Between 1992-1995 and 2006-2010, you could also buy the M5 as an estate that rivalled Audi’s barnstorming winner, the RS6 Avant, the finest estate car on planet earth.
Aficionados will tell you (until your ears bleed) that the new version is not a patch on the ‘famous’ one - the E60 M5 (2004-2010), which was the world’s first production car to use a 5.0-litre V10 engine and was hugely fast. In fact, and these are not words that fall easily from my lips – it was too fast. It was a monster to drive, constantly wanting to rip your face off, and reach its top speed of 205mph (unrestricted) in every sleepy village you entered. It was great fun but possibly a little too much for the average driver. Hence, the new version, which is calmer but actually faster!
It’s worth remembering that BMW did briefly give us another M5 option, though. The full-fat 626bhp M5 CS was the most powerful M car ever built when it arrived in Spring 2021 and, although it wasn’t a limited edition, BMW only ever planned to build it for 12 months. The UK is only allowed one variant but not too much to complain about as it’s the M5 Competition.
One engine choice – the brutish 4.4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 kicking out 616 bhp and 553 lb ft of torque. It will haul this two-tonne four-door family saloon to 62 mph in 3.3 seconds. As standard, it will hit 155 mph or, with the M package, 190 mph. Pay the extra £19,000 for the ‘Ultimate Pack’ and you get carbon ceramic brakes, a carbon engine cover, heated and massaging seats, a larger stereo and digital televisions in the back.
Today’s cars are complex, to say the least, and BMW has cornered the market in so much tech, it leaves you dazed and confused. The M5 retains the xDrive four-wheel-drive system but if you want to be naughty, you can switch it off and leave it in rear-wheel-drive only. If you have any respect for your tyres, and your wallet, you will not do this very often.
After all these startling stats, it’s worth remembering that this is a four-door family car. It has superb road manners, is composed and calm if you wish, and will pootle around the shops and get the kids from school – and most people will be none the wiser about what you have under the hood. Back in the day, these cars were called ‘sleepers’; stock cars that looked average but had some thumping great V8 under the bonnet that would leave a smidgeon of shock and awe at the traffic lights.
Inside, it’s typically Germanic - screwed together so well there’s not a squeak anywhere to be found; superb materials and a huge 12.3in screen to control it all. The screen can be touched or you can use the iDrive scrolling wheel to access. There is lots of space, front and back, and the front seats keep you locked in place for those physics-defying corners so well that you just want to keep testing those limits. Believe me, you will run out of courage long before the M5 runs out of talent.
So where’s the competition? Obviously, the Mercedes AMG E63 has to be mentioned here and it is seriously close. However, the Merc is too noisy and a tad loutish (but so much fun). Then there’s the Audi RS7 Sportback – fabulous but not the best looking Audi out there.
Do l think the BMW M5 is the best super-saloon out there? I’ll leave you with one answer. l just bought one!