BMW M5 Review & Road Test
If Skynet was to make a car, the BMW M5 would be it.
- 2009 BMW M5; 5.0-litre V10; 7-speed; sedan - $241,816
- by Alborz Fallah with George Skentzos
George: So there I was, late night in a German car park, Alborz was attempting to speak German to the BMW's computer, hoping it would turn the heater on before we both froze to death and I was fondling the dashboard of the BMW M5. I didn't quite know why, I hadn't found a pulse by this stage; all I knew was that for me, the dashboard was a make-or-break factor. The M5 passed, there's the first box ticked.
Before I had even laid eyes on the M5, BMW had already set the tone. This wasn't just any car park; it was the expanse of asphalt surrounding the dedicated BMW Press and VIP Pick-up facility in Munchen, better known as Munich to you or me (but apparently not the sat nav).
It was quite an unassuming and somewhat secretive-looking building from the outside - square, grey, dimly lit and nary a window in sight. We had all assumed it was a building better suited to the German secret police (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz).
At 3am we thought the doors would've been locked hours ago, but we were assured there would be a guard on duty to hand us the keys, perhaps this made us VIPs?
Alborz: Sure enough, a lone guard sat at the concierge desk, which occupied the centre of a vastly oversized and otherwise empty foyer. From what we could tell he was updating his Facebook status as we walked in. He greeted us in German, I responded with the very few German words that I had learnt, Ich heiße Alborz Fallah. He smiled and started speaking English. I need to work on my German.
We signed a few forms, briefly discussed killer Kangaroos and drop bears and were then given the keys to the M5. He pointed to a very ordinary looking grey service door in the corner of the room which I would have otherwise dismissed as the obligatory emergency exit.
We were to find the M5 on our own, and I'm not exactly known for my ability to navigate in a foreign landscape. Walking through the door we were confronted with a darkened hallway. There was a moment of pause as I looked at George and wondered if this was a trap. As we stumbled forward looking for a light switch, the floor beneath our feet became illuminated, each panel in front of us in succession.
George: The floor seemed to know exactly where we were going with each door opening automatically on approach. I couldn't help but hum the theme song to Get Smart as we made our way through the maze of anonymous corridors toward the M5.
That was our introduction. It was like we had stumbled into a world far beyond our pay grade - or security clearance for that matter - and it completely embodied all that the M5 stood for. As the door to the M5 garage opened, I almost expected a little bit of smoke and Q to come out and give us a run down. Alas, it was the M5 by itself with an almost evil look to it. We were instantly hypnotised.
In any other country the M5 would need to rely on bragging rights alone, but in Germany that V10 engine had no muzzle to contend with on the de-restricted stretches of the autobahn and with the sunrise only hours away, it was ours for the taking.
We got inside and carefully drove out, slowly crawling towards the garage door, which we were told would open for us automatically. It didn't. After a few minutes our German guard came and let us out.
Alborz: No speed limits and a BMW M5, it must be Christmas. The first aggressive flick of the right ankle yielded a surprisingly uninspiring result. Perhaps it was that I was already coasting along at 160km/h or perhaps I had overestimated the brutality of Germany's finest sports tourer.
Apparently it was neither.
In its most placid mode - as it modestly arrived from BMW - the M5 minds its manners to keep its occupants in uninterrupted comfort, not bothering to disturb them with so much as a downshift, instead relying on endless torque to point the needle higher.
However, a quick jab of the understated M button transforms the luxury sedan into a far more focussed machine, with a very noticeable 74kW more for good measure.
Contrary to popular belief, though I doubt many would spend time pondering the topic, the M button is actually a shortcut of sorts that allows the driver to quickly access their own definition of fast.
Navigate to the M screen through the car's iDrive system and the consequences of the M button can be modified to suit the courage of the driver, in this case full power but with a touch of DSC.
Point the nose to the horizon then bury the right foot and the M5 simply obeys with relentless pace, a constant pulsating surge as it makes its way through the seven gears toward its maximum velocity.
This is no pseudo-supercar. It is obvious the M5 has a reputation in Germany with the abundance of Porsche drivers on the road not daring to make eye contact, preferring to keep to their own ignorant bliss.
To give you an idea of just how quick this car is, at one stage we came across a brand new turbocharged V8 Porsche Panamera being driven by a Porsche test driver on the autobahn.
To defend BMW's honour we couldn't let the Porsche get away, at about 230km/h we were pulling away slowly, only when we hit 275km/h, the M5's speed limiter denied us certain victory.
George: There were two reasons we had brought the M5 along during our whirlwind Full Throttle 2 tour of Europe. One, because we all loved the idea travelling 350 kilometres in less than two hours and also because it was a perfect performance benchmark.
While lining the M5 up beside a supercharged, all-wheel-drive ABT tuned Audi R8 at an abandoned rifle range in Germany, one of us finally said what we were all thinking; "What if the M5 wins?”. Such was our confidence in this bipolar saloon.
Our expectations were certainly not unfounded, easily matching the all-paw Audi R8 off the line despite having two passengers on-board along with camera equipment, largely thanks to that flawless 373kW, V10 engine under the bonnet.
Though flawless may seem like too strong of a word, it is no coincidence that two of the headlining cars on the Full Throttle 2 trip shared the same bloodline as the M5, with the Wiesmann MF5 and Veritas RSIII boasting an engine from both the current and previous generation M5s.
These fledgling car makers have both staked their reputation based solely on the capabilities of these factory-tuned engines, and why wouldn’t they, with the BMW V10 voted 'Engine of the Year', 'Best New Engine', 'Best Performance Engine' and 'Best Engine in Excess of 4.0-litres'.
Alborz: Unfortunately the same kind words can’t be written for the seven-speed SMG transmission, which seems unwilling to behave at the best of times during low-speed driving.
We tried pretty much every setting possible to try and get the M5 to behave and change gears smoothly at low speeds. Despite our best efforts it lurched with every gearshift which I suspect is a substitute for comfort, especially at the lowest setting where the transmission hunts for the highest gear as quickly as possible.
Not that I'm complaining because if you're buying an M5, having the gearbox in slow-mode should be illegal. At its fastest setting the once lethargic gearshifts become far more intuitive to the point where paddles are merely an entertaining distraction, although I'll stop short of labelling it as rapid.
George: At this point it would be standard to work in a few comments about the plush interior, super comfortable front and rear seats and how the side bolsters have a habit of clutching at your sides, but that would be a bit like visiting Las Vegas and then only telling people about the all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet and how the elevator music was playing your favourite song.
The fact is the M5 in its natural habitat is a force to be reckoned with, and it seems like the entire time we spent with the car was in relentless pursuit of what should have been far superior machines on Germany’s autobahns – although the M5 took every performance challenge in its stride.
None more so than at the iconic Nurburgring where it has been enlisted into 'Ring Taxi duties, Sabine Schmidt at the helm, and people paying good money to be flung around the circuit in pure comfort, time and time again.
Alborz: CouldI live with an M5 in Australia? That's a hard question, it would be best asking if Queensland Police were willing to give me a 48 point licence. You can, of course, drive it sedately and be content with having the power when need be.
In that sense you can define the M5 as the ultimate "sleeper". However to have such power and no where to use it, would be depressing.
Do you remember the advertising campaign Ford made about the Territory turbo, where the car goes around eating supercars for breakfast?
Well they should've made that ad for the M5. If Skynet was to make a car, the M5 would be it.
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