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Somewhere in the unwritten rulebook of high-performance sedans there must be a note that says that ultimate performance must be teamed with ultimate luxury in order to create the perfect machine.
You know the drill. Something north of 400kW needs a twice-stitched, soft-leather dashboard and all the smoothness of a Morgan Freeman monologue.
Considering though the BMW M5 helped define that modern sports-sedan rulebook, it should then be allowed to bend the rules every now and then.
The 2016 BMW M5 Pure has all the muscle and hustle befitting its tri-colour M-Badge, while being closer in specification to a 520d on the inside.
There is no stitched dashboard, quad-zone climate control, soft-closed door mechanism or Alcantara headliner. Forget the TV tuner and standard sunroof, too: the M5 Pure is a back-to-basics road weapon and all the better for it.
The Pure is the car we have secretly all wished for, offering aspirational enthusiast performance without the stigma that comes with simply being chosen for being ‘the top of the range’.
We’ve all seen it; top-line AMG, RS and M models, with scuffed rims, trolling parking spots at boutique shopping centres. Their athletic prowess ignored for the tactile feeling of premium materials and abundant equipment.
A sweeping generalisation? Sure – but this is why the $185,000 M5 Pure makes solid sense. It allows buyers to choose the performance car rather than the luxury car, while still allowing space in the showroom line-up for the $230,900 ‘hamburger-with-the-lot’ full-tilt M5 at the top of the tree.
Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t a 412kW black-bumpered taxi. The M5 Pure may miss out on some of the finer things in life, but its still a hell of a nice place to be.
The ‘oyster’ Merino leather sports seats and carbon-fibre trim pieces give the requisite sensation of premium sportiness, and while there is no Alcantara, the dark roof liner still seals the deal of an up-market cabin.
You still get the M-View head-up display, DAB digital radio and surround-view camera. Plus, the BMW Individual colour of ‘Frozen Blue’ matte paintwork is included in the package – ensuring you still turn heads when popping to the shops.
In fact, I had a solid stream of people from all walks of life comment on the paint. I think the car even made it on to Melbourne Car Spotters Instagram feed when I was at the butcher in Hawksburn - #spotted.
It might be the ‘diet’ version, but this M5 is still every part the benchmark aspirational car that has made the badge so famous over the past 30 years.
Wide, low and undeniably tough, the Pure looks every part the autobahn menace it should be. The passers-by seemingly unaware it doesn’t have a TV tuner…
I might be poking fun, but in all seriousness, this M5 isn't a car for everyone.
Let us be very clear. While the Pure makes entry point just that little bit more attainable, you need to want the M5 to enjoy the M5. As the ‘M-ness’ of the car is what is both its saboteur and saviour.
Buyers looking for a sporty yet refined and luxurious mode of transport would be better suited to the 535i, as around town the standard BMW-Steptronic eight-speed transmission is a substantially more liveable device than the M5’s DCT dual-clutch.
At low speeds, the clunky movement from forwards to backwards is frustratingly jerky and selection is not a 100-percent accurate proposition.
Picture a greying, somewhat padded, 40-year-old dad pulling up at school for morning drop-off in a bright, satin blue muscle sedan. Quad pipes thumping, turbos whistling, he moves to casually parallel park the Teutonic masterpiece, only to miss-select reverse gear because of some complex German word for ‘synchronized’ and embarrassingly rev the car in neutral while rolling down the hill.
Yeah. I’d hate to be that guy…
The adjustable M-modes too, something that might as well be on 'full-M' all the time because, well, this is an M5, don’t really love commuting in traffic. Surely this is a car more suited to a racetrack?
A hyper-sensitive throttle, simulated V8 engine noise through the speakers, the heavy Sport+ steering, and an on-test fuel consumption average of 24.2L/100km all seem in direct conflict with what you really need of car on your everyday run to the supermarket. You just can't use it.
Leave everything in the comfort setting and you still get the frustrating gearbox and high-ish fuel consumption, but now this is paired with a car that simply doesn't thrill you. It begs the question – why oh why would you choose an M5, unless you choose to drive an M5?
And by drive, I mean really drive.
It’s a wince-free shot of Jack Daniels when others choose a pleasant cup of tea. Whistles, growls, thunks and whirrs – the car a definition of onomatopoeia.
Every journey has purpose, knowing that when Malvern Road makes way for a mountain pass, that 412kW/680Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 will be let off the leash and remind you why you have always yearned for this car.
Now that seven-speed DCT is a marvel. The shifts are fast and brutal, regardless of whether you are building or washing off speed. Even the rainbow tachometer projected in the windscreen seems to make more sense now, as you need not take your hands from the wheel or eyes from the road to keep powering on.
Those 11kW that went missing with the deletion of the Competition Pack seem utterly irrelevant as the blue meanie eats up country backroads as fast as you can feed it. Dial back the suspension setting for a slightly more compliant ride over poor-quality roads, and there is an unnerving sense of surety from the wide (265mm front/295mm rear) tyres.
With its tri-colour stitching, and aluminium paddle shifters, the M-Sport wheel is a delight to hold, and the car is balanced and as well behaved as you want it to be. Yes it is big, and yes it can wallow a bit, and yes the fake exhaust is anything but pure...but it is still a great big, blue bag of fun, especially for what is fundamentally a sensible five-seat sedan.
Judicious use of the throttle will see the orange MDM dynamic light alert you to the approaching shenanigans limit, but there is no need to try to eke every last inch from the BMW. As for most, it is good to know there is more car there should you need it, or be able to handle it.
From curve to straight, through dips and crests, out here, with no traffic, no shopping, and no immediate reason to stop and turn back, the M5 Pure is indeed that – pure.
It’s a car that needs to be driven to be understood. A car that is seemly wasted as a range-topping luxury taxi, it is here as the 'affordable' super sedan where the M5 again finds its right place in the world.
The 2016 BMW M5 Pure positions the mighty saloon back, closer to the goal of the original E28, making it once again, all killer and no filler.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward.