BMW M5

Take the ultimate performance saloon, and then add even more power, and you get the new BMW M5.

Motors test-drove the M5 exclusively in France recently, and the 560bhp V8-powered car blew us away. The outgoing 10-cylinder M5 was a massive favourite of ours, but the recipe has been seasoned and the taste is now divine.

The engine is now greener, but with two less cylinders BMW has still managed to increase power by a full supermini in terms of bhp (+57bhp) and the torque figure of 680nm (+180nm) is just astonishing. Torque is the pulling power of the car or its core strength. In other words, the new M5 has Supercar performance.

Outside, M5 is subtle and understated, especially in grey. Of course, the standard 19" alloys and four exhaust pipes give a big clue that this is a capable motor, but in no way is M5 a vulgar display of power.

Inside, well, it's a 5 Series with five seats and a few extra toys like the essential HUD (head up display) that allows you keep your eyes on the road while being aware of the enthusiastic speed the car is effortlessly travelling at. The front seats are superb; they are high backed and offer good side support – again necessary in a performance car.

Day one of our test took us into the hills and mountains around Pau in France. The rear-wheel drive car, while a technological tour de force, is easy to set up. The last M5 had the option of programming just one steering wheel-mounted 'M' button - the new M5 has two!

You can programme the buttons to electronically vary the levels of gear change speed, steering performance, engine mapping (to change power outputs) and suspension settings plus traction/stability control settings. These setting are displayed on the dash dials and can be adjusted on the go too, using buttons mounted near the auto box gear selector. Of course, there are paddle shifters on the steering column for the full-on driving experience.

The joyous thing with M5 is that you can drive like a granny on her way to bingo without either M button selected. Day to day, M5 can feel like an effortless 530 and can potter around without ripping up the road - provoke M5 and you can alter time!

I programmed 'M1' with all the settings to 'Sport'. This lets the back step out a little bit under acceleration on the twisty bits but then guides you back on track without any drama - apart from the warp speed acceleration!

I set up 'M2' with 'Sport+' across everything. Sport+ dials things up a bit, including the glorious engine note. The 'snorts, burbles and parps' that come out of the exhaust are tingling and make the hairs on your neck stand up – anyone with a pulse will love this car!

On the racetrack on day two we got the chance to hockey the M5 legally. On a damp-but-drying track M1 was perfect while M2 made me pay that bit more attention to my failings as a race driver. Turn off the driving aids as I did for a few bends and you can drift effortlessly on a wave of power (being wasted) through the rear tyres. Bliss.

€133,000 is a huge amount of cash, but the new M5 is simply a huge amount of car. M5 is a fantastic, outrageously complete car that delivers pure joy to the driver... did I say I LOVE THIS CAR?!

Michael Sheridan


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