- The 2018 BMW M5 is the latest V8-powered beast to emerge from the horsepower addicts of Bavaria.
- I spent a week putting the BMW M5 through its savage paces – and it scared me. A lot!
- The M5 is a mighty monster of a machine that provides a four-door alternative to some supercars.
Let’s face it, people like to hate on BMW.
This is depressing because for decades, the Bavarian motoring giant has proven again and again that the whole “ultimate driving machine” thing was utterly, totally, completely legit. BMWs are unquestionably among the most thrilling cars a human can drive and have been for ages.
Blame the yuppified 1980s, when BMWs became status-mobiles. Then throw in some aggressive leasing deals that meant every new Hollywood agent or junior law partner could slip into a 3-Series.
Thankfully, BMW’s M Sport performance division doesn’t care about young agents or tyro lawyers and continues to focus on taking cars such as the 2018 5-Series, a perfectly brilliant luxury sedan, and turning them into terrifying beast-machines designed to alter the movement of entire planets.
You think that’s an overstatement. OK, fine, but you didn’t just spend a week driving around in a 2018 BMW M5.
What is this car like? Remember that scene in “Avengers: Infinity War” when Thor arrived in Wakanda via bifrost express and slung his hefty new hammer, Stormbreaker, to devastating effect? BOOM!
The M5 is about 1,000 times more exciting than that. And you can have the same one I did in your driveway for $US130,000.
Yep, that ain’t cheap. But considered in terms of a cost-to-motoring-nirvana ratio, it’s a magnificent bargain. Plus, you don’t have to unleash hell with the M5 every time you start it up. The car can be dialed back to relative calm – calm enough, sort of, for daily commuting. True, you’ll be buying a lot of premium fuel; the M5 gets 15 mpg city/21 highway/17 combined, adding a $US1,000 gas-guzzler tax to the sticker price. But pleasure such as this car delivers cannot be entirely quantified.
Let me go into greater detail about why the 2018 M5 is basically the baddest four-door in our realm:
The 2018 M5! Our test car came in a Marine Bay Blue Metallic paint job and benefitted from a $US4,000 Executive Package, including rear sunshades, wireless-device charging, and a WiFi hotspot.
We checked out the un-M’d 5-Series last year. The 5-Series in now in its seventh generation.
BMW’s M cars always up the burliness factor, design-wise. The normal 5-Series looks stately and executive, while the M5 looks bold and aggressive.
Like all M cars, the M5 seems glued to the pavement, even when standing still.
The solid overall visual dynamics is broken here and there by conservative flourishes, such as the ridges on the hood …
… and the sleek beltline that extends from the front haunches all the way to the tail lights.
The fierce headlights are adaptive LEDs.
Over the decades — the 5-Series debuted in 1972 — the signature BMW kidney grille has evolved to be the integrated, chrome feature that we can now enjoy. The Bavarian-flag badge has changed little.
The sloping, fastback rear glass culminates in a decklid spoiler.
No moonroof — instead, a roof of lightweight carbon fibre.
The sideview mirrors create a surprising amount of aerodynamic drag, something BMW has addressed by creating a channel to shape the airflow closer to the body.
There is M5 badging, with its familiar colour scheme.
Here’s a modest, chromed streak of fun on the M5.
Quad exhaust pipes. The M5’s exhaust note can be adjusted so that it’s either suburbs-friendly or scare-the-neighbours ferocious. Note the integrated diffuser.
To my eye, M5’s have evolved considerably in the front but maintained a consistent, cleanly rendered vibe at the rear.
Pop the powered trunk, and you have a nice, big cargo compartment.
OK, enough aesthetics. Let’s get down to business.
Under the hood we find the 4.4-litre, 600-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 making 553 pound-feet of juicy torque. This is a hulking pole axe of a motor, a masterpiece of menace — a grand mechanism for taking gasoline and transforming it into staggering velocity.
To call it M Power is an understatement. BMW needs a new word for “power.” Maybe something like “M Pulverization.” This thing is just so, so fast.
The M Sport carbon-ceramic brakes are epic. You could run the M5 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with brakes like these.
The Pirelli P Zero rubber also induces enthusiastic driving behaviour.
The shifter is an annoying toggly thing (no more stickshifts and clutches, sadly), but the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is so crisp and capable that you don’t really need to flip on manual mode and use the steering-wheel-mounted paddles to change gears.
Customisation of driving features is considerable. Around three modes — Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus — you can tweak the suspension, throttle and transmission response, and steering to your liking. You can also switch off the traction control and make the default all-wheel-drive M5 into a tail-happy, rear-wheel-drive German muscle car.
To avoid having to fiddle with the modes, you can program two red M paddles on the steering wheel. I made M1 into a no-holds-barred experience: RWD, TC off, everything set to Sport Plus.
M2 chilled matters out somewhat: AWD, TC on, everything on Sport. It’s quite cool to be able to change these setting on the fly, depending on what type of road is in front of you. By the way, you can also customise the head-up display.
Let’s step inside.
An interior of Aragon Brown Merino leather awaits. The seats are abundantly adjustable, and the bolstering can be refined to hug you tight for spirited driving. They are both heated and cooled.
Nothing unexpected from the driver’s perspective when it comes to one of the most ultimate of ultimate driving machines. The cockpit is snug and purposeful.
Analogue gauges, digitally rendered.
A wee bit of M5 badging …
… a heated steering wheel …
… and signature M Sport topstitching.
A useful little compartment to the driver’s left.
The M5, for all its beastliness, is still based on the 5-Series, which can be used as a modest executive limo. So the rear seats, while a bench design, are comfortable and roomy.
The rear cupholders are better than those in front.
Rear passengers get their own climate controls.
And while legroom isn’t commodious, it isn’t skimpy, ether.
The Bowers & Wilkins audio system is luminous. There’s an actual CD/DVD player in the M5, and high-quality sounds are thereby reproduced in shimmering detail. But you also have the usual USB/AUX inputs, as well a Bluetooth pairing and SiriusXM satellite radio.
BMW’s iDrive system runs on a 10.2-inch, high-res central touchscreen than can also be operated using a dial-and-buttons setup between the front seats. The system has been oft-derided over the years, and its new finger-gesture features are iffy, but over the years BMW has perfected it. The system is now among the best and most reliable in the industry, even if the learning curve is still steep.
GPS navigation was faultless in my testing.
And the various other aspects of the interface, once you get used to them, work well.
So what’s the verdict?
Sweet mercy, what a machine!
In the grand automotive scheme of things, BMWs aren’t supposed to be that cool. And then you drive something as exquisitely pugnacious and brilliantly assembled as the M5 and you suddenly don’t much care about cool anymore. You’re too busy lifting your jaw off your lap as you summon another gloriously violent burst of speed and power from that Bavarian battering ram of a motor.
The M5 I tested came with an assortment of driver-assist features, making it a thoroughly modern ride. But I barely used any of them (they all work fine, by the way). What’s the point? The speed and power are shock-and-awe, life-altering, consciousness-warping. Borderline addictive. All I wanted to do was get into the M5 and stab it and steer.
You essentially get three personalities with the M5. The alleged Comfort mode makes for relatively placid cruising, although there’s no shortage of residual stiffness in the suspension, making navigation over potholed and uneven pavement in the urban Northeast rather unfun.
Sport is what it should be, and a selector on the gearshift allows you to engage three degrees of intensity. The M5 will have plenty of controlled pop for most drivers with this aspect of the car’s ego on tap.
Sport Plus unleashes the demon – the large, angry demon, breathing fire and smashing boulders into dust. The car is flatly terrifying in this mode, all id, barely ruled by the electronic husk of the M5’s theoretically German Superego. Go here and you will have opened a portal to another dimension, one where the 0-60mph dash passes in 2.8 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 163 mph (most mortals with thank BMW for the limit).
If you want to know what it’s like to inhabit a realm of naked terror and singular bliss, then take the M5 to this place and hope you return to tell the tale. For what it’s worth, you can come back to reality and stop off at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a week’s worth of groceries, and even adjust the fancy interior ambient lighting along the way. Try that in a Ferrari 488 GTB.
In manual mode, the M5 serves up very punchy shifts. And with a redline at 7,200 rpm, this is one of those cars that you can park in third gear and surf endless waves of torque without stressing the V8. You won’t tap out until you’re well north of the legal speed limit.
The brakes are the best I’ve ever experienced on a production car, almost too good. They grab like the talons of some humongous warbird. In short, they take some practice to avoid stopping the M5 on less than half a dime.
The steering is sharp, although it lacks feel at times when you want it, such as when you hammer the throttle with the AWD disengaged and the M5 hunkers down in back as the rear tires grab and the front wheels rise. If you were on a track and the oversteer kicked in, the steering might have you searching a bit for the right amount of opposite wheelwork.
On regular roads, the bimmer uses raw power to conceal its bulk, forcing the M5 through curves – or more accurately, bludgeoning non-linear byways into submission. If you dive into a corner and feel some heft, you simply add throttle. That’s pretty much the solution to all driving dilemmas with the M5: more oomph.
The M5 effectively renders all criticism of BMW irrelevant, nonsensical, petty, and weak. The car is much more objectively terrifying that the 650-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V; you have to enter Corvette Z06 territory to feel similarly damp with fear. Exhilarations of similar type can be found in the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 with its bonkers V8 and 8,300 rpm redline, but the packaging is wilfully crude by comparison. With the M5, you have what amounts to an executive sedan optimised for Hollywood chase scenes.
I struggle to contain and describe the frail fealty the M5 provokes in me. I’m not a horsepower guy, but such horsepower as the M5 effortlessly and astonishingly delivers makes you revere the concept. If you like a roaring, unholy exhaust note, the M5 will make you bow down before that cacophony.
If the worship of four-doors and euphoric thrust is what you seek, the 2018 BMW M5 has what you’re looking for. Is it worth $US130,000? I feel bad for your soul if you have to ask.
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