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Motoring: Zipping along in the BMW M5

Credit: BMW

A look inside the BMW M5, a car that meshes luxury with power.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 26th, 2012

If you're looking for an everyday luxury sedan that offers you all the gadgets in the world, a BMW 5 Series is a good place to start. The current generation 5 Series (also known as F10) has been around for two years now, and has proven to be a very accomplished and wellrounded vehicle. The number of these I see on the road clearly indicates that the buying public has warmed up nicely to this model.

However, those who want a 5 Series with more power have always lusted after the M5 version. In the past, the M5 was the fastest, most powerful version of the 5 Series, and they always had a tweaked normally aspirated motor.

While the new M5 remains the fastest and most powerful version of the current 5 Series, its engine is very different from anything BMW has stuck in the M5's engine bay before. Open the hood and you'll find a 4.4-litre V8 that features two twin-scroll turbo chargers. The end result is power, and lots of it. How much power, you ask? How does 560 hp and 500 lb/ft of torque sound to you?

Trust me, the power numbers feel as good as they sound, because this is one explosively quick car. Zero to 100 km/h is gone in just 4.4 seconds, zero to 200 km/h is dealt with in just 13 seconds, and if you keep your foot buried a little longer, it will head-butt its speed limiter at 250 km/h (remove the limiter and it'll be much faster).

As good as the performance numbers are, what really impresses me is that this new M5 is (according to BMW) 30 per cent more fuel-efficient than its V10 powered predecessor. Considering I averaged just 12.3 litres/100 km in my week, in reality I think it is 50 per cent more efficient than the car it replaces.

I think the big reason why the new car is so efficient is because the new turbo-charged engine is smaller and when not being pushed is not working hard to push you down the road. When speed is demanded, the twin-scroll turbos show no lag and spin up quickly to hurl you down the road. Its new gearbox will also help with its fuel economy.

The old M5 used a seven-speed, single-clutch manumatic gearbox, which was clunky and jerky to use. The new M5 also has seven gears, but now features a double-clutch transmission, which is not only a lot smoother but also shifts much faster. Shifting is still either done automatically or via steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters.

I have driven many cars with double-clutch gearboxes, some good (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X SST), some not so good (Porsche 911 PDK), but I have found none that were better than the one found in the new M5 (same transmission is also featured in the new M6).

As a high-performance luxury missile, the new M5 is hard to beat.

But what about the handling? Is it still the king of twisty roads?

My answer has to be yes and no. While there is no such thing as a poor-handling BMW (and trust me, the handling limits of the new M5 are far beyond what a normal person can handle), the new model doesn't feel as nimble as some of its older variants.

I put the blame on its weight. The new M5 has a curb weight of 1,990 kg, which, no matter how you look at it, is a lot. That is going to affect its ability to swap direction, because while it has a superb chassis, excellent suspension geometry and big fat tires (265/35 ZR20 in front, 295/30 ZR20 in rear), the laws of physics will always win.

So while it can handle twisty roads, it is happier when you show it a clear, straight stretch of tarmac and release the turbos. Trust me, this car can get you in a lot of trouble with the law in a very short time.

When you are not igniting the turbos, the M5 is like any other 5 Series, which is a wonderful family car that rides comfortable and just makes you feel good. No matter how far you have to go, the M5 just melts the kilometres away. It is truly a wonderful grand tourer, as it should be since this car has a base price of $101,500 (my very well equipped tester was listed at $115,500).

Also, like all 5 Series sedans, I wish it had more leg room for rear seat passengers, and I wish the drivetrain produced more mechanical symphony.

The 5 Series I have always liked is the one that has a chassis taken from the larger 7 Series. I'm talking about the 5 Series GT. It's not the prettiest car on the road, but it is practical, comfortable, spacious and loaded with technology. Now if only BMW comes out with an M5 GT, I think it would be the most ideal car in the world.
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