A spectacular car not only from its technical specifications, but from a driving enjoyment standpoint.
A new generation of the BMW M5 is almost universally considered exciting. As always, this latest model is the fastest and most capable one yet. Except this time around, things have changed a little bit, and this is where armchair critics begin to scoff at the new M5, calling it softer and less emotional than before. When the 2018 BMW M5 arrived at our office for testing, we remained positive and entered the test with our minds fully open.
So what, you may ask, makes this car so controversial? Well, let’s go back to the mid-2000s and recall the E60 M5 – the one designed by Chris Bangle. That generation of 5-series may have been regarded as an odd duck in the aesthetic department, surely a downgrade from the E39 it replaced, but it was absolutely insane. A V10 lay under the hood pushing over 500 horsepower, the car was exclusively rear-drive and available with a manual transmission. This is the kind of stuff that gets M enthusiasts very excited.
The latest M5 is not rear-wheel-drive, it doesn’t have an available manual transmission, and it definitely doesn’t have a V10. It’s a wholly different car than all of its predecessors, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as good. Like the rest of the automotive landscape, the M5 has had to move with the times. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8, this latest model is unequivocally a rocketship. Output is 600 horsepower at 6,600RPM and 553 lb-ft. at 1,800RPM. A jaunt to 100km/h takes 3.4 seconds according to BMW Canada, and we can almost be sure that this claim is conservative.
This latest super-sedan is right up there as a direct competitor to the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S (reviewed here), and nobody complains about that car being all-wheel-drive and automatic. The slick dual-clutch transmission is gone from the M5, replaced with a specially tuned version of the ZF eight-speed conventional automatic. This is the best auto on the market right now, and also in applications such as the Audi RS7. Will you notice that it’s not a DCT? Probably, but it really doesn’t even matter.
ZF’s eight-speed works in conjunction with an xDrive all-wheel-drive system that stays in 4WD mode unless all assists are turned off. On the plus side, this combination helps the M5’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires stay planted and grip like there’s no tomorrow. Using launch control, the car is able to hook up aggressively and pull off sensational times; our colleagues in the U.S. have seen quarter-mile times under the 11-second mark. There is some turbocharger lag depending on the mode the vehicle is in, but for the most part, the M5 is ready to sprint at any time.
As with any other M vehicle, there are “M1” and “M2” driving modes, which can be set up to the driver’s preferences. Parameters such as engine response, suspension, stability control, steering, and transmission shift calibration can all be altered. In the case of the M5, the only way to force the vehicle to stay in RWD mode is to turn off all stability assists. The “MDM” setting isn’t good enough – this choice is a bit questionable, considering how many buyers will insist on keeping their car in RWD mode as much as possible. With 600 horses under the hood and the sheer response of the M5, the assists-off mode can be stressful.
The new M5 handles incredibly well too, but that’s unsurprising. What did surprise us is the physical steering feedback that has made its way through the electric power steering. It feels far more engaging and less artificial than the last example. The new chassis is stiff, but the dampers do an excellent job of keeping the car planted and agreeable. Things firm up nicely in the corners and it does genuinely feel like an M car needs to. One observation from our end was the steering’s on-center feel being vastly improved over not only every other 5-series (reviewed here), but other M cars as well.
A 76L fuel tank in the M5 should be filled with 93 or 94-octane fuel, but can get by with 91-octane premium in a pinch. We averaged 13.2L/100km over the course of our testing, which isn’t bad by any means. In strictly highway driving, an observed number was 8.7L/100km. This V8 may have a reputation for being thirsty, but paired to the ZF eight-speed, it does a decent job at staying frugal when asked to.
The M5’s cabin is just as luscious as the regular 5-series, without excess anywhere. Our test vehicle was fully loaded with Silverstone Full Merino Leather, which looks and feels as luxurious as it sounds. The iDrive system is still one of the only automotive applications that can support wireless CarPlay, and is very user friendly. One quirk we experienced was that it continued to “forget” my iPhone, requiring a Bluetooth re-pair multiple times over the course of the week.
A unique shifter design and the bright red “M1” and “M2” buttons on the steering wheel are the only huge differentiators of the M5 from its regular 5-series siblings. The Bowers & Wilkins sound system is incredible, and easily one of our favourites currently out there. The cabin is adequately roomy for four, and headroom is plentiful. The carbon-fiber roof means there is no sunroof, which is just fine in a vehicle like this.
Base pricing for the new M5 is $113,300. Our tester had a delightful Sport Exhaust System ($1,500), a Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($4,900), an Advanced Driver Assistance Package ($1,500), and a $6,500 Premium Package. The Premium Pack adds things like Apple CarPlay, Ceramic Controls, front massage and ventilated seats, soft-close doors, a WiFi hotspot, and the slick BMW Display Key. Factor in an extra $4,900 for the Marina Blue Metallic paint and $1,200 for an M Carbon Engine Cover, and you’re at $133,800. It’s not cheap, but a similarly optioned E 63 or RS7 will set you back just as much.
The new M5 is a spectacular car, not only from its technical specifications, but from a driving enjoyment standpoint too. However, it faces a serious challenger in its own lineup, but not a direct rival in any way. BMW’s own M550i (reviewed here) is one of the best new sedans you can buy right now, and it does everything on the street just as well as the M5 at a significantly cheaper price. Yes, the M5 will be better on a track any day of the week, but if you’re like me and have a dedicated track car, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not considering the M550i.
It may be a massive departure from everything the name stands for, but the 2018 BMW M5 is simply ludicrous. This car is mind-blowingly fast, handles well with communicative feedback right to the driver’s fingertips, and remains an absolute missile. It is indeed all-wheel-drive, automatic, and turbocharged, but all that means is that the M5 name has grown up a little bit. It still has its bragging rights, and while it is just a little bit softer than its predecessors, the new car is every bit as good.