They say, “good things come to those who wait.” It’s the simplest proverb in the English language eulogizing the virtue of patience. And, it’s exactly what connoisseurs of high-performance Bravarian sports sedans have to endure before moving to the ownership stage. Is it because “M” is the most powerful letter in the alphabet, or that it equates to the lethal performance division of BMW? Is a two-year wait worth its weight in gold? Maybe so, but then there are those who care less about context and logic and more about experience and reason. In other words, drop the subjective theories and pass the keys please!
“All I want to do is drive an M5,” is a very popular philosophy, almost cult-like. Whether it’s the latest fifth generation model, with multitudes of new technological features and mechanical innovations, or the iconic M5 (E28) from 1984 with 286 horsepower, the fascination over the capabilities of M Brand vehicles has always automatically identified them as mavericks of the industry. For starters, the basic premise of BMW 5 Series models already begins with a performance orientation that allows gentlemen and ladies alike to experience not only the executive aptitude, but sporty personas of the German sedan. Once these qualities have been engineered into the M5, a bevy of illustrious transformations take place quelling the insatiable desires of any potential or current M owner.
I wasn’t much of a fan of the fourth generation M5 (E60), with it’s naturally aspirated V10, which was produced from 2004 to 2010 and saw 20,500 units accelerate off the showroom floors. The physique of that “5” was a bit too square and bulky and the trunk sat too high and appeared detached from the rest of the body. Its proportions simply felt out of place. However, the third generation E39 from 1998 to 2003 was an all-time favorite. Additionally, it was the first implementation of a V8 into the performance nomenclature.
Magically, BMW presented all five generations of the M5 in the beautiful and enchanting land of southern Spain where we were invited to face the modern M5 at Ascari Race Resort, named after infamous Ferrari F1 driver Alberto Ascari. Located in Ronda, the circuit is Spain’s longest at 5,425 meters – it’s also the most prestigious. There’s even a pool inside the club quarters where we enjoyed lunch after six intense laps. Ascari features 13 left and 13 right turns, along with a dose of exciting camber changes and slopes. This is where the M5’s greatest potential and attributes shine most. And though it’s noticeably heavier than the outgoing model, the powerful sedan’s perennial defense is through corners, bends and chicanes. Its mechanics allow for high stress on any of its systems from the suspension to the transmission.
Today’s 5 Series — which we at Automotive Rhythms revere — is a slighter rendition of the 7 Series with its lengthier hood, graceful profile and dynamic stance. Wrap around tail lamps are now integrated into the deck lid so the design ethos becomes more fluidic. Since October of 2010, BMW has seen sales of 340,000 units, making them a global segment leader. Yet, there’s no reason for Bavarian Motor Works to rest on their laurels. The company’s new 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine will make its way into the 520i and 528i, welcoming the dawn of EfficientDynamics!
While driving down an isolated Spanish road in route to Ronda, a wagon positioned five cars ahead is slowing traffic down. The lane opened up for passing and I hit it, but backing off from full throttle, since only a tap of the pedal is needed to catapult the M5 ahead of the line in mere seconds. Maybe we can blame it on the engine’s 502 lb-ft of torque available from 1,500 rpm. This represents a 30% torque increase over the prior model, while yielding a 30% decrease in fuel consumption. BMW also enlarged the fuel tank to optimize range, while borrowing Auto Start/Stop from the current M3. An innovative M TwinPower 4.4-liter V8 with Twin-Turbocharging (first turbo application for the M5) generates 560 horsepower between 6,000 to 7,000 rpm, helping to accelerate the M5 from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and reach a 190 mph top speed with the M Driver’s Package. The 7-speed M-Double Clutch (M-DCT) Drivelogic transmission (also from the M3) was chosen over an 8-speed to handle the M5’s heavy torque loads. The M-DCT enjoys two overdrives – 6th and 7th gear, which helps reduce fuel consumption. Keep in mind, concentrated discussions over the implementation of a second generation V-10 were terminated by the future direction the company is embarking upon with regard to adequate fuel efficiency for its entire fleet. Yes, it’s tough, since many see a drop in engine size as non-macho with exhaust notes that are not as throaty. Yet the pros outweigh the cons 5 to 1 in this case.
For high-speed stability and agility — especially out of corners — an Active M Differential was engineered into the new rear axle. The system measures throttle position, yaw rate and wheel speeds to ensure traction stabilization. Special co-branded M and Brembo 6-piston calipers with cross-drilled discs slow down 19” rims wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sports (295/35/19 rear 265/40/10 front). A 20” wheel is optional. Those grippy tires work best after initiating the vehicle’s Launch Control feature, which is not as easy to do as it is on the AWD X5 M. Onlookers will instantaneously notice your M5 by way of their hallmark blue M calipers. With all M5s, whether you choose any of the three base colors (Blue, Black, Grey) or the ten hues from the 5 Series, you will inherit blue brakes.
Step inside the all-new M5, and typical M features are presented including: M Seats; M Steering Wheel with M Shift Paddles; M Head-Up display; M Drive; and an M Instrument Cluster. The iDrive remains exactly as is on the 5 Series, with a 10.2” display and the multifaceted ConnectedDrive. Our vehicle didn’t have a sunroof, but the option is available. Perhaps the most engaging technology is the set of M1 and M2 buttons – each allows the driver to program the vehicle’s engine dynamics, suspension (damper control) and power steering (Servotronic) into Sport Plus, Sport or Comfort settings by way of three inputs on the left of the M Shifter. Below the shifter is the Drivelogic meter for adjusting the gearbox speed/shift points. Essentially, M1 can be programmed for efficiency by setting all systems in “Comfort” and M2 can be input for extreme sportiness and agility by setting all systems in “Sport Plus.”
So, what will happen to the letter M since BMW is heading towards sustainability; especially with the announcement of the “i” all-electric brand? Both represent opposite ends of the company’s polarity. For example, X5 M and X6 M SUVs have taken them into new territory. The M5 is an iconic success story for BMW and their claim of leadership is clearly maintained. From a deep root in motorsports to a an emotional connection with their fans — fans that have purchased 12,000 M vehicles this year and 120,000 M Sport Package — BMW M currently has no foreseeable obstacles. As virtue would have it, tap into the art of patience, as the new M5 will not arrive in the US until August of 2012. Until then, keep dreaming.