Posted on 29 April 2014 by Chris
By Dan Scanlan
Thirty years ago, BMW came up with a plan – embed a sports car in the skin of a family sedan.
The result was a 3,500-lb M5 sedan with a then-amazing 256-hp inline six where about 180-hp normally lived, resulting in a still-fast 0-60 mph sprint in way under 7 seconds.
Fast forward to 2012, when the fifth generation M5 was introduced with 560-hp twin-turbo V-8 replacing a 5-liter V-10. Sixty mph comes up in 4.2 seconds, while four can still ride in a car that has the sound and feel of a 2-seater.
Not enough? Here in Monte Carlo Blue Metallic, hunkered down a bit lower than its sibling, is a version pumping out 575-hp through the rear wheels thanks to a $7,300 Competition Package.
· M5 muscle – BMW says the regular M5’s 4.4-liter V-8 and its dual turbochargers have about 10 percent more power than the last-gen V-10, 30 percent more torque and 25 percent better fuel economy. The twin-scroll turbochargers nestle inside the V-8’s cylinder banks, one working low in the rpm and the other higher so boost is there across the board.
The Competition Package sees the turbos’ boost pressure raised and a modified exhaust installed for an added 15-hp and a wonderful engine snarl when all 4.4-liters are used lustily. As such, we got 3.9 seconds to 60 mph when the drivetrain is set in “Sport Plus.” That lessens traction control and quickens throttle input and shift points, with a lightning-quick 7.2 second run to 100-mph and wheelspin in the first-second shift. The exhaust note was a glorious snarl under thrust and a delicious crackle-pop on auto-blip downshifts.
The 7-speed double clutch transmission gets three shift programs, ranging from efficient gear selection for best fuel mileage to one delaying shifts until higher in the rev range. There’s Launch Control function, with so many steps to setting up launch control that it took a few minutes to set up. Then it didn’t work.
The M5 gets four wheel independent suspension with new forged aluminum suspension components, coil springs with firmer calibration and stiffer anti-sway bars that lower the car by 10 millimeters. We could customize the driving experience via buttons next to the gear shift to change the power steering feel, drivetrain response and suspension setting via electronically controlled shock absorbers.
“Comfort” makes steering effort is direct and a bit higher in assist, just right for daily use. The suspension was comfortable and poised but not floaty, good for commuting with friends. With the drivetrain in “Efficient” to keep the engine loafing in a higher gear, passing relied on torque vs. a downshift. Still quick, it netted us an indicated 17-mpg, aided when we switched on the engine shutoff at stop lights.
Tap “Sport” and the suspension firms up, comfortable and tighter in bump control but still forgiving. The same setting for steering firms up its feel. “Sport” drivetrain mode quickened throttle response so gearshifts occurred in the meat of the torque. This was my favorite when I drove myself, especially with the sticky rubber.
“Sport +” further stiffens the suspension so it reacts very quickly to bumps, a bit choppy in rebound. It lessens stability intervention for some tail out action in turns – immensely fun. Shifts come hammer-blow quick. But the “Sport” steering setting loads it up so much you need muscle to use it – too much. It doesn’t hurt that the M-specific steering wheel has a thick rim with red and blue stitching and two nicely placed and long paddle shifters behind it. You can pre-program two steering wheel buttons to deliver a mix of these settings immediately. Traction control can be fully disengaged by holding the traction control button for more than 5 seconds, the result burning rubber into second gear with a delicious exhaust snarl and turbo sound. That and M Dynamic Mode allow you to lessen stability control to let the tail work on a race track.
Select “sport” all-round and our 5,800-mile-old M5 becomes a very tossable and fun 4-door sports car. Steering feel is precise as we tackled tight turns with almost no body roll, the rubber gripping beautifully. The car stays neutral and flat in a decreasing radius exit ramp and can be powered out at the end with no drama. Push hard out of a tight turn and the rear rubber does want to power oversteer, but it grips as traction control quickly helps. The M5 is a tossable sedan with sports coupe manners and great grip, and very secure for high speed cruising, although you feel its size. And during a wet weekend, we found a hair too much throttle in “Sport” setting resulted in a downshift and wheelspin at highway speed, a minute side-step of the tail caught quick. What also helped wet or dry was the optional carbon-ceramic 16.1-inch front/15.6-inches rear disc brakes with huge heat resistance, a great pedal feel and immediate stopping power. Even stops from 100-mph were smooth, short and with minimal nose dive.
· BMW body – All that power and ability has to wear something special, although it’s actually a bit subtle, with muscle discretely showing here and there.
The twin kidney grill is part of a blunt nose, the hood’s power design lines converging on it with slim vertical black slats. The wide lower central mouth is part of BMW M’s design language, flanked by deep side air intakes with air-channeling flaps in the lower edges. Yes, there are LED light rings on the four Adaptive Xenon headlights for that distinctive BMW look, with a white LED eyebrow that adds to the glaring gaze. And there’s the almost-trademark chrome fender vent with LED accent light and black mesh inside, the body side’s upper design line spearing the door handles. The taillights get concentric curved LED strips. In back, a diffuser in the lower bumper channels air flow, with quad exhaust pipes and a slim spoiler on the trunk. Finally, flared muscular wheel arches neatly frame the ComPack’s 20-inch forged wheels with five slim double-spoked alloy wheels with gloss gray accents. They offer a clear look at the huge cross-drilled carbon ceramic brakes with gold calipers. The car rides on low profile Michelins Pilot SuperSports wider in back.
· M5 living – BMW’s sweeping and clean design continues once you slip into the heavily bolstered sport seats with 14-way power adjustments including seat bottom massage, heating and cooling. The padded black dash top flows into a gentle cowl bulge hosting clean white-on-black gauges – trip computer display on the bottom of the 200-mph speedo and the sport/comfort display for the drivetrain, steering and suspension settings at the bottom of the 8,000-rpm tach.
High dash center is a 10.2-inch display for the navigation, phone, powerful harmon-kardon AM-FM-CD-SiriusXM stereo, all controlled off the iDrive controller on the center console just to the right of the gearshift. An alloy knob can be twisted, nudged or tapped to access a screen menu for audio, multimedia, telephone, navigation, car settings, even the on-board owner’s manual. The knob top is a touch screen allowing the driver to trace numbers of letters to write an address, access a phone number or just adjust the bass or treble. It works well. But voice command is easier. The iDrive also handled the head-up display.
The sweeping leather-clad center console has a 12-volt outlet in the locking center armrest console with USB and MP3 audio inputs. Overhead, a large moonroof. In back, room for two with no trouble. The trunk is wide and flat with lots of room.
Other touches – an alloy M driver’s footrest, textured alloy accents across the dash and a black suede headliner that everyone loved to touch. The car had lane departure warning, forward collision warning, city collision mitigation that automatically brakes above 37 mph, and pedestrian protection for slower speeds.
· M money – All this comes at a cost – $90,900 for the base BMW M5 and $117,075 for our test car with the $9,250 carbon ceramic brakes and $7,3000 Competition Package (w/20-inch wheel/tire combo) the biggest pieces. Another $5,500 adds the executive package with power rear sunshade, ventilated front seats with massage, head-up display, power trunk lid, heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seats. Add $1,900 for the blind spot detection, side and surround-view cameras and the safety systems, plus destination and gas guzzler fees.
· Bottom line – Here’s a 4-passenger luxury sedan that is almost as fast as a Corvette, has a lot of luxury and technology, and yet can feel like a genteel touring car if you toggle in “Comfort.” It is an aggressive car cloaked in a sleekly muscular body that can unleash its fangs when exercised, but doesn’t shout it by its looks – too much.
2014 BMW M5 Competition Package specifications
Vehicle type – 4-door, 5-passenger midsize sports sedan
Base price – $90,900 (as tested: $117,075)
Engine type – aluminum DOHC, 32-valve twin-turbocharged V-8
Displacement – 4.4 liters
Horsepower (net) – 575 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) – 500 @ 1,500 – 6,000 rpm
Transmission – 7-speed dual-clutch automatic w/paddle shifters
Wheelbase – 116.7 inches
Overall length 193.5 inches
Overall width – 74.4 inches
Height – 57 inches
Front headroom – 40.5 inches
Front legroom – 41.4 inches
Rear headroom – 38.3 inches
Rear legroom – 36.1 inches
Cargo capacity – 13.7 cu. ft.
Curb weight – 4,390 lbs.
Fuel capacity – 18.4 gallons
Mileage rating – 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway
Last word – An uber-sedan with muscles and grace