The BMW M5 is one of those cars with a fierce fan following. Since the internet declared the E39 “seminal”, everything M does is wrong. V10? Wrong. SMG? Wrong (okay, it sort of was, but stay with me). Turbo? Wrong. Cardinal sin, in fact. M-DCT? Completely wrong. It seemed the only thing fans didn’t cry foul over was the fact it had a differential of some sort. And always had the right number of wheels.
Here’s the real deal – every M5 has been demonstrably better than the one before. The E39 was good but the E60 V10 was better. The F10 had the twin-turbo V8 that is now the core of BMW’s larger-car M line-up and was better than the E60. Objectively speaking.
Now, I’m not pretending the E60 or F10 didn’t have flaws. The E60 had an expensive habit of exploding bearings and SMG pump failures. It was a hard drinker, getting no better than 20L/100km when driven gently.
The F10 was fast but a bit serious and didn’t sound very good, even with that spectacular V8 twin-turbo.
The G90 has that double-huffer V8 and adds two new things to yet again ruin the M5 – all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s going to suck hard, obviously.
Look and Feel
As is tradition, the M5 is a low-key looker. You can’t expect to sell a lot of executive sedans if you make them wild and wacky looking. They won’t get sign-off from the board and neither from a largely conservative customer base. The only ever-so-slightly adventurous M5 was the E60, but by the standards of Bangle BMW, it was fairly strait-laced.
It’s elegant. It’s classy. And it’s not all that interesting. You can tell it’s an M5 by the subtle badging, M badges here and there, big wheel and tyre package and the blade on the front quarter panels. I think it’s handsome but it would be nice if it was a bit more fun to look at.
The cabin, like the X3’s, is one of the last of the line for a design stretching way back into the mid-2000s. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just generic BMW, sized up and down depending on the car. It does feature the new M-shifter (the old teardrop one was a bit horrible) and the aluminium trim looks the business. If you get wood in an M5, I’m not sure if we could be friends.
The front seats, though, are brilliant to look at and even better to sit in.
As with the previous car, the G20’s power unit is the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 codenamed S63B44T4. As you can guess from the name, it’s an evolution of the decade-old N63. The earlier S63B44T0 was in the F10 M5.
It’s a brilliant engine. Torquey from low down and with little lag, it revs madly and loves chasing the 7200rpm redline. In the basic M5 it delivers 441kW (600PS) and 750Nm. Although it’s probably unlikely the power figure is accurate. A few people have thrown an F90 on the dyno and found 460kW (625PS) at the wheels. Which means the flywheel figure is probably closer to 515kW (700PS). That’s a truckload of grunt and BMW says it arrives at 5600rpm and hangs around until 6700rpm.
Which explains two things. First, the torque figure is likely higher than quoted which led M to the ZF eight-speed auto. That box cheerfully manages 900Nm-plus in the Audi SQ7. I reckon the M-DCT is pretty much dead now, given how good it is compared to the M-DCT.
It also explains the move to all-wheel drive. Sticking with rear-wheel drive is to run down a dead-end. Not technologically – obviously – but to make this a mild-mannered road car that could cope with the rigours of the streets, snowy Alpine passes and whatever else owners could throw at it while also sprinting to 100km/h in a claimed 3.2 seconds (Car and Driver extracted 2.8 seconds), all-wheel drive had to happen.
But. M engineers are rock apes with PhDs. So there’s a button you can press to turn off the front wheels. Uh-huh.
The B44T4 update to the S63 includes beefed-up cooling (including a separate oil cooler), higher injection pressure, new turbos and a lighter, louder exhaust.
It also has a lithium-ion battery in the boot. True story.
You get your drive in three modes – 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD. This bit sort of belongs in the Driveline section, but you change it via the usual M button.
4WD and 4WD Sport are largely self-explanatory. The standard, default mode is for everyday and if you share the car with someone who isn’t into tyre-shredding shenanigans. 4WD Sport makes things a little more fun.
Actually, a lot more fun. While the old M5 was a bit buttoned-down (until you turned off DSC, then woah, Nelly), the M5 in 4WD Sport is a hoot. This mode lets you get a bit wriggly and a bit silly and really enjoy yourself a bit.
Drop into 2WD mode and you realise M’s return to having a sense of humour is complete. I’ve said this a fair bit over the last couple of years – the M4 CS and M2 Competition are delightfully silly. The M2 was the first car in a while where I remember thinking, “This feels like the last fun M cars, the E60 M5 and the E92 M3 coupe.” That’s how dull my inner-monologue is.
Front suspension comes courtesy of double wishbones and the rear is a five-link setup. Variable dampers are obviously standard and hooked up to the drive select modes – ECO PRO (ha!), Comfort, Sport and Sport +.
The brakes are giant, with drilled discs and six piston floating calipers up front and single piston floating calipers at the rear.
Here’s some bad news – the M5 weighs 1855kg. That’s pretty heavy, I think you’ll agree.
You’ve probably twigged that the headline was a bit of clickbait. This car is brilliant. Pootling about, anyone can drive it. It’s simple, straightforward and feels like a specced-up 530i, just with a bit of a hair trigger throttle. The reason it weighs two tonnes with you and a friend on board is because it’s full of stuff.
The F90 is plenty of fun around town, too. ECO PRO is the usual softly-softly mess but if you flatten the throttle, all of the power arrives and will sling you into traffic. The front wheels don’t feel at all connected to the driveline and that is superb. Torque steer is horrible and saps confidence.
You could own this car and never shift out of Comfort/4WD. It’s still colossally capable. It has a massive a boot and will take a family comfortably. On the way to school it will inhale hatchbacks, dodge idiots in their SUVs and trucks and you’ll do it in impressive, imperious comfort.
Light the fuse with Sport or Sport + though, and you get the grinning loon in the video above.
It hasn’t gone wrong. The BMW M5 is the most complete car ever made.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.