Words by : Ben Wong, Photos by : Neo, Jie Yong, Cyber Imp & RandyF
We decided we needed a project car and decided to buy the new BMW M5!
Well we were given one for a day actually. You see, a couple of weeks back the world’s only exclusive BMW M dealership named “Munich Automobiles” contacted us with the idea letting us do a review of the all new F10 M5. We were actually quite amazed they thought it would be a good idea for us to do a review on the new 560 horse power BMW M5. In any other automotive website or blog that might have been an everyday affair.
It kind of surprised me to be honest because we are quite a small little blog that is run by people that rape our daily cars just for fun. That is the purpose of a performance car and the BMW M5 is one of the newest performance cars on the block. When Munich Automobiles decided it would be a good idea to place an M5 in our hands for a day, we actually had no idea how were we actually even going to review this car. Having the power of a 4.4 litre Twin Turbo V8 on tap for a day sounded like fun any way so we agreed to it regardless.
Having not actually done a review before, we began thinking of ways to review this particular car. This is not a paid review and we were not paid in any way by Munich Auto to conduct this review. Therefore this is one review that we could be as honest and conduct it in any way we fancied. All we knew we did not want to do, was to follow the path of all other M5 reviews. Most automotive websites and magazines would without a doubt review this car in a same way. A summary of most M5 reviews will be along the line of it being environmentally friendly and fuel efficient, powerful yet subtle, refined and suitable for business use but yet able to track on the weekends…. Blah blah blah.
If that is information you will be able to get when they hand you car magazines at your hairstylist while getting your hair cut and its what we will not show. We tried to put this review into as much of a local context and as much as possible and in the scenario if you were actually driving or owned the BMW M5. Had Munich given us the permission, we would have handed you the keys to let you experience the car for yourself. Idealistic as that may be, that’s how we would love to conduct this review. I’m also quite sure the insurance companies would hate us had we done that and thus, the best we can do is give you this review.
Basic essentials that you need to know are a 4.4 litre V8 Twin turbo engine producing 560 horsepower, 680 NM or torque, 7 speed dual clutch transmission, launch control, 6 pot front brakes as standard in the M5.
We headed down to Munich Auto and picked up the car, took a copy of the M5 brochure and headed off to begin our test. The M5 defines itself with the slogan “The Untouchable”. That is certainly a bold claim but it seems true as many journalists from around the world has raved at its performance and deem this to be the best M5 yet. Would it be the untouchable on Singapore’s roads? We were certainly going to try our best at disproving that claim
Initial impressions made me feel that the M5 was quite wide. Being used to driving a smaller car, the size difference of the M5 took some getting used to. First few minutes of driving the car was slightly hesitant and cautious as it took a while to get used to the size. It helped that Munich was just beside the expressway and it gave me the chance to get used to the car as quickly as possible. Knowing the car has 560 horsepower on tap at the back of your mind does make you thread gently with throttle control. You would expect the M5 to lunge forward each time you make minimal adjustments to the throttle but the car doesn’t do what you expect it to. In fact it is quite civilized and lacks the beastly feeling you would have expected from an M.
Despite being meant to be a sports sedan, the car’s interior oozes refinement and does not hint at anything sports apart from the M badge and the 330 km/h top speed on the speedometer.
Seating is surprisingly ergonomic and comfortable. Case in point, I am used to sitting in a bucket seats for my daily driver and those provides maximum back support. I am extremely sensitive to seats and majority of regular seats in most cars will cause me to suffer from backaches even after an hour of driving. Driving the M5 for a day though gave me no problems. It provided equal support to a bucket seat without the tightness of a bucket seat. We were told the BMW M5 costs about $490,000 SGD. That is almost half a million and you would expect it to scream “super car” in every part of your mind. Sitting in the M5 though just felt very comfortable. It was a luxury cruiser. Nothing seems that untouchable about this M…. yet.
Thinking about how to review this car led us to Tuas. An area with many factories and offices. The thought of an owner of one of these factories might be driving one of these popped into mind. Certainly sporty and fast enough to have a lot of fun travelling to work and unleashing those horses on the empty back roads of Tuas but refined enough to pick up his clients from the airport. Seemed like the ideal place to test the M5!
After about 10 minutes of driving the M5, it mentally felt like the Goliath has shrunk to a David as the M5 gradually grew on me. It was time to unleash the claimed untouchable. On the expressway towards Tuas I put my foot down to the floor in comfort mode without utilizing the paddle shifters. A little baby prod back into the seat as revs and speed climbed. The car’s chunky body made us feel like we were barreling down the road in a 560 horsepower propelled roller coaster. The car felt heavy but speed was climbing at quite an impressive rate. Unknowingly, that little stint with the throttle already let us surpass the legal speed limit. It felt so stable that we never thought to glance at the speedometer.
If you were ever stopped in an M5 by the traffic police, there would be no other answer then “I honestly had no idea” when he asks “Do you know how fast you were going”. This car should come with an “Escape speeding ticket” voucher. We were quite certain the M5 would be a joy to drive up to Malaysia in with its 7 DCT speed gear box. It would eat up the kilometers easily and gear ratio makes cruising at 220km/h a breeze. It also would be quite tough for the Malaysian Evo X highway patrol to keep up with.
Then you have two buttons that symbolizes war of the worlds. The Madness 1 and Madness 2 buttons. These buttons starts the war between what you mentally want to do and what the traffic regulations depict you can do. M1 and M2 buttons are setting configuration buttons that allow you to preset the suspension, engine and steering response. You get to choose between comfort, sports and sports plus. These settings makes all the difference between highway cruiser and an unleashed highway beast. In sports mode the response of the car is significantly different.
Put the pedal to the floor and you get your head Mike Tyson punched back into the seat once the gear drops and revs start from 5,000rpm. In comfort mode the M5 begins revving from slightly lower down in the Rpm and power does not kick in as brutally as when M1 or M2 is selected. Power did not kick in immediately despite the dual clutch gear box. It was prepared to shift up, certainly did not feel like it was prepared to shift down. It took a split second for the car to react to having the throttle down full but what is loses in response time, it makes up for with sheer brute acceleration.
In contrast to what we expected at Tuas, the roads were not at all empty. They were infested with trucks and lorries and more often then not, occupied all the lanes that made it hard for us to push this car to the limit. Ironically, this actually became quite an ideal testing grounds for this car. The road condition from constant abuse by heavy vehicles made it extremely uneven. It didn’t help that the roads were patched back after road works unevenly, similar to much of the roads in Singapore with the never ending road works. Certainly the car might be untouchable on the tracks where it was tested. The question was, would it be equally untouchable on street conditions like this?
We kept the traction control on in all 3 modes, comfort, M1 and M2 following the advise from the staff at Munich Auto. We were still tempted to go Top Gear on the M5 and test its full ability (side ways and all ways) but traffic conditions and traffic regulations did not allow it. God we need a local track so badly. We did however take the opportunity to rocket the car off the lights when we had brief moments of empty roads ahead regardless of road surface. We actually found the instructions for engaging launch control within the car’s directory but there were so many warnings of component wear and many other long winded instructions that made fear putting it to use. This wasn’t even our car! So if the M5 you were driving was yours, these warnings will certainly more then deter you from ever using that function in the car’s life span. For us, it was more about not breaking the car the very first time Munich decided to loan one to us.
With 560 horsepower and all settings pushed to sports, the acceleration was sharp and instant from first gear when the lights turned green. Both sports and sports plus alike, the uneven roads limited its ability to accelerate and the traction control was flashing as much as the strobe lights at a rave party. The traction control was definitely earning its keep in keeping the M5 on a straight path rocketing down that several hundred meters before we were blocked by trucks taking up all the lanes yet again and I had to slam on the brakes to slow the car down. I was quite certain in those road conditions had we turned the traction control off, we might have ended up sharing paint with one of the heavy vehicles.
Power wise was more then sufficient. Even with the rear 295 width Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, the power of the M5 made it difficult for the traction control to cope on uneven road surfaces. The reported time around the nurburgring was a 7.55 which also matched the timing of the Ferrari 430. This car was seemingly beginning to explain why BMW has called it untouchable.
Yet, it was built to be quick yet subtle. Quick it was but it definitely was not subtle. If only we could photograph the number of stares we attracted being stuck in heavy traffic all around Tuas. To give you an idea of the traffic conditions, it took us 20 minutes to cross 3 streets to meet the comparison car we had arranged. The M badges surrounded in chrome on the fender and plastered all around the car made people wonder if it was indeed an M.
One can only imagine that seeing those massive blue brakes confirmed their suspicions. The brakes on initial tap from high speeds felt insufficient, as though the weight of the car was just too much for the brakes to handle. Jam on the brake pedal slightly harder and the brakes surprises you by kicking in hard. It shifted much of my hair from the back of my head into becoming a mustache. Certainly a good thing to have when this car can cruise at very high speeds quite comfortably.
During our little delay in traffic, it gave us the opportunity to test the BMW M5 in daily use as well. I’m sure you are all familiar with the highway traffic jams around 6pm every weekday. That is what any businessman that owns a factory in Tuas will face. Stop-start use of the M5 was surprisingly comfortable. It was not in any way jerky unlike what we had expected and it eased forward slowly with the clearly audible V8 rumble coming through the speakers of the car. You did not read that wrongly. BMW cheated in their way of constantly reminded you that you are driving an M5 by having a specific exhaust note come through the speakers of the car. That is actually genius as this allows them to have great sound proofing on the car to cut out road noise but allow you to hear what you bought an M5 for. That eargasmic V8 rumble regardless of traffic conditions.
It actually made me tap on the accelerator much harder just to listen to that idling rumble it made with each inch forward. Great for the senses but poor for fuel consumption.
Trips to the petrol station was definitely not fun with its massive 80 litre tank and the cheapest fuel prices at 2.181 per litre after discount for 98Ron. We can only assume if you could afford a car worth half a million, fuel prices should not be high up in your list of priorities for a car. We waited around for a friend to arrive in a car we were planning to use as comparison for the M5.
We could compare this BMW to a Mercedes or an Audi, but we decided to try something a little different. Why not compare a sports sedan to yet another sedan within the same price range that is supposed to symbolize even greater interior comforts and even has the same engine.
We decided to compare the M5 to the BMW 750i. It hosted a similar 4.4 litre V8 twin Turbo engine albeit slightly lower horsepower. It also costs about $480,000 SGD including add in options like M adjustable seats and many other extras. This particular BMW 750i we had already had an exhaust system and ECU reflash to improve engine performance.
When you compare the 7 series and the M5 difference is immediately significant. The 750’s suspension felt like a sponge and was extremely bouncy in comfort mode. The M5 felt much stiffer even in comfort mode. Naturally the M5 had a stiffer chasis since this car was developed on the a race track but it was not bone-jarringly stiff. It was designed by the German engineers to be stiff enough for the car to handle well despite being in only comfort mode.
To explain this difference simply, picture this scenario. If you wanted to get romantic in the car with your lover/Fling/Mistress/wife and not get caught, the M5 would be the car to be in. The 7 series quite visibly wobbled from left to right quite a lot with the slightest movement within the car. It shows in driving handling as 7 series feels like it rides on a cushion of air while the M5 hangs on to the roads like a roller coaster to its rails. In terms of the sense of security, the M5 felt impossible to unsettle given the harshest kind of abuse even over uneven surfaces. We put both cars in the position that we could… Lets not use the word race but instead, compare acceleration abilities. The 7 series left the lights first due to driver error in the M5 and was pulling quite a big lead until the M5 hit 3rd gear. It reeled the 7 series in and it reeled it in fast.
We struggled to think of ways to put the M5 through as many real world tests as possible in order to give you a good idea how this car performs in every day duties. We even resorted to trying out its parking abilities. Unlike super cars which will cost about a similar price range, parking would pose as a problem and there will be a lingering fear of scratching your rear bumper on a kerb. The M5 provided super car performance but the daily driving ability of any normal car. Parking clearance was more then sufficient and you never had to worry about having your bumper or exhaust scrape the kerb.
Next we wondered what else were we needed to put the BMW M5 through in order to show you its abilities. So we focused on what might an M5 owner do on a daily basis.
I’m sure you have seen “The Transporter”. Jason Statham is always in one of those executive saloons that handle well to maneuver the narrow streets and yet has enough power to out run pursuers? Power and handling wise has been well justified. So what about boot space to shove the sexy Shu Qi into?
Certainly looks like there’s enough space to shove at least two Shu Qi’s into that massive boot with room to spare. Perhaps for extra rope to tie her up when she tries to escape.
Then brings the question. Who spends half a million on a car and wants it to be subtle? From a businessman’s point of view, it is true that he cannot be too flashy in what he drives and attract excessive attention. The image portrayed to the customers has to be different in most cases. That is why many businessmen require cars like this to sneak around under the radar. Spending that much on a car however will definitely leave you wishing to leave a slight hint of what you paid for. Hence the car is plastered in M badges and it is unlikely you will ever see a debadged M5. Even being relatively low key, the two massive BMWs certainly attracted some unwanted attention when we stopped at the west coast carpark for a short break.
We had a “modified” Mazda 3 decide to slow down beside us and rev non stop until he parked his car two rows ahead. Not quite sure what he had to prove but right there and then, we got our evidence that the M5 was discreet but definitely not unnoticed.
So what would you have felt if you were driving the M5? The M5 system is great unlike what Top Gear has said about the old M5. It is not a pain in the ass to setup. This M5 has been simplified and pre-programming the M1 and M2 buttons is a two minute task and only has to be set once. Interior is extremely ergonomic and the seats are supportive enough without being restrictive. Much like how an expensive bra works on women, men get our support from BMW M seats.
It handles like it is on rails and power shoves you back tightly into the seat surpassing expectations from that not-so-flashy exterior. Everyday use of the car is AMAZING. Imagine the most comfortable normal sedan you have ever been in and picture that with 560hp horsepower on tap. It is that versatility in its driving ability that allowed it to outshine the BMW 750i, the car that was essentially similar to the M5 and yet very different in so many ways. It is also no wonder that so many journalists have called this version of the M5 the best sedan currently available.
Our time with the car came to an end as the sun set. Ultimately the BMW M5 is indeed a great car. It is versatile, well rounded and with enough power to keep you on your toes and yet, backed with the technology to allow you to handle that power well without having to be on your toes. Driving in traffic jams was smooth and the DCT gear box shifted up and down with minimal or almost no jerkiness to cause motion sickness in traffic jams.
Yet, something felt like it was missing from the BMW M5. In all likelihood it is purely my personal opinion but I enjoy cars with a bit of character. There has to be a fun factor in a certain part of my car that will make me miss driving my cars after I have been away for a long while. The M5 lacked that soul in the car, perhaps due to its level of refinement. No doubt it is a fantastic car. My vocabulary fail me in trying to put across how great this car handles and performs in all aspects of a day of driving it. It was build by a bunch of German engineers that developed it on a track. It was scientifically engineered to be quick on the track yet adaptable to daily usage. In a sense it is actually a race car build for the road. All this scientific mambo jambo however causes the lack of presence of a car’s soul. Even the sound you hear resonating from those exhausts have been engineered specifically to emerge from the speakers within the car.
If you are the type of guy that will buy a car purely based on the figures that car can produce and all the marvelous groundbreaking technology they can shove into a car to make it amazing, you can look no further for an all rounded car.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the M5. In fact I struggled to look for a flaw within the M5 to disprove that untouchable claim. The best I could come up with was the front seats were too high and restricted the view of passengers behind. If I had that kind of money to spend on just ONE car for every day use including ferrying the family around, the M5 would be without a doubt the car I would buy. The M5 was such an amazing drive but the car was so well engineered and refined and quick but it lacked that little sense of emotional connection I generally like to have with the cars I drive. But that’s just probably me because the sales of the M5 have been quite amazing based on the number of M5’s we have seen going in and out of Munich Auto. Testament that it is indeed quite untouchable as the BMW engineers have claimed.
We returned the car at the end of the day to a very shy looking salesman. We then asked if we could stick our noses around to capture anything that might catch our interest. They actually let us go wild in what ever we wanted to do, even granting us access to the level 3 workshop that is normally not open to public. They also had a mint condition M1 and old M3 out. Coincidentally the origins of the M5 stemmed from putting an M1 engine into a 5 series and thus, the birth of the very first M5. I shall leave you with the remaining pictures of our snooping around the entire Munich Auto compounds, in what we like to call “Mmmmm…. Heaven”.
Much thanks to Munich Automobiles being crazy enough to loan us the M5 and for being hospitable in letting us stick our noses into every where we requested.
Also to our readers, if you have anything more you would like to see if we do future reviews, do post a comment in the section below or on our Facebook page.