- Excellent performance
- Handles like a smaller car
- Gorgeous interior
- Exterior looks are a bit boxy
- Engine note sounds too synthetic
- Very expensive
It is hard to believe that the latest BMW M5 has already been on the market for four years. How time flies when you’re having fun.
And, if you’re already lucky enough to own one, then you’re driving about in what’s been consistently regarded as the big daddy of the super saloon. Porsche may have its Panamera Turbo, Audi has its RS6, and Mercedes-Benz has its AMG E63. But none of them is a BMW M5.
Nevertheless, even BMW must’ve felt it was a bit tame. The standard 599PS car was withdrawn following its recent mid-life face-lift, leaving the more performance-focused 625PS ‘Competition’ variant as the base model.
But now it’s added an even more hardcore version, the CS. Power is upped to 635PS, and performance is further improved by adding carbon fibre body panels and other lighter materials. This shaves around 70kg off the Competition’s weight.
Being an M-car, there are no trims to choose from as such. Both Competition and CS variants feature a 4.4-litre V8 engine. Although, in a move which may annoy purists, it’s a bi-turbo and the first M5 to feature four-wheel drive.
On The Road
With a 0-62mph time of just 3.3-seconds (3.0-seconds in the CS), it's no surprise that the BMW M5 is absolutely lightning quick off the line. The engine roars pleasingly, but it’s not quite as burbly as its rivals. Then, before you know it, you are in the next postcode.
The power keeps coming, as well, but its rapidity is not limited to a standing start. Getting from 50 to 70mph feel like the click of a finger. And (on a track) 100mph is dealt with before you can react, while there’s no noticeable decrease in the rate of acceleration until you’re clear of 120mph.
The M5 is electronically limited to 155mph, but when its speed limit is as de-restricted as an Autobahn’s, it’ll top out at 190mph (192mph in the CS).
The CS has a bit of extra grunt lower down the revs, and the engine feels more responsive to presses of the accelerator pedal. But anyone settling for the Competition won’t feel like they’ve lost out.
It is a shame it doesn’t quite hit the magical 200mph (the old V10 version did a couple of generations ago), but I won't be complaining. I do want to nit-pick about the synthetic way the exhaust note is delivered, though. The sound of an M5 really shouldn't need to be fed to you via the speakers.
Nobody buys or leases a BMW M5 for comfort. And while the M5 is by no means uncomfortable, its ride is on the firm side, and the Competition version feels stiffer than its rivals.
Ironically, while the CS is meant to be the more performance-focused version (it’s 7mm lower to the ground after all), it’s more comfortable because the suspension springs are more adaptable. It also features dampers from the M8 Gran Coupe and adjusted anti-roll bars.
This means that, when driving the latter, you’ll have that slightest bit more confidence to test its limits.
But even the Competition handles superbly well. It feels agile, well-planted and has minimal body roll for a big saloon.
Of course, it’s still a large motor, so expect plenty of oversteer on exit from a bend if you floor it (especially if you turn off the four-wheel drive, which can quickly be done via the settings). But this is a car whose handling belies its size, which sets it apart from its challengers.
The CS is a notch better, so it’s the one to go for if you can spare the extra cash. But you won’t feel disappointed if you have to settle for the Competition.
BMW's styling has often been controversial, and the M5 is no exception. Based on the standard 5-Series, which often looked awkwardly right-angled, the M5 has a more aggressive front end which it doesn’t wear as gracefully as the pre-2018 edition.
Nevertheless, two large air intakes on either side of a meaty lower grille help create an athletic look.
The CS’s mouth is even wider, which improves things. But we agreed in the office that this 5-Series doesn't lend itself to the 'M5 look' in the same way its predecessors have.
The side is straight, with lines through the middle of the door handle. Then you get sweeping fenders behind the front wheel arch and a sizeable side skirt at the bottom.
At the rear, there's the unmistakable quad exhaust, with two tailpipes sitting on each side and a diffuser in the middle. This is shaped into the bodywork, and it’s even more prominent on the CS.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
The M5 interior is inviting and luxurious, although it's not a massive departure from the standard 5-Series.
The steering wheel is still on the large side, and I’d rather it was flat-bottomed. Nevertheless, it looks nice and comes wrapped in Alcantara in the CS.
The 12.3-inch infotainment screen sprouts out of the middle of the dashboard like a tablet and includes BMW’s brilliant iDrive system.
BMW has changed the menus, too. So, setting up the engine, steering and suspension is now done from the same place (before they were separated), making things easier.
Thankfully, many functions are controlled via physical buttons rather than a touchscreen. That said, BMW’s control dial is excellent for using the screen while on the move.
Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is on hand, too, while DAB radio and Satnav are included as standard.
But, annoyingly, for a six-figure car, adaptive cruise control is not. For context, you get that as standard on an entry-level Honda Jazz.
Space & Practicality
The front seats are wide and accommodating. However, in the CS, they're lower bucket seats, which makes them a bit trickier to get out of.
In the CS, the bucket seats aren’t limited to the front – they’re also featured in the back, where they aren’t as comfy. Another thing to note is that the CS has no rear middle seat, so it’s only a four-seater, whereas the Competition is a five-seater.
The same is true in terms of storage space, as in the CS (unlike the Competition), there's no cubby in the centre console.
The M5’s boot isn’t the most generous as it's a bit oddly shaped rather than neatly rectangular. But it’s still spacious enough for 530-litres of luggage.
This expands to 1,700-litres with the rear seats folded down in the Competition. However, in the CS, you can’t fold them down at all.
The boot doesn’t open or close by itself, either.
Well, it’s not cheap.
It is in the second-highest road tax bracket, which means your first-year costs £2,365, while you’ll also have to fork out £520 for each of the following four years.
On top of that, expect to pay well into the hundreds of pounds for servicing, depending on what needs doing. However, a complete set of brake discs and pads will set you back around a whopping £2,000.
Fuel economy figures are in the vicinity of 25mpg - if you're careful. So expect mid-to-high teens if you're driving the Bimmer around town a lot. But where’s the fun in that?
Quality & Reliability
The M5 certainly feels solidly built and well-designed.
BMW's once-formidable reputation for reliability isn’t what it used to be, though. And many of the Far Eastern manufacturers have long since overtaken the German automaker.
However, BMW isn't at the bottom of the list by any stretch of the imagination, and you'll get a three-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Outside of that, though, expect hefty repair costs if things go wrong.
Safety & Security
Given the BMW M5 costs north of a hundred grand, it won’t surprise you to learn that Euro NCAP hasn’t crashed one in the name of science.
It did, however, test the standard 5-Series – and that rating is valid for the M5, given it’s based on the same car.
It earned a five-star rating, scoring 91% for adult occupants and 85% for children, but only 59% for safety assists. However, since this rating was awarded, BMW has added to the safety tech.
You get lane keep assist, lane change assist and a 360-degree camera. Meanwhile, optional extras can be added, which include making automatic lane changes, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert. Parking Assistant Plus can also automatically reverse the BMW into a parking space.
The BMW M5 is up against some stiff competition. But, especially with the new CS, I think it’s still the king of the super saloons.
It is practical, comfortable, goes like hell and is a joy to drive in the bends.
On the downside, I’d rather have a flat-bottomed steering wheel; I wish the engine note wasn’t fed through the speakers (as this makes it sound fake), and I hope the next generation 5-Series lends its looks to the M5 better than this one has.
In addition, the lack of central storage space and a missing rear seat in the CS limits its suitability for families. So, if you want more practicality, the Competition is the one to go for. But the Mercedes-AMG E63 is better still.
Overall though, in terms of blending handling, performance and overall drivability, the M5 takes some beating.