The BMW M5 is a mad car, an aggressive cat on the roads and a complete hooligan on the track
The venue was Madras Motor Sports Club and the climate was bloody hot. Tucked away in the air-conditioned lounge were a bunch of auto journalists who had come to experience the all new BMW X5 M and X6 M, knowing little that they would get to drive all the other cars from the M stable as well. Were we excited? Hell, yes! The race track at Madras isn’t as long as the Buddh International Circuit. In fact, there are hardly any long straights where one can touch high speeds but the track does have a lot of curves, corners, parabolas and other similar shapes of geometry that a rear-wheel-drive BMW would only love to tackle.
So here I was, in the sweltering heat, waiting in the pit lane of the Madras race track. In the earlier part of the day, I unleashed the M3 and M4 and now it was time to experience the M5, X5 M and X6 M. The M5 was something that I was really looking forward to. Two things – the BMW 5-Series has always been one of my favourite cars and of course the first car that I drove after joining MotorBeam two years back was also a 5-Series. Now, I knew what a regular 5-Series diesel drives like, but did I know how does a 5-Series with a beast of an engine, an after-market exhaust and more importantly an M badge, performs on a race track? Well…
So here we have, the 2015 BMW M5 in a very eye-catching shade of blue and with some M racing stripes waiting with its door open, in the pit lane. The open door was an invitation to come and drive it, an invitation no one in their right minds would ever refuse. The 2015 M5 has some small cosmetic changes over the previous version. Under the hood is a 4.4-litre TwinPower turbo V8 petrol engine that pumps out 560 horses and 680 Nm of twist. The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and the saloon accelerates from standstill to 100 km/hr in just 4.3 seconds. With the optional Competition Package, the vehicle is quicker by another 0.1 second to the ton.
Sit inside the M5 and you realise that it is a bit different than a bread and butter 5-Series. There are few carbon fibre bits as compared to the M3 and M4 and the M-Sport steering wheel finished in Alcantara has a very rich feel to it. All the controls are within easy reach of the driver and the ergonomics are pretty much sorted. The vehicle comes with a full colour HUD that displays the usual important information like speed on the windscreen. However, this HUD is a bit too big and does cause some distraction. Also on offer are features like BMW Night Vision with Pedestrian Recognition and Acute Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Approach Control Warning, Park Assistant, Park Distance Control and Active Protection.
The M5 offers comfort when you ask for it and transforms into a beast once you give it the beans
Since this is a track experience, let us talk more about the driving feel. The TwinPower engine is cranked to life and it settles down after giving out a eargasmic burble. The engine responds very quickly to throttle inputs and lunges ahead at the earliest opportunity. I drove around the track for the first lap in D mode with all the other settings set to Comfort. Believe me, the M5 feels so tame in Comfort mode that you actually feel that you’re driving just a regular 5-er. After getting a hang of the car for the first lap, I then shifted the transmission to S to use the paddle shifters and changed the suspension, steering and damper settings to Sport since the Sport+ mode would make the car too bouncy.
The steering weighs up once your speeds starts increasing and the wheel offers brilliant feedback. As expected from a BMW, the M5 also has very sharp handling characteristics and the vehicle encourages you to push it further. Taking corners at even high speeds doesn’t make it look like a scary proposition and the car feels well planted throughout. The M5 always maintains its composure and the DSC makes sure the car doesn’t wag its tail out unnecessarily. Even if the car does start sliding, the traction control kicks in almost immediately and controls the vehicle.
With the DSC switched off, you can be sure that the M5 will transform into one mad hooligan and will start going sideways at every possible opportunity. We experienced this when one of the instructors took us for a taxi lap in the same M5 and the way he was drifting in the car with utmost ease. I repeat what I said in the X5 M and X6 M driving experience article, the best way to have fun with this car is to drive in MDM mode. Press that little M1 button on the steering and you’re all set.
Braking performance is again excellent in the BMW M5. It comes with a standard high-performance compound braking system and stopping power is brilliant. However, the brakes do tend to heat up and fade after driving around on the track. After driving for 4-5 laps, you’d realise that the pedal throw has become longer while the stopping power has remained constant and uncompromised. Ceramic brakes are offered as optional. The gear shifts are also pretty smooth in D mode, while in S mode you do get a jerk when shifting cogs. The V8 engine has a loud sound when you give the car the beans, but while driving it sedately, it doesn’t produce even the slightest of sound and the cabin remains very quiet.
Since I drove the M3 and M4 just before the M5, some comparisons are bound to be made. First up, the M3 and M4 have very stiff seats which are a size smaller than the ones on the M5. The seats of the M5 are bigger and softer, allowing your body to move a bit more than you would like while driving on a track. The cabin and the overall size of the M3 and M4 is also much smaller than that of the M5 making them that much more chuckable on the track while the 5 takes some time getting used to due to its long length.
All in all, the BMW M5 is a great all-rounder and ticks all the boxes if you want a car that can be used as a daily driver on weekdays and a pure fun machine on weekends. The M5 is already quite popular in India and we see a lot of them plying on our roads. At a price of Rs. 1.30 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi) which makes it only marginally pricier than the M3 and M4, we feel that the M5 is a much better deal than its younger siblings. The BMW M5 competes with cars like the Mercedes E63 AMG, Jaguar XFR and Porsche Panamera, all of which are available in India.