Disappointment with the M5 as it has evolved over the years is not an uncommon thing among lovers of performance cars. Many of those who swore by the early generations of this midsize sedan tell me that BMW has kind of mucked with the recipe by replacing several of the ingredients that had made it so delicious to begin with.
Chief among these were the naturally aspirated V8, the manual gearbox and the rear-wheel-drive system. Love, it seems, doesn’t last forever…
Our first drive review of the 2018 BMW M5
As the M5 has been transformed over the generations, the feeling of disappointment has somewhat dissipated. Many have simply made their peace with the fact that change was and is inevitable.
For a woman like me who’s interested in the new generation of automobiles, the 2018 M5 is built to please. Between this surprisingly versatile sedan and me, there was an instant spark. It is the most interesting luxury midsize sedans I’ve had the opportunity to drive up to now, thanks to the exhilarating display of power it can put on, its extraordinary handling, its wide range of technologies… and even its versatility.
Yes that’s right – versatility. And that’S because, with the settings configured a certain way, the M5 can be the most comfortable, pleasant-to-drive and civilized sedan in its class. The drive it offers is as smooth and comfortable as you could hope for, the sound insulation is exceptional, and you have all the trappings of a true high-end car. Of course, even before you get in it, you’re welcomed by the M5 logos that light up on the Recaro bucket seats when you unlock your M5 – love it!
The 2019 M5 is, however, as capable of the worst as it is of the best! On the one hand it delivers extreme sensations with its reworked 600-hp twin-turbo V8, more lightweight exhaust system and some other adjustments designed to enhance performance. Those 600 horses are accompanied by 553 lb-ft of torque, to give you an idea.
I would have liked to test it with a manual gearbox, but the performance-calibrated 8-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel) does yeoman work all the same.
Frankly the car drives wonderfully, even with all-wheel drive. The addition of this equipment elicited a lot of gnashing of teeth among BMW purists, but the automaker has managed to bring it into play in ingenious fashion. By which I mean, the car drives like a rear-wheel drive, just with better traction! What’s not to like!
In normal driving the M5 continues in fact to be propelled largely by the back wheels; the front wheels get power only when the rear ones start to lose grip. Unless you switch to rear-wheel-drive mode, in which case best make sure you have a firm grip on the wheel! That AWD system by the way gives the car a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of just 3.4 seconds (more than a second faster than the previous model. For 2019, the M5 gains 40 hp and loses a few kg of weight thanks to a new carbon roof – though the gain is neutralized by the addition of four-wheel drive.
Like a lamb…
In daily use, in normal on-road driving situations, set the drive modes and suspension system a certain way and the M5 is remarkably poised and quiet, behaving like a polite, well-raised luxury car.
… and a wolf
On the track, the BMW M5 is a ground-to-ground missile, and actually requires a good amount of technique to master. Once mastered, though, it is a joy to drive around a circuit.
This car is well-suited to those weekend warriors who don’t want to have to lock it up in the garage during the week.
It’s possible to pre-configure the car in for the desired on-road behaviour (transmission, gas pedal, steering, exhaust, etc.), and access those configurations using two red buttons on the steering wheel (two different configurations can be pre-set).
I treated myself to a personalized full-on sport setting with all the safety systems deactivated and the RWD system engaged! And for purposes of comparison, I went to the other extreme with the second configuration. Switching back and forth between the settings proved a great way to see how the car’s comportment changed. It was also really satisfying to choose the setting to fit my mood in the moment! I can tell you that, when looking at it from the two far ends of the spectrum, it’s remarkable how adaptable BMW has made this car.
When my stepdad asked me, “But, who buys a car like this?”, my first reflex was to answer, “fans of exhilarating driving, of course!”. But after a week I found that it could just as well as a daily commuter. The ideal car, in other words! Sporty performance is available on request, luxury and comfort are there when you want them, and its AWD system makes it usable in all weather conditions. In my view the 2019 BMW M5 is a marvel of automotive engineering!
Learn more about the 2019 M5 and its different versions in our video: