IT WAS an awful day in Port Elizabeth last Thursday. The rain was pouring down and temperatures plummeted, so what better day to take to the Aldo Scribante race track in the most powerful BMW M car yet, the new M5.
First though, I had to check out a couple of other 5 Series models that are new to the range this year. The 520i and the 528i both use a 2.0l four-cylinder engine with BMW’s TwinPower turbo technology to generate 135kW and 180kW respectively. Both are likely to become stalwarts of the range yet again but diesel fans can now also benefit from the long awaited 535d six-cylinder unit that pushes out 230kW with 630Nm of torque.
All three models proved to…. ah, to hell with it, you aren’t interested are you? You just want to hear about the new M5, and I can’t blame you. When we get the others on test I will tell you more, but for now it is time to get all power hungry.
First the stats. The new M5 has ditched the V10 of the last generation and gone with a V8 powerplant which for the first time boasts some extra boost courtesy of turbocharging. This provides it with a rather healthy 412kW and 680Nm of torque, the latter being available between 1500r/min and 5750r/min. A 7-speed M-DCT twin clutch transmission has been tweaked from the version in the M3 and when combined BMW is claiming a 0-100km/h time of 4,4 seconds. The top end is limited to 250km/h but while the marketing team explained to us that they are considering a special package that takes the limiter off, our test unit happily charged up to 270km/h and seemed up for more.
BMW, like most manufacturers these days, is making a big song and dance about improvements in fuel consumption and CO2, so I should point out that the bunnies will breathe slightly easier when an M5 passes, courtesy of a very creditable 30% reduction in both consumption and emissions. BMW actually claims that you can achieve 9.9l /100km in the average cycle, but let’s be honest, that is only if you lend your M5 to your granny to pop to the local fruit and veg on a Sunday morning.
Now before I tell you about how the car behaved, I need to tell you that, as with the last generation, there are more buttons and settings than on the bridge of a cruise liner. You can make things a little simpler by programming the two M buttons, M1 and M2, on the steering wheel though. These increase the power, tighten the steering and dampers and reduce the traction, all to varying degrees. Alternatively you can push various buttons around the gear stick. There is one to change the level of available power, then ones for steering, damping and ride, the latter three being able to switch between comfort, comfort plus, normal, sport and sport plus modes. Y ou can mix the modes as you see fit. I got to play with all these modes on a drive from PE to George and you quickly learn to anticipate the corner ahead and quickly tighten up the steering or damping and then reset it back to comfort levels.
Right, that’s all the blurb accounted for, although believe me there is plenty more I could tell you about when it comes to the technology-loving M5. One thing I cannot tell you about is the availability of a manual gearbox. Strangely, BMW is providing a manual option for the traditionally lazy and auto-loving American market, but the rest of us have to make do with the M-DCT. As much as I love manual gearboxes, though, being “stuck” with only the M-DCT is not being stuck at all.
So how did it fare on the track?
The tricky Scribante circuit was soaked with small streams running across it in places, which is always going to make a 412kW rear-wheel-drive beast a handful. Hitting the M2 button which tightened up everything except the traction control, the Beemer roared out of the pit lane to the bottom of the main straight where it was hard on the anchors for turn one. Straight away the rear slipped slightly and I knew this was going to be fun. It is worth noting that Scribante has very few run-off areas and even has a few massive lampposts positioned on the trickiest corners surrounded by tyres, so as the speeds grew and the track narrowed it was imperative to manage the water beneath the rubber and be a little gentle with the tail action.
Now you know I will never lie to you, so I will tell you that I had one moment as both I and the reduced traction control had a slight brain fade moment coming out of the esses and decided that playing on the wet grass looked like more fun. Fortunately it was in the one spot where there was a few metres of run-off area and with an instinctive reverse flick of the tail the M5 and I were back on the track and on our way again. However it did make me wonder about what happens when a less experienced owner pushes the M2 button while on an open and twisty road — my advice would be that you might want to put a little sticker over the button saying “race track only”.
Moments aside, the new M5 is an incredible beast. It has a far better roar than the last generation, definitely a far better gearbox and with that increase in power it is going to take some tweaking for Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar to keep up. N o doubt they will try, and I will be watching the battle with interest.
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=164619