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BMW M5 Saloon 2011 road test report

2011

Super saloons are very much in vogue, with the Mercedes E63 and CLS 63 AMGs, Audi RS6 and Jaguar XFR all attracting buyers. However, the original super saloon is the BMW M5 and it’s back with a bang in a more powerful, more efficient form. Is 560bhp and 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds enough to put the M5 back on top? You bet, and then some.

Road Test Reports Says5 star rating
A front-facing image of the BMW M5 Saloon

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Performance Performance - 5 stars

In the rarefied atmosphere of super saloons, power figures that many a supercar would be proud of are not unusual. In the case of the new M5, it has a full 560bhp at its disposal, courtesy of a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine. That’s significantly up on the 501bhp of the previous V10-powered M5 that was a curiously unengaging car with too much tech and not enough soul. Well, the soul is back in the M5 and it’s a searingly fast car. It comes with a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox, though the shifts can be quite sudden and harsh if you wind the gearbox’s variable settings to the max. Do this and a small lift of the throttle is needed to avoid the thump between gears, which is something you don’t need to do with Mercedes’ fast saloons. Still, the M5’s ’box can be toned and honed for smoother shifts, while the two steering wheel-mounted M buttons offer up harder, faster charging settings for the suspension, throttle and steering responses. In M1 mode, the new M5 is just that bit more alert than its already lithe standard feel. Go for M2 and the big change is it allows the rear wheels to slide a little more thanks to the ESP going into MDM (M Dynamic Mode). This is the one keen drivers will love and it helps when driving on very twisty roads where the ESP can otherwise suppress the fun factor as all of that power tries to unleash itself through the back wheels. On more free flowing roads, the M5 is a delight and hammers through the gears when the driver wants to get a move on, the twin turbos providing a huge spread of power from tickover to the high-set red line. In more sedate moments, the M5 reverts to being a brilliant executive saloon capable of cruising with considerable deportment. Standard Auto Start-Stop works unobtrusively to help save fuel around town, where the M5 is as easy to guide through traffic as any other 5 Series.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 5 stars

If there’s any one area where the new M5 edges out a distinct lead over its key rivals, it’s the blend of ride comfort and handling balance it offers. In standard suspension setting, the M5 has a firmness to the way it rides that tells you this is no 520d, but it’s also more than compliant enough to make even the roughest of back roads something to look forward to. Try that in an Audi RS6 and you’ll need a good chiropractor on speed dial. Even in the most extreme M2 setting for the M5’s suspension, it remains composed and supple in a way only the Jaguar XFR can match, but the BMW offers up more steering feel and greater cornering grip. With comfort covered off, the BMW goes on to further impress with its behaviour through bends. Where many cars in this elite sector rely on super stiff suspension, the M5 has a degree of lean to its body control and suspension set-up that clearly informs the driver when he or she is approaching the outer limits of adhesion. It’s a welcome trait that keeps the driver up to the same speed as the car and also lets the driver exploit every last ounce of traction safe in the knowledge the car is working with him for the maximum fun. Superbly weighted steering is also part of this magnificent whole, while the M5 also enjoys great refinement when cruising along to make it super saloon you could easily travel very long distances in. Press the throttle hard and there’s enough V8 rumble to put a smile on your face and a slight aural trace of turbo whistle to let you know where much of this engine’s power comes from.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Hard as it might be to imagine, the M5 appears even better put together than the standard 5 Series. All of the beautifully crafted leather interior has a crafted feel that makes its occupants feel very pampered, while all of the other interior components are creak- and rattle-free, which is no mean feat in a car that can engender such high cornering forces. The engine is already a proven unit from the X5 and X6 models, and the rest of the mechanical package should prove just as strong and worthy of your trust.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

The new M5 comes with a host of safety devices, which are all thankfully very discreet in operation. BMW’s version of ESP is DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) that works in conjunction with other systems to not only prevent wheel slip but also help the car round corners by using the brakes to tighten the line should the system sense any wayward behaviour. There’s also the Active M differential to prevent wheel spin. As you would expect of this car, it comes with all of the airbags, three-point seat belts and anti-lock brakes of the standard 5 Series, plus an alarm, immobiliser and deadlocks to keep thieves walking on by.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

Like the standard 5 Series saloon, the new M5 offers far greater rear seat space than its predecessor. However, it’s best to regard the M5 as a four-seater as the large transmission tunnel limits space for anyone squeezing into the central rear seat. This person will also find themselves sitting on a raised centre cushion that pushes their head into the ceiling. For the other two rear seat passengers, it’s comfortable and the view out is good. Up front, the driver is treated to masses of adjustment in the steering wheel and seat, so the driving position is easily altered to suit. BMW’s much simpler i-Drive system is easy to navigate through the dash-mounted screen and there are buttons and dials for the stereo and ventilation for quick tweaks to the settings. The supportive sports seats for those in the front of the M5 grip and hold in all the right places for day-long comfort and we’d have no qualms about pointing the M5’s prow for the south of France or even further afield for a single day’s driving.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

Look at the M5’s list price and you’ll find it’s an expensive machine, but compare it to its rivals and it’s right on the money. Now compare the M5 to most supercars that cost a great deal more and the BMW begins to look like a bargain. Add in four seats and a large boot and the M5 is the supercar you can use every day, helped by 28.5mpg average economy that means it won’t empty your wallet with quite the same gusto as most cars capable of 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds. Admittedly, carbon dioxide emissions of 232g/km put the M5 in the priciest road tax and company car tax bands, but then those who can afford the ticket price to this exclusive club will not baulk at the attendant costs. As a compensation, the M5 should hold its value well in the used market, as proved by previous M5 models that have suffered only gentle depreciation as keen used buyers clamour to get their hands on this definitive super saloon. As for what you get for your cash, the M5 comes fully loaded with all of the goodies you could wish for.

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