BMWís foray into Formula One racing and technology is clearly apparent in the M5ís sonorous 5.0-litre V10 engine. Thereís a slightly offbeat growl to the engine that you donít get with a V8- or V12-engined car, but it suits the M5 Touringís left-field credentials. Perhaps less suited to all tastes is BMWís SMG (sequential manual gearbox) that is a manual íbox but without a clutch pedal. The driver can either let the gearbox do all of the work or change gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Itís best when the driver makes the decisions as it can lurch from gear to gear in automatic mode. Thereís also a choice of how aggressive the gearchanges are, with the driver ramping up the aggression by a button placed just behind the gear lever. In its most rampant form, the shifts are rapid fire fast and best only for when the driver is the mood to enjoy a country road blast. This isnít the end of the driverís choices, though, as the engine only delivers 400bhp in normal trim. To gain access to the full fat 507bhp, the driver needs to select this through BMWís i-Drive controller. Itís easy when you know how, and can be set up using the short-cut ĎMí button on the steering wheel, but itís a faff too far most of the time. However, access the real deal full power and the M5 Touring despatches 0-62mph just 4.8 seconds and heads on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. Without the limiter, the M5 Touring is good for an astounding 200mph.
Estate car lovers often prize a supple ride to cushion their cargo from the shakes and shoogles of most British roads. Antique dealers beware: the M5 Touring has firm-set suspension that will soon see that prized set of chine tea cups reduced to expensive landfill. It can be a lot to bear if youíre town-bound, but as the speed rises, the suspension shows it has enough give to cope with lengthy trips in comfort. Find a twisting country route and the M5 Touring shows its true ability, however, with brilliantly composed cornering, immense traction and steering that has the BMWís nose sniffing out corners with truffle-hound accuracy. The M5 demands attention and itís not a car for lazy drivers as it needs care not to wander over the speed limit unintentionally, and those fat tyres can pick up on lines and ruts in the road. Even so, only the most ham-footed driver will over-step the mark in the M5 Touring to find the rear wheels getting out of line. Thankfully, ESP traction and stability control is standard.
The bespoke cabin of the M5 is about as good as it gets with BMWs and the hand stitching on the leather seats is a pleasure to see. It shows the attention to detail evident in all of the M5ís finish and the materials used throughout the car. Even the boot is lined with hard-wearing carpet to make sure this rapid removal van can cope with load lugging duties. The engine and gearbox need skilled maintenance, but they come with the same variable service intervals and three-year, unlimited mileage warranty s any other BMW model. Throughout its life, the 5.0-litre V10 motor has proved trouble-free.
With a car that can unleash 507bhp on an unsuspecting world, itís little surprise that the M5 Touring comes with a sophisticated ESP electronic traction and stability control system. This can be partially switched off to give keen drivers some greater give in cornering. Thereís also BMWís corner brake control that helps keep the M5 Touring going in the right direction during hard cornering or if the surface is slippery. A rear parking sensor keeps the expensive bodywork from being crunched during parking, while twin front, side and curtain airbags prevent the occupants from being crunched in an accident. Anti-lock brakes and three-point seat belts for all are standard, as are an alarm and immobiliser.
The M5 Touring has the same luggage capacity as every other 5-Series Touring, so it offers 500-litres of space with the rear seats in place. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats and you free up 1650-litres of cargo room, so the M5 Touring can hold plenty of chattels, though not as much as a Mercedes E-Class wagon. The rear seats are sculpted for looks and to hold passengers in place during hard driving, which means they are not as able to hold three people as some other cars in this class. The front seats are also heavily bolstered, which is great for performance driving, but they are not as forgiving on long drives as some rivalsí. However, the M5ís dash is clear and concise, even if the i-Drive controller is not to all tastes. The driver has fine all-round vision for swapping lanes and parking, while rear parking sensors are standard.
Big performance means a big list price and commensurately large running costs. The M5 Touring will get through tyres more quickly than a standard 5-Series wagon, while combined fuel economy of 19.3mpg will tax the wallet of even the most committed of fans. Then thereís the cost of servicing, insurance and road tax to consider, all pushing the day to day running of an M5 further beyond the reaches of most buyers. Company drivers will likely be put off by carbon dioxide emissions of 348g/km, putting this BMW firmly on a par with most supercars for CO2 output as well as performance. As a used car, the M5ís running costs will not diminish if you want to keep the car in top condition, but at least itís likely to enjoy gentle depreciation as thereís a ready band of enthusiastic M5 buyers. Take the plunge into M5 ownership and you get a long list of standard equipment, including alloy wheels, leather upholstery, climate and cruise controls, and a CD stereo.