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Click to view picture gallery“BMWs new £73,040 552bhp
M5 talks the torque. Interested?
  Then move fast because BMW
  already have 350 orders for
  their latest-generation super-
  sports saloon

WHATEVER THE ECONOMIC CLIMATE, someone, somewhere always has the money. And when it comes to fast cars, there's no shortage of wealthy customers eager to splash out on the latest hi-tech, high-performance cars such as the new M5.

UK driving enthusiasts have already placed 350 advance orders for the new £73,040 M5 Saloon; 200 will be lucky enough to be driving them this year. And next year, in 2012, total availability will be restricted to just 550. In other words, even as the first cars are being collected by their new owners, half of the available M5s have already been sold. Confirming that these are indeed well-heeled buyers, most will tick just about every box on the options list to add an extra £10-£20,000 to the basic £73,040 price.

As a result of feedback from current M5 customers, this latest fifth-generation M5, despite being longer, wider and lower, is less aggressive in its looks with a relatively modest visual profile — but it still sports a sculptured lower front bumper with air intakes, side skirts, 19-inch alloy wheels, a discreet rear spoiler on the boot (along with a coveted M5 badge on the boot lid), a subtle rear diffuser and twin exhausts, each with twin tailpipes. For owners who want to 'bling up' their M5 there are plenty of extra-cost options to choose from.

“Without question,
the heart and soul of
any BMW M model
is found
in its engine bay.
Making its world debut,
and for the first time
in an M5, is a twin-
turbocharged V8 petrol
unit that puts out
552bhp between 5,750
and 7,000rpm
Bottom line, the M5 is all about performance. However, inside the four-door saloon there's a luxurious feel with power-operated, heated front sports seats, leather, BMW Professional widescreen SatNav (includes BMW Assist and real-time traffic information), rear park distance control, four-zone climate control, Xenon adaptive headlights, Bluetooth, USB audio interface, M-specific head-up display and DAB radio.

Critically, the driver gets a comprehensive array of control functions for personalising the M5's suspension, steering, gearchange and power delivery settings.

Optional equipment, much of it 'must have' items, includes speed limit information (ignored to their cost by some of my press colleagues during the test drive in France and Spain), a rear-view camera, lane change and lane departure warnings, high-beam assist, surround view and night vision. Techno-geeks will love the mobile application preparation that lets iPhone owners receive web radio stations and display Facebook and Twitter posts on the Control Display.

M circular dials with red pointers and white illumination are housed in a black-panel instrument cluster; multifunction buttons on the M leather steering wheel operate the cruise control, radio and telephone.

M5 drivers now have two M Drive buttons on the left-hand side of the wheel — these call up a pre-configured setting for the car at the touch of a finger: for instance, a sports or a more comfort-orientated set of driving characteristics.

M5 drivers can adjust no less than six dynamic parameters: engine management; power steering (Servotronic); the M DCT Drivelogic gearshift programme; DSC stability mode; the electronically-variable Dynamic Damper Control; and the information relayed in the Head-up Display. Any of these can, at any time, be reconfigured via the iDrive menu.

Without question, the heart and soul of any BMW M model is found in its engine bay. Making its world debut, and for the first time in an M5, is a turbocharged V8 petrol unit. Making good use of two twin-scroll turbochargers and variable valve timing with high precision direct injection, this high-revving 4.4-litre powerplant develops 552bhp between 5,750 and 7,000rpm.

“German market M5
models offer a
‘de-restriction’ sports
pack: it doesn’t,
as you might expect,
boost power further;
it simply unleashes it — the top speed is
reckoned to be
But the talk of the media launch was not the considerable bhp, but the amount of torque generated by this petrol engine — the 501lb ft delivered from only 1,500rpm is utterly remarkable.

It is this 'grunt' that propels this almost five-metre-long executive saloon (which weighs-in at just under two tonnes) from zero to 62mph in 4.4 seconds… to be totally honest, in real-life we all felt it was faster than that. The maximum speed is limited to 155mph but, again, it felt faster.

German market M5 models offer a 'de-restriction' sports pack: it doesn't, as you might expect, boost power further; it simply unleashes it — the top speed is reckoned to be 200mph! This option is not available in the UK and BMW dealers here will not de-restrict M5s as it would invalidate the warranty. On the one hand it's a shame but on the other, given the state of our congested roads, it shows a responsible attitude.

Drive is to the rear wheels through a seven-speed M double-clutch transmission — the gearbox offers the choice of manual (S) or fully-automated (D) shifting. Three programmes in each allow the driver to select the most sporty, relaxed or efficient driving style at will via a rocker switch.

Appreciated, too, is the low speed assistance function that keeps the M5 moving smoothly through heavy traffic with only a light touch on the accelerator pedal. At the same time, using another button in the centre console, the engine characteristics can be switched from Efficient to Sport or even to Sport Plus.

The M5's rear axle features an electronically-controlled, multi-plate limited slip differential that intervenes rapidly and precisely at an early stage to control wheelspin and keep the car stable. Its control unit is connected via a high-speed data transfer link to the dynamic stability control system to calculate the locking force required — anywhere between 0% and 100%. It also takes into account the position of the accelerator, the rotational speed of the wheels and the car's yaw rate.

With high-performance as a standard driving feature along with two additional M buttons to adjust and add progressive performance enhancements and settings, the latest M5 offers the enthusiast driver the most opportunities to drive a car tuned to meet their exact personal requirements or the optimum performance to suit the slow, fast, hilly or winding road and traffic conditions.

“The M5 uses BMW’s
technologies such as
Start-Stop and Brake
Energy Regeneration.
The latest model’s fuel
consumption has,
compared to the previous
M5’s V10 engine, been
reduced by more than
30% to 28.5mpg —
20.2mpg on test
What it doesn't do is prepare the average driver for the M5's monumental performance and dynamic ability.

However, it's not purely about speed. The M5 also uses BMW's EfficientDynamics technologies such as Start-Stop and Brake Energy Regeneration. The latest model's fuel consumption has, compared to the previous M5's V10 engine, been reduced by more than 30% to 28.5mpg — 20.2mpg on test — while tailpipe emissions have tumbled to 232g/km.

Of course, this new turbocharged V8 powerplant is not going to be at the cheaper end of the taxation scale: road tax for the first year is £790, dropping to £445 for the second year onwards. If, and most unlikely, it's a fully-funded company car, the BIK tax liability is 35 per cent with insurance the top 50E rating.

Money aside, for those petrolheads or technology must-haves with in excess of £73,000 to lavish on a sports saloon, the M5 will deliver the drive of your life — if you can find the right kind of unrestricted roads. And even when you can't, you'll always enjoy the way this high-performance saloon copes with the traffic-tied crawl we all encounter every single day.

You'll also delight in the instantaneous response from the engine as you nip past, seemingly in an instant, slower traffic; and you'll enjoy the pure driving magic this car offers both in straight line speed, cornering grip, acceleration and downright muscle. But you'll also become very frustrated that, in congested Britain, all this performance will be of almost no use for most of the time.

For: Power, torque, pace, agility, grip, supreme handling, comfort, interior specification and understated exterior looks. It seems very strange that one of this new M5's core features can also appear in the 'against' column: for buyers with more money than driving skills, it's probably too fast! — David Miles

BMW M5 | £73,040
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.4 seconds | Overall test MPG: 20.2mpg
Power: 552bhp | Torque: 501lb ft | CO2 232g/km