Sampling The New M5 At Formula M Track Experience 2018
An open race track. A string of M cars and the license to speed and slide. How lucky can any bloke get? That’s how fortunate I was a few weeks back when I got to see, touch and have a good-go with the sixth generation BMW M5… on track. I love these rare track outings because the great thing about a track-day test session, is that you get to unshackle a car from its daily-driving prison and unleash its full potential. Before I dive in to what went down, some proper backstory is needed to fully unravel my casual take on BMW’s new road-bruiser.
I’ve lived through four generations of BMW’s M5 sports sedan (E34, E39, E60, F10). Three of those models have played a massive role in forming my perception of BMW, and subsequently, my bias towards the German marque’s vehicles. I was merely a child when the E34 (1989-1995) was introduced and by the time the E39 M5 (1995-2003) came into existence, I had already taken it upon myself to say the most dangerous words an angry teenager can say to him/herself: “I will own one of this one day.” It’s a “dangerous” thing for a robust, confused and hot blooded kid to say, simply because a lot of time (and more often than not, a lot of money) goes to waste in pursuit of this singular ludicrous goal from a very young age.
Ever so often when I saw a Bimmer while growing up, it was almost always driven by the same kind of people in terms of character and profession. They are usually the working-class hustlers, the blue collar mavericks who somehow find a way out of the pitfalls of a middle-income life. They are the go-getters of a differently ilk, and the most crucial part, they flaunt it all shamelessly. In fact, so full of zeal to express themselves, most Bimmer owners I’ve seen and come across, share a common taste for driving like idiots sometimes and I’m making a very calculated guess that I’d do the same if I ever owned one as well. Ever heard of that legend that BMW drivers secretly disconnect their blinkers/indicators? It has some truth, believe me. Still, all that, refers to the “normal” BMW owner. An M5 owner, and in a more general sense, an M car owner, is very different in expression all together.
These M car owners are the same blue-collar mavericks, yes, but the ones who have grown and matured to value power, status and skill, and thus, choose not to abuse it. I’m not talking about persons who come into chance of inherited wealth as well. I’m talking about the kind of folks who work their asses off, the self-made ones. These are individuals who show a controlled sense of aggression in how they go about their business, especially in their M cars. This is why I believe that M cars have also taken on this subdued and minimalist approach in terms of design as the years have rolled on. Where an AMG car would be decked out in so much bling to trumpet its raunchy powertrains, M cars don’t necessarily do that. This I believe, is the pull of BMW’s M cars in general. Anyway, what was it about the new M5 that shone so brightly? Here’s my main three reasons:
With a fully-stoked V8 M5, you can imagine how excited I was to find the new M5’s limits. 600 hp with 750 Nm of torque to bomb around Sepang with, made sprinting tests absolutely riveting. The new M5 is scarily fast because the meaty torque count is out on full whack as early as 1,800 rpm, and it pulls all the way up to 5,600 rpm. Just how fast is it? 3.4 seconds says the spec sheet, but with peripherals a blurr as you begin to pick up speed with it, the new M5 feels a lot faster, and definitely more powerful from a dead stop. And, it’s chassis is so balanced that together with the new AWD system, this is the sharpest Bimmer I’ve ever driven in my life, which leads me to point No.2;
It’s A Gymnast
It’s a versatile road-bruiser that does it all quite stylishly. Need to burst out of a corner quickly? Easy. Overtake from distance? Check. Mid-corner braking from high-speeds? It’s on point (Caution!: This takes seasoned driving acumen to pull-off perfectly with the new M5 because it’s just so powerful). Power slides? Astonishingly easy. All these athletic attributes from this refined new M5 are down to the minor upgrades this iconic model has received. Much of this is achieved from this exceptional pairing of its 4.4-litre V8 engine and this new, fortified chassis. The new M xDrive AWD comes in modes of 4WD, 4WD Sport and my favourite, the 2WD mode, which switches the car to pure rear-wheel drive. In each of these modes, the new M5 has the balance that makes a novice driver look good and yet, demands the very best from the most skilled drivers when fully-engaged on a track.
It’s A Hooligan
The aural experience with the new M5 is a turbocharged whine yes, but a lot has been done to its exhaust settings to bewitch the senses into thinking that you’re behind a naturally aspirated V8 block. It growls and pops just like it has come off from a modern-era hot-rod assembly line, just with a lot more finesse. However, the turbocharged can get annoying after a while but as long as you’re actively engaging its gears and working its wheels, you tend to forget this part. But to this writer at least, it’s a proper hooligan when it wants to be, and that, gives it a driving pleasure that is very much in a class of its own, bar personal preference of course.
It’s A Pioneer
If you dont know it already, this new F90 M5 already holds two Guinness World Records for the longest drift and the longest twin-vehicle drift. BMW instructor Johan Schwartz completed the remarkable sustained drift of 374.2 kilometres on a skid pad for the longest drift in eight hours. This was followed by Schwartz collaborating with BMW Performance Centre Chief Driving Instructor, Matt Mullins, to perform a twin vehicle drift over a distance of 79.3 kilometres in one hour. They might not seem like big feats in a world where The Green Hell is used to really test a car’s capabilities. Even so, the record-attempts were meant for one reason alone: to show you what this car can do in the right set of hands and feet.
It’s A Geek
Where purist drivers will tell you they prefer their track cars to be without air-conditioning and radios, I say “What rubbish!”. This M5 is as modern and as functional as you can want any track-going car to be. It’s got a big 10.25″ touch screen to goof around with in terms of in-car functions, M-specific info and settings, and, infotainment. It’s also got the entire suite of Driver Assistance systems integrated into the whole BMW ConnectedDrive experience. In fact, it’s quite techy once you shuffle around all its manifold functions, and to me, this is as modern as a cockpit we’re going to see for a while. Why wouldn’t any driver not want all these things with him/her as they blaze around a free track like Sepang, beats me. It’s a cockpit that truly is driver-centric, almost close to trumping other driver-focused cockpits like say, from a Porsche 911 Turbo.
It’s A Sexy Car
BMW might be under fire in recent times to spruce up its aesthetic message, bu the new M5 is simply sexy to look at from bumper to bumper. Sharp lines sitting in the right places, nicely fitted lips and air inlets and even things like its 20″ double-spoke M alloys look beautiful. It’s a theme that follows through on the inside as well with a new set of M multifunction bucket seats trimmed with Merino leather, a very sporty fit in my eyes. Of course, there are further options; seat and upholstery choices include a two-tone combination of Aragon / Black and complete Black matched with interior trim finishers in Aluminium Carbon structure with Dark Chrome highlights. The new BMW M5 comes in three different colours by the way; Marine Bay Blue, Donington Grey metallic and Singapore Grey metallic.
With all that discussed, how much does this new M5 cost? After you add the compulsory taxes and what not, plus a few nice and tasty options, the new BMW M5 will take your transaction history to the region of RM 1.1 million thereabouts. I must stress here though, that if you’re looking for a practical car and you’re second-guessing the price, this is clearly not the car for you. If you’re like those go-getter hustlers I described earlier on in this write up, then chances are, you’ve already booked one or are a;ready waiting to bomb around Sepang with it, just like I did. Good one BMW, finally!