BMW M5 Evolution: New DNA Gives The M An Identity Crisis


Can you even call this monster an M5?

It has been said many times that when you buy an M5, you buy two cars. One car provides you enough comfort and usability to remind you of how stable your career is, while the other car utilizes its barn animal etiquette to keep you from sliding into a midlife crisis. The problem for BMW is that this era of duality is gone. This is because the F10 M5 came into a world of stringent fuel economy standards, saloon segments that were bloated with more technology then a military command center, and the necessity to please a crossover loving public.

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It’s not that BMW ruined the M5, it’s just that in an attempt leap through so many new circus hoops, the M division had to create a car with a different character than its predecessor. As any good engineer knows, no matter the circumstances, you still need to play the hand that was dealt. The talented Bavarian wizards had their work cut out for them because when BMW delivered them the new 5-Series, the car had gorged itself into a massive 4,288 pounds, nearly 200 more than the E60 M5. The weight gain was not helping the environmental crusade that new eco restrictions were calling for, which also meant that the old M5 mantra of adding more cylinders was not gonna fly.

The removal of two cylinders took away 0.6-liters, so the new 4.4-liter engine had to gain two turbochargers to make up the difference. Aside from giving the car the bragging rights of 560 horsepower (60 more than the E60), it changed the nature of the car. Gone was the torque summit found at high revs, this engine had pull the instant the turbochargers overcame static inertia. While forced induction helped drop the car’s 0-60 mph acceleration times from 4.1 seconds in the E60 to 3.6 seconds in the F10, it also meant that engine noise had to be force induced into the cabin via the speakers. Despite the F10 besting the E60 in every performance metric, fans complained.

Their woes included a lack of steering feel brought on by transition from hydraulic power steering to fuel conscious electric assistance, the absence of authentic metal on metal engine noise, and a portly mass. Enthusiasts felt that the F10 was a far cry from the light, quick, and responsive car that was introduced to them in 1988. To appease these customers, BMW gave purists a 6-speed manual option in case the 7-speed DCT wasn’t to their linking and added the optional competition package. This sharpened handling response and removed the 155 mph limiter, allowing the M5 to head-butt the horizon at 190 mph. In short, the F10 M5 is a very impressive car.

It still manages to pull off its split personality and show the world just how far automotive technology has come.

However, as the No Child Left Behind era of quantifying progress with numbers comes to an end, hopefully the next M5 will focus on something that is quite hard for silicon to compute; the ability for a hunk of metal to manipulate gravity, burnt rubber, and gasoline to fire enough pleasure neurons in a driver’s brain to make them feel viscerally alive.