First Drive: BMW M5

Purists will scream at the fact that the new M5 is now all-wheel-drive only, as opposed to rear-wheel-drive. The question is, has it affected the M5's character? AOL Cars gets behind the wheel to see for ourselves.

What is it?

Having been around since 1985, and now in its sixth-generation, the M5 has a strong following from enthusiasts looking for a beastly performance car that remains understated. Thanks to its heritage, the M5 is probably the most well-known super saloon out there, so it's a pretty big when a new one comes out.

The new car has a tough job to make sure that it remains at the top of the pile, though, as it's up against some pretty menacing rivals – most notably the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, which has seriously impressed us in both saloon and estate guises.

What's new?

There is a lot that's changed about the latest M5. It now has all-wheel-drive fitted for the first time, which was a big move for BMW, as it normally relies on its rear-wheel-drive agility as a key selling point. Yet, the German firm has not forgotten this importance, which is why you can still get the M5 to put its power through the rear wheels only. This new model has shed some pounds, too, thanks to the use of lightweight carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic.

What's under the bonnet?

As we have already mentioned, the M5 is fitted with a 4.4-litre turbocharged V8. In its latest tune, it produces 592bhp and 750Nm of torque, meaning quick sprints from 0-60mph in just 3.2 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. An eight-speed Steptronic transmission is the gearbox of choice to deal with all that power.

What's it like to drive?

While past M5s have sometimes been a little hair-raising to drive, the new M5 was designed to offer a bit more traction - and it's worked.

For a car with 600bhp, you always feel in control because of the balance and adjustability on offer. The crucial fact to this is the change to all-wheel-drive. That said, if you allow it to, you can still perform drifts in it thanks to the rear-wheel-drive bias. But they are controllable drifts which only adds to the M5's drama.

The way the super saloon deploys its power is undoubtedly one of the highlights, though. There's no turbo lag no matter what revs you are at - there is just effortless shove joined by an incredible mechanical sound.

First Drive: BMW M5

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How does it look?

While M5s have always looked pretty understated, our only grumble with the new one is that it perhaps looks too similar to a normal 5 Series in M Sport specification. The four exhaust pipes hint at the performance, as do the grilles on the side of it, but for most people, the performance will do all the talking required.

What's it like inside?

The interior of the M5 varies little from that of the standard 5 Series which is no bad thing. It is well laid out, easy to operate and extremely well built, using only the finest of materials.

It builds on it, though, with discreet performance touches such as carbon-fibre finishers for the dashboard. You also get drive mode selectors and two red 'M' buttons on the steering wheel – allowing you to control the suspension, steering and engine responsiveness in one of three modes.

And because the shape is unchanged from the 5 Series, it remains a practical car. There's plenty of space up front, while rear room is equally excellent. It's incredibly comfortable, meaning that while the M5 might be best placed on the track, it is also ideal for those looking to use it on long journeys.

What's the spec like?

For a car that costs just shy of £90,000, you would expect an impressive range of standard equipment, and the M5 delivers on this. Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive LED brake lights, BMW's professional media system, a 10.25-inch infotainment display and heated front seats.

BMW also likes to add plenty of optional extras too, including ceramic brakes, a sports exhaust system and a carbon-fibre engine cover. It is best to be cautious where options are concerned, as otherwise it would be extremely easy to spec an M5 well into six digits.

Verdict

BMW has successfully improved on the M5 even further. While some might have been concerned by BMW's decision to move to all-wheel-drive, it has only made it even better to drive. While it is quite expensive, the technology on offer and the performance makes it undoubtedly feel like every penny was worth it.

The knowledge

Model: BMW M5
Price: £89,640
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 Twin-turbo
Power: 592bhp
Torque: 750Nm
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 3.2 seconds
MPG: 26.9mpg
Emissions: 241g/km