2nd January 2005, 05:26
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Kingdom of Sweden
BMW M3 DCT Sedan / Limousine
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Malaysian newspaper The Star reviews the E60 M5
TO petrol heads, driving “The King of Sedans” with over 500 horses under the hood can be something of a wet dream. In fact, driving it on Germany’s autobahns that are famous for their lack of speed limits definitely leads to the odd wet moment or two!
A driving experience like this doesn’t usually happen to the average Malaysian. Not even to most motoring journalists – as I learnt when I was showered with friendly curses and sarcastic remarks from friends in the motoring industry after they heard that I had been invited, along with a few other Malaysian journalists, to the BMW M5 world launch in Munich, Germany. Oh well, such is life!
My introduction to the new BMW M5 (or the 2005 M5, as it more commonly known as), which is touted as BMW’s most powerful production car, began on the first day of the launch itself when we were each assigned a shiny new silver car in the briefing area.
The BMW M5 getting around with great panache on the tight, pylon-lined course at the Furstenfeldbruck airfield in Munich.
Armed with what the media now calls the “Muscle From Munich”, we headed to a nearby military air force runway where motoring journos from around the world lined up to test BMW’s celebrated launch control system. I had tried the system several years ago in the 3-series Sports Edition; that came with an older generation sequential manual gearbox (or SMG, BMW’s equivalent of a manual transmission but without a foot-operated clutch and with the ability to shift by itself like an automatic).
With more than a dozen M5s at hand at any one time, each journalist had the chance to experience what most car enthusiasts can only fantasise about_: driving a V10-engined, 507-horsepowered sedan at its terminal velocity down a 2.5km straight, then stopping with heart-thumping abruptness in less than 300m.
This pant-wetting experience was a way of emphasising many things about this new car. The 1,755kg M5 has enough power to light up the tires in first, second and third gears from its seven-speed Drivelogic SMG gearbox. The Muscle from Munich reaches 100kph in less than five seconds and shifts out of fourth at 200kph, finally settling for seventh at 270kph. Its top speed is electronically controlled (what we Malaysians commonly call the “cut off”). Without the cut off, it is understood that the M5 would make 330kph. The SMG transmission makes perfect shifts every time at a fraction below the M5’s 8,250rpm redline.
The launch control technology, common in the famed M3, is derived from BMW’s Formula One racing programme. On the M5, it works by deactivating the dynamic stability control (DSC), setting the manual transmission mode to level six (the most aggressive) and flooring the accelerator while shifting the gear lever forward. This causes the engine to generate about 4,200rpm. While the car is standing still, let go of the lever and brace yourself as – you will feel that a trailer has just rammed the car from behind – it runs through the first three gears. I felt sure that the car’s transmission would be damaged as it bolted with a loud thud every time it shifted through.
The M5's tastefully crafted centre shift lever - instrumentation never looked so good!
Watching the other testers on the runway, I noticed that the M5 emits a loud, unreserved and yet authoritative exhaust note as it speeds by. The note was not the raw, harsh and thunderous experience you get from something like a V8 TVR Chimaera. The difference is that the M5 is truly refined; a gentleman of sorts.
During the test drive on the runway, the good people from BMW demonstrated that the M5 is not just a straight-line car but is also capable of screeching car park rally action of the sort you see on TV’s World’s Wildest Car Chases.
On a slalom course adjacent to the airstrip, the car exhibited superb handling qualities as it charged around pylons with hardly any leaning around the tight course. Only when its electronic traction aids were disabled did the car oversteer.
Many of us Malaysian journos fishtailed the M5 around most of the corners. In my case it was because of my “over enthusiastic” driving and naturally heavy foot. But, more importantly, I figured that it was the lack of respect for the more than 500 horsepower under the M5’s bonnet.
I’m not going to bore you with how good the interior of the M5 is as, like the 5-series, it seats five in luxurious comfort, is climate controlled and has a good sound system. It comes with a choice of leather, carbon fibre, wood or alcantera suede headliner and side pillars. The dashboard is uncluttered and simple to operate (a mark of all BMW cars) and a heads-up display (speed, tachometer, gear) manages to be both easily visible and discreet at the same time. Okay, maybe I did bore you a little, but if you want to know more details about the trimmings, feel free to visit your nearest BMW dealership.
Now ... back to the machine itself. In keeping with its racing bloodline, the latest M5 surpasses the magical 100 horsepower per litre output, and its specific output is on par with that of serious racing cars. While BMW is best known for its popular inline or straight engines, the M5 has proved that the company also knows how to tune a V-configured powerplant. The other Teutonic carmakers (Porsche, Audi and Mercedes-Benz) will no doubt be keeping a keen eye on what could be the most important car in BMW’s history.
The new M5 is simply a super sedan unlike any other in that its large 5 litre capacity, 10-cylinder engine will spin freely past 8,000rpm thanks to its Formula One know how. For normal driving, output is limited to 400 horsepower whenever the engine is started. A power button switches to the full 507 horsepower. A sport programme can also be selected for almost instantaneous throttle response.
I also had the opportunity to drive the M5 more than 500km to a country resort outside Munich. The route had a good mix of autobahn and country roads, allowing the M5 to roar to life on the straights and showing off the SMG transmission in the curves. It was a revelation, far superior to the 3-series Sport Edition version of this technology.
Shifts were accomplished smoothly and quickly from the floor shifter or steering wheel-mounted paddles. Downshifts were always impressive and will bring out the racer boy in you as the transmission matches engine speed and the “blips” sounds like you’re using a heel-and-toe technique for every shift.
On the autobahn, 250kph to 270kph seems like the norm as the car handles superbly while facing undulations with compusure. The best part is when the other vehicles in front courteously move out of your path.
Overall, the M5 is a multi-functional car combining fun and prestige. It is a car for people who love to drive performance-oriented cars and yet require the functionality of a four-door luxury sedan. To me, it is the dream car of the decade.
The 2005 BMW M5 will be available at all BMW dealerships nationwide in the second half of this year. BMW Malaysia has confirmed that the first batch of six cars has already been booked. This despite the fact that the car is scheduled to be priced “just” below the RM1mil mark – which is impossible for me to afford without more pant-wetting experiences trying to make the hefty monthly instalments!
Last edited by Gustav; 2nd January 2005 at 15:57.