first drivebmw m5
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

First drive - BMW M5

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today First drive - BMW M5

London - Arabstoday

BMW created the sports sedan segment with the M5, now comes the latest iteration. But is the original still the best? The Ascari Race Resort is no place for an executive sedan like a BMW 5-Series. Featuring 26 corners plucked from the world’s finest racetracks and sewn together in the Spanish countryside, Ascari is the ultimate test of a performance car. Thankfully I’m not in a regular 5 Series, though - I’m in the brand new M5, the fifth generation of the original sports sedan. More than 25 years ago BMW set out to combine a luxury sedan with a sports car and now the company is trying to prove it is still the best at it in the face of stiff competition. Advertisement: Story continues below Even since the last M5 launched in 2004, new challengers have emerged from Mercedes-Benz (E63 AMG), Audi (RS6), Jaguar (XFR) and Porsche (Panamera S).   No stone has been left unturned in BMW’s attempts to get back on top, though. The way it handles the twists, turns and short straights of Ascari is proof that the new M5 lives up to its heritage, but has broken with tradition to keep up with its rivals. For so long M Division prided itself on its high-revving, racing-inspired engines for the purity they provide the driver, but no more. The Formula One-derived V10 from the out-going M5 is out in favour of a twin-turbocharged, smaller-capacity V8. The big engine was sacrificed at the altar of fuel efficiency but thankfully that doesn’t mean performance has been a victim, too. The new engine is more powerful (412kW versus 373kW) and has more torque (680Nm versus 520Nm). Importantly that pulling power is spread wider across the rev range, with peak torque kicking in as low as 1500rpm. Before hitting Ascari we spent a day on the open roads in the country’s south-west near Sevilla. I'm not sure if it was the road surface material, or if an olive oil truck has accidently dumped its load, but the road surface was incredibly slippery, giving the M5 a proper workout. But to get to the mountain roads we have to take in a stretch of the Spanish freeway heading out of Sevilla. It soon becomes apparent that this new engine is very different to the old V10; but no less brilliant. What makes the new engine so impressive is how it delivers all its grunt. Whereas the old engine needed to be worked hard, this new motor offers up peak torque from as low as 1500rpm. So the shove in your back is almost immediate, and by the time the torque starts to drop off at 5750rpm maximum power kicks in at 6000 revs. So when you really floor the throttle you almost get the sensation of a power boost, like the Millennium Falcon when it goes into hyper drive and the scenery just becomes a blur. But I say almost immediate because the slippery Spanish road is forcing the M5’s traction control to work overtime, especially when we head into the twisty countryside. Even at quarter throttle the stability control is forced to kick in and dull the power delivery. It was especially aggressive when in a lower gear, say second gear out of a hairpin bend. It didn’t take long, though, to realise that keeping it one gear higher than normal made life a lot easier. Thanks to the engine’s flexibility you could rely on the low-end torque to just pull you out with less interference from the electronics. It makes sense then that M Division is considering an all-wheel-drive version of the M5 if the torque keeps climbing. In keeping with BMW’s reputation for technology there are a multitude of settings you can play with for the engine response, steering rate, suspension stiffness and gearshift speed. Each parameter has three different settings to choose from: Comfort (Efficient for the engine), Sport and Sports plus. The driver is able to choose each setting independently of each other depending on the road conditions. So, for example, if you were on a fast country road you could have the engine set to Sport, the suspension on Comfort and the steering on Sports plus. Or if you head to a racetrack you can turn everything to Sports Plus for maximum performance. The steering wheel features two ‘M buttons’ where the owner can store two of these settings to be called up on demand. But every time the car is switched off its defaults back to the efficiency/comfort setting. Leaving the engine in Comfort is ideal for cruising and ticking off highway distance as it still provides plenty of access to the power. Sport is best suited to spirited open road driving while Sports plus is best left to the race track. The same is true of the suspension, with Sport good for smooth roads and Sports plus too firm for anything other than a billiard table smooth racetrack. Another highlight of the engine is the soundtrack it produces. There’s the rumble and burble you get from a big V8 mixed with the whistles and induction noises you expect from a turbocharged car; at times it sounds like a race car. To make sure you hear this beautiful noise, BMW has developed ‘Active Sound Design’ technology specifically for the M5. In a nutshell a digital processor is able to match the engine’s characteristics at any given moment in time and play, as the press kit puts it, “an accurate reproduction of the engine's sound through the car's audio system". Although that sounds artificial, and it is, it works seamlessly. It also means the engine noise can be tuned for quite comfortable touring and get louder when you get more aggressive with the throttle. And now comes the engine’s crowning glory – fuel economy. Despite both power and torque increases, the BMW boffins have been able to slash fuel consumption by as much as 30 per cent over the V10. The combined city/highway figure is a mightily impressive 9.9 litres per 100km, justifying the company’s decision to go the turbo route. However, with our spirited test driving we couldn’t get anywhere near that figure, so the real test will come when you try to match the claimed number under real world conditions in Australia. Even with a larger 80-litre fuel tank fitted, the fuel gauge in our test car dropped at a rapid rate during our test drives. Even so, it really is a great engine, another masterpiece by M Division and good enough to win over most cynics. Moving onto the rest of the car, the verdict is mixed. The gearbox is good, but fails to inspire the same enthusiasm as the engine. The shifts are rapid on the move, but it lacks the theatrical rev blip on the down change. It feels good for a dual clutch gearbox in slow traffic, but we didn’t really find ourselves in stop-start traffic so we will reserve our final judgement until we’ve commuted in it under local conditions. Despite its sporty image the M5 also features auto stop-start engine cut-off for better fuel economy. Not surprisingly, given it is such a big engine that it’s firing up, it’s a very clunky system. One significant disappointment are the brakes. Our first test car had obviously done too much time on the track and lacked bite and suffered from a long pedal. Our second car was an improvement but still lacked the kind of aggressive initial retardation and firm pedal you expect on a sports sedan. It’s easy to forget that in spite of its sportiness it is still a big car, tipping the scales at more than 1800kg. Even so, given the speed the engine is capable of producing, a stronger left pedal would make the driving experience more enjoyable. The interior of the M5 is a step-up on the regular 5 Series, but still lacks the design appeal of the XFR and Panamera. Leather trim, including the seats and dashboard, is standard and gives it a premium feel befitting its price. A let down though are the seats, which while comfortable for long distance touring, lack the lateral support you need when pushing on. BMW Australia hasn’t finalised local specifications but spokesman Piers Scott says it is likely the down under versions will feature more standard kit than the European versions. In Europe standard equipment includes heads-up display, four-zone airconditioning, heated front seats, xenon headlights and a six-speaker stereo with CD and Aux-input. However, there are some glaring omissions that are left on the options list. They include safety features such as a reversing camera, Park Distance Control, speed limit warning, lane change warning system, lane departure warning system and BMW’s night vision technology with pedestrian detection. You also have to stump up additional money for smartphone integration, electric steering column adjustment and USB audio interface. For the social media junkie you can also get an optional system that allows you to use Facebook and Twitter while you’re driving. But, unfortunately, local safety regulations mean that won’t be available in Australia. As for the all-important price, BMW Australia hasn't finalised that yet, either, but has warned that it would cost more than the old model, meaning a circa-$240,000 pricetag is likely. All-in-all the new M5 is an improvement over its predecessor, even if it has lost some of its trademark features. The engine is a gem, it handles the open road, urban grind and racetrack with equal skill and packs plenty of luxury comforts. BMW M5 Price: $239,990 [estimated] Engine: 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 Power: 412kW at 6000-7000rpm Torque: 680Nm at 1500-5750rpm Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch auto 0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds 0-200km/h: 13 seconds Top speed: 250km/h (305km/h with optional M Driver’s Package) Fuel consumption: 9.9L/100km Emissions: 232g/km CO2

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