What Car? says...
Ever since the covers were pulled off the original BMW M5 at the 1984 Amsterdam motor show, it has been the yardstick against which all other super-saloons are judged – and that’s a trend that BMW would obviously like to continue with this sixth-generation model.
So, what has its M division come up with to prepare the class-leading 5 Series luxury saloon for battle with what can only be described as weapons-grade competition, in the form of the Porsche Panamera Turbo, Mercedes-AMG E63 and Audi RS6?
Well, under the M5’s bonnet sits a heavily tweaked 591bhp version of its predecessor’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine. But, as they say, power is nothing without control; this goes some way to explaining BMW’s decision to eschew the traditional rear-wheel drive layout for a new four-wheel drive system – a first for the M5. The benefits are obvious; increased traction for improved all-weather usability and a frankly bonkers 0-62mph time of 3.4sec.
However, while four-wheel drive can temper the lunacy and waywardness of a saloon with as-near-as-damn-it 600bhp, it comes at a price. The extra mechanical gubbins adds weight, and weight is bad; the standard 5 Series is already a pretty portly chap and adding yet more kilos would, in theory, make it less wieldy in corners. And the purists out there love a powerful rear-wheel-drive car simply for its lunacy and waywardness because, in the right doses, that can be bally good fun. Let’s face it, fun is much of the motivation for spending £90k-odd on an M5 instead of a 520d, is it not?
So, in the world of supercar-slaying saloons, is the M5 still king? That's what we're going to explore in this review.