The last day of the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance is by no means the end of the automotive spectacle on the Monterey Peninsula.
Shipped out to California just in time to miss the vintage festivities, but with a full day to explore all of BMW’s hottest models around Northern California and at the always-entertaining Laguna Seca (Mazda Raceway, if you must), we nevertheless were treated to a motive cornucopia on the roads around that track that is unlike any time and place on the planet. In other words: the Monday after Pebble offers car porn on a grand scale, wherever you go.
Within this setting it’s almost liberating to drive a car like BMW’s new M5, which falls neatly under the radar when Gallardos and Italias, and Shelbys are as thick on the ground as Ford Fusions on Woodward Avenue at 6 pm on a Thursday. Of course, “sleeper” status is largely a part of the M5’s DNA, but we estimate that in less exotic-laden circumstances, this new, fifth-generation “F10” M5 is going to stick out as a bit of a performance vehicle. A bolder than ever selection of M graphics, 20-inch light alloy wheels (a $1300 option), blacked out twin-kidney grille, aggressively lowered front end, and more, all point to the decidedly wicked intentions of this 5er.
In the cabin, as well, we were treated to an experience that more than adequately conveys the M5’s mission of combining luxury and menace. Seating (our favorite finish was the Sakhir Orange Marino leather) was widely adjustable, as is typical of BMW, with lovely conforming-yet-firm bolstering on the seat bottom and back. The chairs offered great stability in the high-g corners of Laguna Seca, without ever pinching/punching for longer stints on public roads. Better still (and a offering a serious one-up on little brother M3), the M5 does have real room for two rear-seat passengers. (We can’t think of many better ways to scare your kids, your neighbors, or your boss’s wife.)
We drove roads of all variety in the M5, and can report that, when appropriate, the M5 drives like a big car, too. BMW’s class-leading adaptive suspension does a fantastic job of transforming this 5 from beast to buttercup, and when clicked into the softest settings, the ride is plush, smooth, and feels effortless. That’s a huge compliment, considering the competence with which the M5 dispatches the very serious confines of Laguna..
Road or track, complex corners or never-ending sweepers, the underlying element of goodness here is the M5’s stirring powertrain. The twin-scroll turbo-fed 4.4-liter V-8 engine puts out an astonishing 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque for its lucky operator to make use of—figures that are both significant upgrades from the last-generation’s V-10.
Now, we understand that there are/will be M5 fans that will immediately (and almost always irrationally) lament the V-10’s loss and the turbo V-8’s installation. Just as fans of the third-gen car pined for the naturally aspirated 4.9-liter V-8 at the announcement of the V-10, fans of the second-gen gnashed their teeth at the loss of the indispensible inline-six, and so on. Reactionary Bimmerphiles notwithstanding, we’re happy that BMW continues to look for added power and efficiency in its engine development.
So, of course, the 4.4 motor is a gem. The turbo feeds in enough air to prevent any real discernable lag from ruining your fun, and the engine spins up so fast that it would hardly matter even if there was a spot of power-lull below the first few thousand revs. Accelerative force is visceral and truly fun to deploy, with the sophisticated rear differential ably flowing power to the rear wheels over many a road surface and shape. The M5 pulls like a locomotive from low, middle, and high speeds; only the limited top speed of 155 miles per hour holds the car back from honest supercar speed.
This is, at its heart, a pretty complete and wonderful example of what kind of magnificent car BMW can turn out when the company’s sporting chops are on the line. It is not, in any respect, a “purist” driver’s car (whatever that really means any more). It is, a technological statement of dominance from one of the world’s finest engineering companies. A statement of belief, rendered in metal that BMW will continue to advance, to make cars that are capable and compelling, without needing to be shackled to what it has done in the past.