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2005 BMW M5: The Perfect Sport Sedan Reborn

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Story by  Trevor Hofmann

I find it’s a little more fun to have someone to root for while watching, so previous to last year’s changes I cheered for BMW Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya in the F1 circuit, as he was a great interview in his Champ Car days and looks to still be an amiable sort, not to mention he’s one of the most exciting racers around. Now I’ve got even more reason to wave the BMW banner, as fellow countryman Jacques Villeneuve is on the blue and white roundel roster.

I’ve also owned a bunch of BMWs over the years, have only ever wanted a Renault R5 Turbo, which was never sold here, have trouble rooting for that other German marque that doesn’t even build its own engines, and only had the opportunity to lust after Ferraris, so the reason to cheer for BMW during the 2006 season is complete. And then there’s another reason to cheer BMW; it’s all-powerful M5.

This, the benchmark of sports sedans, was completely reworked last year, from an understated form with V8 power in 2003, to the much more dramatic shape now, and an F1-inspired V10 under its hood sporting an increase in output of more than 100 horsepower. The rub lies in the fact that F1, despite BMW’s new production V10, will be moving back to V8 power when the series takes up in Bahrain in early March. But that, of course, won’t concern those fortunate enough to climb behind the wheel of this latest edition M sedan.

The new M5 is derived from the foundation of the best 5-Series ever built, from a driving dynamics standpoint. And being that the 5 has long been the benchmark in its market segment, it can be argued that it’s the best handling luxury sedan available, period. Not only does the chassis incorporate that special magic that BMW has sprinkled on all of its cars and SUVs over the years, technological advancements such as Active Steering and Dynamic Drive literally alter the oncoming landscape.

But before I push forward with all of the technological advancements of the new M5, I can’t help but lose myself in a fond memory of the first time ever behind the wheel of a previous example. It was a black-on-black 1988 E28 model, which produced an awe-inspiring (for the time) 256 horsepower from its inline-6.

The power was unfathomable at the time, and its deft handling superior to anything with four doors I had yet driven. I later tested a 1992 E34 M5 that made 315 horsepower and a ’93 that put out some where between 330 and 340—it had been chipped. Both were sensational, and I knew I had to eventually own one. When the new 396 horsepower V8-powered E39 M5 debuted,

I joined a group of journalists at a 330Xi event, effectively cornering the brand’s PR rep. We wouldn’t let him leave until he promised to get us one to test. He agreed, came through and I had one of the most memorable weeks of my career. Thanks again, Tobias.

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Now, finally, I have the all-new M5 booked for later this week, and this somewhat jaded auto journalist, who has spent countless hours in the driver’s seats of top-tier exotics no less, is getting all giddy over a hot rod BMW sedan. And my excitement comes from more than just what lies under the skin, despite those potent mechanicals no doubt worth every nail-biting moment of anticipation. Nothing less than a 507-horsepower 5.0-litre V10, producing 383 lb-ft of torque resides behind that twin-kidney grille, capable of spinning to a stratospheric 8,250 rpm at redline.

No, it’s also about the BMW M-car mystique, something I can’t quite put my finger on but nevertheless makes perfect sense. Of course, full-throttle zero-to-100 km/h sprints that take less than five seconds before 200 km/h arrives after a mere 15 seconds make a lot of sense to adrenal-induced side of my brain too. The M5 gets an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph), which is ever so practical, but there are modifications available if jail time is of interest. The nonelectronically limited maximum speed, if the limiter were to be disconnected, reaches 330 km/h (205 mph), or so BMW reports.

Putting power to the rear wheels is a new 7-speed SMG sequential manual gearbox with steering column-mounted paddle actuation. As in the M3, gears can be selected via a console-mounted shift lever too, but in comparison to the outgoing SMG transmission the new version shifts 20 percent quicker. The SMG gearbox continues to use Drivelogic, but like the transmission itself, the electronic add-on is completely upgraded from five specified shift intervals (from relaxed shifts to ruddy quick) to 11, allowing much more adaptation to a driver’s personal preferences. As previously mentioned, the 5-Series, when equipped with BMW’s optional active steering, which along with dynamic drive (active roll

stabilization, or ARS) offers amazing maneuverability at all speeds is arguably the most agile sedan currently available. Essentially, active steering adapts the steering ratio to vehicle speed, but its electric motor assisted, planetary gear-motivated rack-and-pinion system is much more sophisticated than conventional speed sensitive steering, common to luxury cars of all stripes. When parking, steering response to input is much quicker, at about 1.7 turns lock to lock. At high speed that ratio loosens up dramatically so that just touching the steering wheel won’t send the car veering off into oncoming traffic, but rather keeps its ultimately stable.

Dynamic drive effectually flattens out curves, adjusting to road surface imperfections before the actual bumps and dips occur, therefore the 5’s ride is not only smoother than competitors’ sport sedan’s, but its handling is also much improved. The M5 takes advantage of such electro-mechanical driving aids, but each, like the reworked suspension, has been modified for the specialized sedan’s higher performance. New brakes have been added as well, featuring twin-piston aluminum sliding calipers, resulting in 100 km/h to standstill in only 36 meters (118 feet).

The M5 also incorporates DSC III with “two selectable driving dynamics programs, Electronic Damper Control with comfort, normal and sport modes, and a variable, torque-sensing differential lock,” according to BMW’s press information. The super sedan also features a metal-accented leather interior in three colour choices, all unique from the regular 5-Series. The car’s gauge package is exclusive too, while an “M-specific,” fighter plane-style headup display (HUD) system is also available. Other interior touches unique to

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the M5 separate it from the 530 and 545 models. On the outside, the most noticeable changes are just behind each front wheel cutout. The new M5 sports fender gills similar to its smaller M3 sibling, plus redesigned front and rear fascias, the latter sporting the model’s characteristic quad tailpipes. Unlike rival super-sedans from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the M5 has been optimized for high horsepower over gut-wrenching torque.

This may not make it quite as quick off the line, but BMW reports it becomes much more exciting at high speed when the engine revs begin to climb to other worldly levels. BMW is counting on purist sport sedan fans to buy into the M5’s naturally aspirated high-tech power over comparatively crude SOHC V8 engine architectures featuring a simplistic supercharger, in the case of the Mercedes-Benz E55 and CLS55 AMG, and turbochargers in the CLS65 AMG. The Bavarian brand’s rivals also only offer 5-speed automatic gear boxes with manual-mode actuation, nowhere near as sophisticated as BMW’s updated 7-speed SMG transmission.

Since the M5 came into existence in 1985, it has set the benchmark for sport sedan performance. The new E60-based model carries on a tradition of more than 33,000 M5s, all having been built in BMW’s facility in Germany. The new M5, which arrived in European dealerships in January of last year, with a price tag of 86,200 euros, is now here in Canada. And with the introduction of the new M5, once again BMW sets the bar for performance sedans here on the West Coast as well as throughout the world. And now I try to occupy my mind in other pursuits; I’ve got three sleeps left, as my five-year old son reminds me, before the M5 is all mine. Well, at least for a few days. How can I sleep knowing that?


Price Range (MSRP): $115,500 to $128,200
Body Type: 4-door sedan
Layout: front engine, RWD
Base Engine: 507-hp, 383 lb-ft of torque, 5.0-L, 40-valve, DOHC V10
Transmission: 7-spd SMG (sequential manual gearbox)
Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS
Curb Weight (estimated): 1,830 kg (4,034 lbs)
Acceleration (0 – 100 km/h): 4.7 seconds
Top Speed (electronically limited): 250 km/h (155 mph)
Top Speed (projected non-limited): 330 km/h (205 mph)
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Volume (trunk): 396 L (14.0 cu ft)
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): N/A
Warranty (mo/km): 48/80,000 comprehensive
Direct Competitors: Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Cadillac STS-V,
Jaguar S-Type R, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

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