Review: BMW M5 (2011 – 2017)
Immense twin-turbo 560PS V8 engine has more power than outgoing M5 yet improved economy. Thunderous performance. Huge amounts of grip and excellent brakes.
Not cheap at £73,000 and Competition Edition an eyewatering £100,995.
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BMW M5 (2011 – 2017): At A Glance
At a time when the motoring world seems focussed on green cars and low emissions, it's surprising that high performance saloons are still around at all. And yet if anything, there is more choice than ever. From the Audi RS6 to the mightily impressive Jaguar XFR, if you want a rapid large four-door car, there are plenty to choose from. Yet one name still stands out - the BMW M5.
It has a heritage stretching back to the mid 1980s and has become revered as one of the best - and fastest - cars on the road. This is the fifth generation of the M5 and it continues that tradition with even more power than before - 560PS to be precise - which makes it the most powerful production car BMW has ever built. The big news is that it's fitted with a twin-turbocharged V8 rather than the 5.0-litre V10 of the outgoing M5.
Purists will welcome the move back to a V8 (even if it is a turbocharged unit) and it also means a considerable improvement in fuel economy along with lower emissions. The outgoing M5 is only capable of 19.6mpg with a CO2 output of 344g/km - and that's according to the official BMW figures. This new model returns a claimed 28.5mpg meaning you'll spend far less time fuelling it up, while emissions are cut to a much more respectable 232g/km.
Being fitted with twin turbochargers means more low down torque, making the power of the new M5 more accessible in everyday driving. It's fitted with a new seven-speed automatic gearbox with two clutches to provide super-fast gear shifts. It's docile and relaxed at steady speeds, yet snappy and aggressive when you want it to be.
The M5 is not especially cheap to buy new with a price tag of £73,040 but it stands head and shoulders above any other performance saloon and is better than plenty of cars that cost considerable more. The key to its success is its all round ability. It's just as comfortable sitting in traffic or cruising on the motorway as it is tackling tight bends and twisting roads. Add to that the immense performance, a great V8 sound plus superb handling and it's easy to see why the M5 is such a success.
What does a BMW M5 (2011 – 2017) cost?
BMW M5 (2011 – 2017): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 520 litres
Like the exterior, BMW has gone for an understated look when it comes to the interior of the M5. This is still a premium saloon after all. Like the standard 5 Series it’s a high quality and impeccably finished cabin that’s comfortable and user friendly. Of course there are some special features to make it stand out such as the bespoke M Sport sears and a nice aluminium detailed trim across the dash, but there's not too much to distinguish it as a performance car.
The one big difference is of course the gearbox. The M5 gets a unique gear lever - the same as the one on the previous version. It's straightforward to use aside from the fact there's no 'P' mode - it automatically goes into park when you turn the ignition off, although this does take a little getting used to if you're familiar with a traditional automatic.
Like the standard 5 Series, the M5 is fitted with BMWs iDrive control system along with a superbly clear 10.2-inch display screen via which you can control everything from the sat nav to the stereo/radio and also the various car parameters. There are lots of settings and it can get a little daunting trying to set the car up depending on what kind of driving you're doing. Usefully on the steering wheel there are two M Drive button which can be pre-configured for specific settings, so you can have one with a comfort setting and an all out dynamic mode for the other.
There are six adjustable parameters: engine management, the Servotronic power steering, the M DCT Drivelogic gearshift programme, DSC mode, the electronically variable Dynamic Damper Control and the information relayed in the standard driver head-up display. The last feature has become a BMW trademark and is perfectly suited to the M5, giving you all the info you need right in front of you.
Of course the M5 isn't cheap but it does come well equipped for the money. Standard equipment includes the head-up display, DAB radio, sat nav, Bluetooth and parking sensors front and back. There is also a new real-time traffic information service which gives accurate traffic bulletins and diversion suggestions.
Standard equipment from launch (November 2011):
M5 standard kit includes Head-up Display, DAB digital radio, front and rear Park Distance Control, four-zone air-conditioning, xenon headlights, Adaptive Headlights, front seat heating, Professional Multimedia Navigation system and BMW Assist, a new real-time traffic information service which provides accurate traffic bulletins and diversion suggestions plus Bluetooth and USB audio interface.
Optional equipment includes a rear-view camera, High-Beam Assistant, Speed Limit information, Lane Change and Lane Departure warnings, Surround View and BMW Night Vision to ensure the driver is aware of anything and everything happening within the vicinity of the car. A Mobile Application preparation allows iPhone owners to receive web radio stations and display Facebook and Twitter posts on the Control Display.
Child seats that fit a BMW M5 (2011 – 2017)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the BMW M5 (2011 – 2017) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 18–24 mpg
For this, the fifth generation M5, BMW has reverted to a V8 engine instead of the V10 in the previous car. The 4.4-litre unit may be a smaller engine but it’s actually more powerful with 560PS – an increase of 53PS over the outgoing M5. The main factor behind this is that BMW has fitted a turbocharger. A twin-scroll turbocharger to be precise which also accounts for the big increase in torque – up from 520Nm to an incredible 680Nm.
It’s this big increase in grunt that makes the M5 feel more useable at low speeds. The torque is available from just 1500rpm so from low down it rapidly gains speed. Acceleration is thunderous yet also effortless and the M5 is as refined as it is fast. The 560PS peaks at 5750rpm up to 7000rpm and it’s when you work the engine that it really comes into its own.
The change from a V10 back to a V8 means the M5 sounds more aggressive, with the engine note less buzzy than before. Power never drops off all the way to the red line on the rev counter, while the turbo is seamless too with no lag and instant response – in fact you barely know it’s there apart from the amazingly rapid increase in pace when you accelerate.
But it’s the fact that the engine doesn’t have to be worked hard all the time that makes this M5 so enjoyable in everyday driving. You don’t have to be driving at high speeds to appreciate the noise it makes or the performance it offers. Of course it doesn’t hang about when you ask it to accelerate and it manages the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.4 seconds with 0-124mph taking 13.4 seconds in total apparently.
Perhaps the biggest improvement over the previous M5 comes in economy. While this may be a high performance saloon it still uses some of BMWs Efficient Dynamics systems including the automatic start/stop function and brake energy regeneration. These help fuel economy figures with a claimed average of 28.5mpg. That may not seem that impressive but compared to the previous M5 which managed a paltry 19.6mpg it’s a huge improvement. This M5 has a larger fuel tank – now 80 litres – which means a 50% increase in the distance between fill-ups.
Economy is further aided by the new seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission (M-DCT for short) which replaces the SMG gearbox. It can be left in standard D mode and goes along very nicely, thanks to a new low speed assistance function that keeps the car moving smoothly through heavy traffic with only a light touch on the accelerator. In fact, it’s amazingly docile and easy to drive.
Of course it also comes with a Sport mode which puts the gearbox into manual, allowing you to change gear using the lovely steering wheel paddle shifts. Unlike many other gearboxes, the M5 holds revs, even if you get to the red line, without automatically change up, giving you real control over it. There are three further settings so you can choose sporty, relaxed or an efficient driving style via a simple button just behind the gear lever. Putting it in the Sport + mode makes the gear changes suitably aggressive, while giving the steering more feel and making the electronically controlled dampers stiffer.
As you’d expect, the M5 handles supremely well. It feels far more agile than you’d expect of a car this size and weight with great balance. Despite all that power and the rear wheel drive set-up, traction is superb as is grip. It’s helped by a system called Active M - an electronically controlled limited slip differential that intervenes rapidly at an early stage to control wheelspin and keep the car stable.
As a result, the M5 inspires huge confidence and while you never forget how powerful it is, it’s never unruly or fidgety. It really comes into its element on quiet tight and twisting roads, the kind that are unfortunately pretty rare in the UK. You can push it into corners with plenty of enthusiasm knowing that it will flatter you and take it all in its stride.
It can sometimes struggle for traction out of slow corners, in second gear, where you’ll find the DSC stability control light flashing on the instrument panel. It does seem a little intrusive, but in M Dynamic Mode (MDM ) the DSC will allow you a little bit of wheelspin before it intervenes which is a good compromise. Thank to huge six-piston caliper brakes, it stops as well as it goes too and even after plenty of hard driving, the brakes show no sign of fading, remaining strong and responsive.
While the M5 is a serious performance car, that doesn’t come at the expense of refinement. Thanks to the electronically controlled dampers, which come with a comfort setting for everyday driving, it’s very smooth and irons out bumps and potholes better than many non performance cars with ‘sports’ suspension. Even in the sportiest settings it’s never harsh meaning it’s easy to drive the M5 quickly yet still smoothly.
|4.4 DCT||29 mpg||3.9–4.3 s||231–232 g/km|
Real MPG average for a BMW M5 (2011 – 2017)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the BMW M5 (2011 – 2017)?
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BMW M5 brake noise
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