Roughly, 35 years ago, BMW pioneered the formula for a four-door sedan with supercar beating performance. The formula was so simple it baffles the mind why other manufacturers had not gotten around to doing in earlier.
Yes, one could argue the Jaguar Mk2 was the genesis of the ‘sleeper’ sedan – but by shoehorning an M88 (racecar derived) six-cylinder into the relatively sedate (E28) 5 Series body, BMW proved a mundane family sedan could eat performance vehicles for breakfast, and do it in style.
In there lies the beauty and nuanced approach of the M5.
It is both boardroom executive and MMA fighter, quiet and composed one moment, yet loud and lethal the next, both a precise family car and red-blooded hot-rod depending on what you need it to be. This has been exemplified in all six-generations of the M5.
Click here to find out why the (E60) BMW M5 is my all-time favourite.
Having recently revealed the facelifted version of the current (F90) M5, BMW has yet again evolved the concept of its ‘Bahn-Stormer Q-Car’ – keeping the exterior somewhat unassuming, while cloaking up to 625hp of fury (in the M5 Competition) under the hood.
But of course, this all comes at a price – because making a car fast is one thing, making the whole thing work as a cohesive package: that requires know-how and sublime engineering.
Which is why, the current (F90) BMW M5, retails for roughly three times more than the (G30) BMW 530i M Sport – you could say it’s the starting point of the BMW performance ladder. Nevertheless, just how special is the M5? Let’s take a closer look…
Firstly, the difference in prices…
Note, for this comparison, we will be looking at the (pre-facelift) F90 BMW M5 first introduced here in 2018, and comparing to the locally sold, BMW 530i M Sport first introduced here in 2017.
The locally-assembled BMW 530i M Sport, after the recent sales tax discounts, is priced at RM372,800. The M5, on the other hand, is priced at just under RM943k, or almost three times the price of the 530i, which in all fairness – sits just as many occupants, looks mostly similar, and perhaps 80 percent of the time will drive about the same until you put your foot down that is.
How much power has it got?
Well for the money, almost three times as much as well. The 530i delivers 252hp at 5,200 rpm and 350Nm of torque from as low as 1,450 rpm. Granted, the 530i is no slouch, and as we have noted before, plenty of pace in the right hands. Nevertheless, those numbers pale in comparison to the 600hp (at 6,000rpm), and 750 Nm of torque the M5 delivers. Now the crucial point to note here is the rpm range at which the M5 delivers maximum torque - between 1,800 rpm and 5,600 rpm.
This means that once its dual (twin-scroll) turbochargers spool up – it sends an unwavering salvo of power which is maintained throughout the engine’s operation in each gear. This translates into having a very predictable and exploitable speed, anytime and anywhere you need it.
BMW achieves this via impeccably tuning of the M5’s software and hardware parameters. For one, the M5 is able to manipulate its requirements of air, fuel, boost pressure, and ignition timing precisely to provide that flat torque curve. To this end, the M5’s S63B44 engine utilises a cross-bank exhaust manifold, indirect charge air-cooling, (350 bar) high-precision injectors, fully-variable valve timing (Valvetronic), and variable camshaft timing (Double Vanos). The M5 also uses vastly different lubrication and cooling systems to handle the stresses of track driving.
The B48 engine in the 530i uses a single (twin-scroll turbocharger), though it does utilise Valvetronic and Double Vanos technology tuned for a perfect mix of fuel economy and performance.
Where does it send its power?
This is quite possibly the biggest difference between the M5 and the rest of the (G30) 5 Series range – it sends the power to all four-wheels. Though both the 530i and M5 have an 8-speed automatic transmission gearbox supplied by ZF, that’s about where the similarities end. The 530i delivers its power exclusively to its rear wheels, do note however that other markets offer xDrive AWD version of the 530i, 540i and M550i.
In the F90, for the first time in an M5 model - power is channelled to all four wheels through an M xDrive' all-wheel drive system. The rear-biased system only calls on the front wheels when additional traction is needed. Additionally, the Active M Differential (also found on the M3 and M4 models) is responsible for precisely distributing drive torque between the rear wheels.
This gives the M5 three main M xDrive settings:
- 4WD, DSC Normal – Optimised traction, predictable drivability, limited rear wheel slip allowed.
- 4WD Sport, DSC - MDM – M Dynamic Mode (MDM) distributes more drive torque to rear axle, permissible rear wheel slip is increased, for playful handling.
- 2WD, DSC Off – Pure rear-wheel drive, classic M5 oversteer driving characteristics.
The system is also able to vary the amount of torque between the front and rear axles at any given time – again adding to the M5’s predictability and potent traction levels.
The transmission has been optimised for lightning-fast gear changes, while the torque converter lock-up clutch activates almost as soon as the car starts moving. The drivetrain has been further reinforced for greater rigidity and strength to make allowance for the high torque, the rear-biased configuration, and the 2WD drive option.
As the old saying goes, power is nothing without control.
What about handling?
In terms of handling – the (F90)'s electronically controlled shock absorbers can be augmented between three driving modes: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus.
This allows the driver to tune the bound and rebound responses of the suspension depending on whether the car is on the road or track. Additionally, drivers can save certain preferred setups under the M5’s “M1” drive mode, for instance, if they prefer soft suspension settings, but the engine and transmission in full attack mode, if they were driving down a bumpy B-Road.
Likewise, the M Servotronic steering can alter steering torque depending on the same three preset settings.
The M5 is fitted with M compound brakes discs, which are significantly lighter than conventional cast-iron items. Six-piston fixed callipers feature at the front, while the rear is fitted with a single-piston floating calliper.
Notwithstanding that the 530i on the other hand, still offers substantial adjustability when cycling between its various drive modes, but the M5’s responses are just that much more finite. The 530i uses steel ventilated brakes on both the front and rear. The double-wishbone and multi-link on the front and rear of the 530i respectively is much like the setup on the M5. However, the M5 uses certain lightweight aluminium components to keep weight down, selected suspension components such as bushes are different for additional chassis rigidity as well.
What about weight?
This is one aspect where the 530i beats the M5. The 530i weighs in at 1,615 kg – impressive given the car’s relative size, safety systems and equipment list – the M5, on the other hand, weighs in at about 1,895 kg. The weight penalties are mostly down to the all-wheel drive system and larger engine which is more than double in size and has twice as many pistons.
Though BMW trims off a substantial amount of fat using lightweight chassis and brake components, lightweight wheels, aluminium body panels (front bonnet and wings) and a full carbon-fibre (CFRP) roof.
All 5 Series, and hence the M5 as well, don’t benefit from BMW’s Carbon Core technology, which utilises CFRP in the car’s shell construction – like is offered on the 7 Series model.
It does look quite different too
Concisely, the M5 sports different front and rear fascia, bigger (standard) wheels and vastly different aerodynamic features for added downforce and high-speed stability. In its latest iterations (in the facelift), both the G30 and F90 models have redesigned front and rear lights sporting L-Shaped light graphics.
Other standout features of the M5 are the functional side gills, just before the front doors.
The following images will best illustrate the aesthetic highlights of the M5.
Larger wheels, bigger brakes, and an enhanced suspension setup give the M5 its sublime sporting looks.
At the front wider air ducting aids cooling, while certain aerodynamic components functionally add downforce.
Four rounded tailpipes and aggressive diffuser at the rear are other telltale signs its an M5.
On the inside...
Subtle characteristic touches differentiate the inside of an M5 from a regular 5 Series. That and the use of expensive materials such as carbon fibre for the interior trim transforms the M5 from a chic boardroom into a jetfighter.
The facelifted version offers an improved infotainment system and newer control functions for the car's performance parameters.
The two red 'M1' and 'M2' pinned to the steering are most subtle yet prominent signs that this is no ordinary 5 Series.