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BMW M5 2012 review: snapshot

Formula One is dead at BMW and the all-new M5 proves it. The new M flagship is softer, easier to drive, and has lost the signature F1 connection of its predecessor - its lusty, high-revving V10 engine.

The 2012 M5 is more of a grand tourer than a track weapon, as well as the greenest M-car yet, which is both a good and a bad thing.

Fans of the outgoing M5 - now sure to become a collector's classic - will find the newcomer a bit soft and uninspiring. The old car was always up for a bit of hooligan fun but the newcomer is more adult and refined.

You can still tap the M well with the new car, but it has to be a deliberate decision. Once you do, as I discover during hot laps at the superb Ascari circuit in Spain, it's a thumpingly good drive, very fast and nicely responsive.

Then again, out on the freeway afterwards, the M5 is as cushy as a 520i and not much louder inside. It also has the benefit of the excellent M sports bucket seats - and on-tap acceleration that will fry your license as quickly as the back tyres.

VALUE

The new M5 hits Australia in February next year and the bottom line - even with more standard equipment, is expected to be less than the $241,000 of the F10 with V10.

The package is built around the latest 5 Series as always - the Five is best in class today - and the key M additions are a twin-turbo V8 engine and a seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual gearbox, but the car also gets M front brake calipers - with blue paint, no less - an active limited-slip differential, a bunch of driver-adjustable chassis and engine settings, a leather cabin, giant alloys and everything else you expect - down to an alloy M footrest for the driver.

TECHNOLOGY

The bottom-line number are 412 kiloWatts of power, 680 Newton-metres of torque, a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.4 seconds, a genuine top speed of 305km/h and a Nurburgring lap time better than eight minutes.

Every one of the numbers is better than the previous M5, yet the car is also capable of sipping 30 per cent less fuel with claimed consumption of 9.5 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 232 grams/ kilometre.

So, how did it happen? The decision to go easier for the new M5 is driven by a number of things, from the efficiency of the car's twin-turbo V8 engine - the basics are the same as the 4.4-litre, force-fed V8 already in the X6 M and X5 M - to the overall refinement of the latest 5 Series donor car and the need to create a bigger gap between the rorty youthful M3 and a grown up's M5.

"We wanted to improve the suitablly for everyday use. We wanted the customer not to have to choose between a car for the racetrack and for every day," says Max Ahme, M5 project leader.

He says 80 per cent of the parts in the car are specific to the M5, although it still only has the basic rear brake calipers of the regular Five because of the car's electronic parking brake. The car is a hefty beast at 1870 kilograms but not as heavy as the previous model.

Finally, why is the V10 dead?  "Efficiency. More cylinders, more revs, it means more fuel," says Ahme. Oh, and BMW has also withdrawal from F1 after famously failing to make the right impact in grand prix racing.

DRIVING

An M5 is always going to be a special car. Arriving in Spain I expect to see and experience a car at the top of its game, and capable of putting the sword to its direct rivals - the Jaguar XF-R and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

There are doubts about the turbo engine, which is brilliantly aggressive in the X6 M but missing the sharp edge of M greatness, and questions about everything from the styling to the seven-speed DSG- style gearbox.

The first doubts are erased within a couple of kilometres, as the package is taut and surprisingly relaxing. It also has brutal kickdown acceleration for overtaking.

But slippery Spanish roads - a combination of dust and polished bitumen - show the tweaked V8 - which gets better cylinder heads, variable valve timing and other advances over the one used in the go- faster SUVs - has too much torque for the conditions. From as little as 60km/h, and as much as 100km/h, the traction control light starts blinking at every overtaking sprint.

The exhaust note is also flat and trucklike, although there is a nice exhaust thump at every gearchange and during tight braking for corners.

A day later, heading to Ascari, I have adjusted to the GT side of the M5. It's a cushy run, quick but not silly, and the car is very very nice.

On the track - despite a nanny-style BMW pace car - the car shows its true M credentials, with cracking pace on the straights, great grip in corners, and all-round driving enjoyment.

There is no question that the M5 is a top-drawer car, and a worthy member of an M5 family that now runs back through five generations.

But it's just not as memorable as the old car, or as thumpingly aggressive as an E63. It's a car to drive and enjoy and savour. And a great car for a long quick trip. I just do not feel the M love that's made so many of its predecessors so special.

Pricing Guides

$67,888
Based on 5 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$60,990
Highest Price
$69,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 4.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $60,990 – 69,990 2012 BMW M5 2012 (base) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$60,990

Lowest price, based on 5 car listings in the last 6 months

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