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BMW M5 2012 review: first drive

The BMW M5 is a supremely satisfying drive.

Those crazy Germans, they really put together a sledgehammer sedan when they put their mind to it. Think Audi RS6, Benz E63 AMG and BMW M5 - big, brash, bad and ballistic.


The new M5 moves away from the previous V10 to a high-tech, "small block" 4.4-litre V8.... with two twin scroll turbochargers pumping at 1.5bar, variable valve timing and lift and direct fuel injection. 

It also has "eco" stop-start, brake energy regeneration and a number of other fuel and emissions saving systems that bring consumption down to an incredible 9.9-litres/100km in a car with 412kW/680Nm output. There's a seven-speed dual clutch manumatic putting power to the rear wheels via a multi-plate limited slip differential. 

It helps apportion drive to the wheel with the most traction. It's the most powerful M car ever to go into series production and points the way to the future for all performance BMWs - smaller capacity high-tech engines with more performance but reduced environmental impact.

This one puts away a 0-100kmh sprint in a mere 4.3 seconds but more relevant is how it performs on the move and how it handles for such a big, heavy car tipping the scales at 1870kg. Featuring just about everything from the BMW technology arsenal, the new $230,000 M5 has electronic controls to all its dynamic functions, all with multiple modes ranging from normal to comfort, eco, sport through to track.

It takes a while to set up the car to your particular calibration and annoyingly, some of them default back to nanny mode when you switch off. But we are told you can program that out of the car - given the know-how, inclination and time.


We appreciated the low speed assist that smooths the congestion crawl and the aluminium, leather and suede interior is a place of beauty and style offering up a striking level of comfort with all the fruit. Our test car was in a matte grey that made it look even meaner capped off with a set of forged 20-inch alloys that made children and pets run away and hide.


We sampled a few set-ups but essentially went for comfort/eco for general driving and "track" for the favourite sporty drive loop. The difference is chalk and cheese. In the former, it's a big supple luxury limo type of feel while in the latter, it's like a finely honed scalpel albeit, a weighty one.

But you have to activate the MDM (M Dynamic Mode) to prevent all that technology from intervening prematurely to cut the action. It can become exceedingly annoying when the car is continuously applying the brakes and vectoring the torque when you are trying to get a roll on through a set of corners. We fixed that.The level of performance from the twin turbo V8 is awe inspiring.

At no time is there a point when withering acceleration isn't available. It's point and squirt stuff. And the dynamics and transmission are up for it too. All very good. But when you boil it all down, the M5 is a supremely satisfying drive in terms of performance and handling. It also sounds incredible with a rolling thunder note from the quad exhausts; not a loud blatt as expected.


But BMW went all conscientious with its new M5, showing a green tinge in a car that will basically blow just about everything else off the road.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

M3 4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $43,500 – 55,000 2012 BMW M Models 2012 M3 Pricing and Specs
M3 4.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $45,200 – 57,200 2012 BMW M Models 2012 M3 Pricing and Specs
M3 Pure Edition 4.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $41,800 – 53,460 2012 BMW M Models 2012 M3 Pure Edition Pricing and Specs
M3 Pure Edition II 4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $44,200 – 55,880 2012 BMW M Models 2012 M3 Pure Edition II Pricing and Specs
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