When we schedule vehicles in for the DriveLife team, some leave you wondering what they will be like, others leave you with some excitement or anticipation. Then there are the vehicles that you know are going to be pushing the benchmarks.

That’s exactly how we felt when we saw that the new BMW M5 was on our list. Has there ever been a bad one? We were keen to find out.

The Range

There has been and always will be only one true M5 model available from BMW. The F90 M5 is available in New Zealand for $199,990. And for that, you almost get the kitchen sink.

The M TwinPower Turbo 8-cylinder petrol engine is a 4.4L power plant that produces 441kW of power and 750Nm of torque. It has an 8-speed sport automatic transmission and when combined with the powerful engine, it can propel the M5 to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds, and it can achieve a top speed of 305 km/h. BMW has stated that this V8 will have a combined fuel consumption of 10.5l/100km.  

The M5 comes with a range of 16 exterior paint colours, 1 non-metallic, 6 metallic and 9 BMW Individual Paint colours. For the interior you have a selection of 3 Merino and 3 BMW individual leather options.

The standard equipment list for the M5 is huge; you get Adaptive LED headlights including High-beam Assist, Approach control warning and person warning with city braking function, automatic air conditioning with 4-zone control, BMW display key, BMW Gesture control, head-up display, BMW Individual high gloss shadow line carbon fibre roof, comfort access system, Driving Assistant Plus includes active cruise control, Dynamic Damper Control, electric seat adjustment with memory function, Soft-Close function for doors, Harman/Kardon surround sound system, Interior and exterior rear-view mirrors with automatic anti-dazzle function, Lane Departure and Lane Change Warning, M leather Steering wheel, M multifunction seats for driver and front passenger, M Servotronic power steering, M Sport brakes, M Sports exhaust system, M xDrive all-wheel drive system, Metallic paintwork, Navigation system, 10.25” touch Control Display, Park distance control front and rear, Parking assistant plus incl. 3D Remote View  Rear View Camera, Seat heating for driver and front passenger, Sun protection glazing, Telephony with Wireless Charging for smartphone, BMW Connected +, Concierge services, ConnectedDrive services, Real time traffic information, Remote services, Intelligent emergency call and TeleServices.

Standard wheels are available for the M5 are 20″ M light alloy wheels Double-spoke style 706 M Bicolour, which can be optioned for 20″ M light alloy wheels Double-spoke style 706 M Jet Black for an additional $500.

Our review can was also optioned with $16,250 of extras. This include M Performance exterior kit, M Carbon engine cover, Apple CarPlay, Ambient Air package, Active seat ventilation in the front seats and Ceramic surround for controls.

For a full list of the standard and optional extras, check out the eBrouchure available from BMW New Zealand – eBrouchure

First Impressions

Unlike Audi or Mercedes-Benz, BMW have maintained a sleeper design to the exterior of its flagship super sedan. I think it looks great, it has powerful yet sleek lines running from front to back. Our review car was optioned with the Marina Bay Blue metallic paint, which was a relief – we never know what colour we will get. Its interior was Merino leather in Silverstone white, not something I would have picked, but it looked perfect with the Marina Bay exterior. The other noticeable thing was the carbon fibre roof. We have seen this on the M3 and M4, but never the M5. Sitting there before it was collected, there was a underlying feel that this car just wanted to be driven. I didn’t want to disappoint so we hit the road to see what this M5 had to offer.

The Inside

While the exterior might seem to be more subtle, the interior did not follow with the same design philosophy. Opening the door you are faced with a serious set M multifunction seats for driver and front passenger. It would not have been my choice, but the Silverstone white Merino leather looked amazing. Sculpted bucket seats with a dark centre line which lead from the base all the way up to the M5 badge just below the head rest. And the if the seats themselves were not cool enough, the M5 badge in the headrest lights up too, which I thought was a very cool touch. Thankfully these seats were not just visually impressive, they were very comfy and supportive too. A great mixture of high end luxury and sporty performance.

Hold the phone, my prayers have been answered. The stop/start button is red, thank you BMW for acknowledging this simple yet fun button, and being able to see that making it black or silver is just not right for a sporty car. The steering wheel had some nice touches too, that made it feel special and sporty. It had the usual arrangement of buttons for the radio, phone, volume and it even had nice large paddle shifters too. But the really cool part was the two M buttons adjacent to the thumb positions at 10 and 2. The left said M1 and the right said M2 and both were red. Great touches, which made the driving experience that bit more special.

Apart from the seats, gearstick (addressed later) and steering wheel the rest of the interior is much like any of the other 5 series or mid range BMW models on offer – clean, stylish and modern. Even though the 5 series has its own unique look, they all share a very similar design language.

The rear seats room is ok, for a large sedan. Even getting in behind the driver seat setup in the position for a 6-foot 7-inch driver. There was just enough room for me to get in the back without feeling squashed or being worried about how long the drive was going to be. However the large M multifunction seats are a lot bigger from behind. And they felt like they encroached on the leg room for taller people compared to regular BMW seats.

The boot is a very spacious 530 litres, which can be expanded by lowering the two back seats, this can be done via some convenient buttons in the boot which will automatically drop the two back seats.

The wide-screen media display in the middle of the dash is crystal clear and very high resolution. The new media system has taken ideas from phone apps. In the default menu, you have 3 windows; Media, Navigation and Connected Drive. The media section shows what media or radio is playing at the time. Navigation displays a very small version of the nav map, which you can select and go full screen with. The Connected Drive is more of a useful info window, which can show you where fuel stations are if you need them, or what the weather currently is. This system is also used with BMW’s amazing 3D 360 car parking camera system. For me this option alone is class-leading compared to what others offer.

I have said it before and I will say it again, new tech is great, I am always keen to try out the latest gadgets that come out. However, If you want to look like a complete idiot while sitting in traffic, then Gesture system from BMW is for you – fixing what I can only see as something that was not broken.  This system allows you to wave your hands in front of the media display screen, in some Harry Potter spell casting fashion. If you cast your spell correctly, you might be able to change or interact with a range of multimedia features. My spell casting powers were more muggle than wizard, and I was only ever able to raise or lower the volume. I can only imagine how this looked from the outside, on the countless number of times I tried to get it working. For now, I will be sticking with the buttons.

The M5 came with the Ambient Air option which I had tested in the 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo. Our review car had two fragrances installed, either of which could be selected via the iDrive system with the option of three dispersion levels. Once selected the fragrance is gently added to the air in the cabin. I found level 3 dispersion level was a bit much – toilet strength – so I stuck to level 1 for my time in the M5. This will be an each to their own thing to work out.

This isn’t really about the inside, but more the outside – the M Performance exterior kit, which is $10,000 by the way. This adds the front bumpers intake surrounds, side skirts, rear diffuser and boot lid spoiler. I kind of see the value in some places, the side skirts look really nice, the rear diffuser is awesome. The boot spoiler is ok-ish, I would have preferred an integrated lip on a $200,000 car, but I would live it with. I would not however live with the tacky, cheap looking boy racer front bumper intake surrounds. The car we had showed gaps all around them, like an amateur had used some 3M tape to stick them on. For $10K, that’s not ok. And if I had owned this car, they would be coming off.  

The Drive

The customisation available in the M5 has always been extensive. And the new M5 is no different, however it’s a bit more user friendly then models in the past. In almost every performance BMW available there are 3 or 4 buttons beside the gear stick which usually allows you to select Eco, Comfort, Sport and sometimes Adaptive. Not in the new M5, they have swapped this out for 4 different buttons that allow you to customise the individual aspects of the car.

The 3 main buttons allow you to change the modes of the engine, suspension, and steering. Now I am sure you’re thinking that most cars have the ability to change these things. And you’re right, it’s usually by selecting Eco, Comfort, or Sport mode buttons. Where it’s different in the M5 is that you have the ability to control these aspects individually all the time.  Each button, the engine, suspension and steering allows you to select the Comfort, Sport and Sport+. This means that you have have a custom setup, with the engine in Sport, suspension in Comfort and steering in Sport+.

Customisation is great, but it also needs to be user friendly, which many are not. BMW have made it easy to set all settings to Sport or Sport+ by the touch of a single button. There are two red buttons, M1 and M2, located on the steering wheel and 10 and 2 position. When you press M1, it sets up the engine, suspension and steering to all be in Sport mode. And M2 will set everything to Sport+. And once activated, if you press either the M1 or M2 again, it will switch everything back to the comfort settings. These buttons can also be customised to different setups for the drivers preference. The M1 and M2 settings in our test are the factory setup settings

But there is more; the gear stick has changed compared to the standard BMW gear stick. And this new design has additional buttons on the top of the stick which allow you to change the aggressiveness and speed of the gearbox. What this means is that regardless of the M mode, or the settings that you have the engine, suspension or steering wheel in. I’ll be honest I didn’t see the need for this, as it always seemed to be linked in the engine settings. But some people might like the flexibility of these options.

The M5 also has 4 wheel drive which BMW call xDrive. This BMW comes with M xDrive with Active Differential which allows you to select different xDrive modes from 4WD to 4WD Sport and then 2WD. 4WD keeps the car glued to the road, controlling the power delivery to the wheels without loss of traction under power. This is great for the everyday or all weather driving. 4WD Sport is similar to 4WD, however it allows the rear wheels to get a bit more power and break loose while still remaining very controllable. Its sporty and it’s fun. And 2WD is just that, all the power goes to the rear wheels, and you’re almost guaranteed to loss of traction in most sport driven corners. It’s there for the true enthusiast, who wants the historical BMW rear wheel-drive experience.

The custom options also extend to the M sports exhaust system and M sound control. The sports exhaust has integrated valves that open up when in Sport or Sport +. Each mode allows you to enjoy the dynamic range of the engine and exhaust system. The M sound control works in the opposite way, allowing you to adjust the engine and tailpipe sound inside the vehicle so it becomes discreetly subdued.

As you can see the is a lot to the BMW M5. Now the I have explained all of that, what does it feel like from behind the steering wheel. Right from the start it feels pretty damn good. The day to day is effortless luxury. The powerful engine provides you with enough low-end torque that you can waft around without any jerky passenger heads. The week I drove the M5 was a wet one, which was great for testing the xDrive 4wd system. As my daily driver is a V10 Audi RS6 with 420kW so I was well aware how the mighty quattro 4wd system handled, and I was very curious to know if the M5 would stand up against Audi’s tried and tested system.

The mighty M5 did not disappoint in any of its driving modes. In the default 4wd the system handled amazingly well in bad weather conditions. Many times I pushed it much further then I would ever wanted to, just to see how far it would go. Each time the car managed the power based on conditions and what I was trying to do. I will say that I did notice a small lag in the low end rpm range which I think was computer controlled to allow for easy take off when you are not in sports modes. Apart from that I never had a problem with it, and it felt just as good as Audi’s quattro system.

When I moved into M1 or Sports mode, you started to see the crazy side of BMW appear. M1 is still in 4wd, but it lets the rear become a bit loose under high acceleration. The nice thing about this sports mode is that it changed the car a lot, from the gentle cruiser to a sport sedan. The engine becomes peppy, the steering becomes very sharp and the suspension stiffens up to just the right amount, no matter what you were doing, accelerating from standstill or while going around a corner. You felt the excitement from when the car broke traction at the rear while still remaining easily controllable.

This is good and bad, the good is seen by the grin on my face, it was fun, which is what this car is all about. The bad however is if you forget that the car was doing a lot more than you were here to keep it facing the way you started. So if you jump in another car and do the same thing that does not have an active diff, you might find out the hard way the true relative of your skills. It was really hard to not have fun while driving this car, the power of the sports mode and the noise from the exhaust as it gurgles and splutters on the down shifts is every part of what M is about.

The next mode M2 is not quite the everyday sports mode M1 is. M2 is aggressive to say the least. The engine car becomes very angry, power is instant, gearshifts are neck breaking, and the suspension has turned to concrete. For New Zealand I can’t seem many people using the standard M2 setup as the roads here are just not up to it. I saw M2 as a track mode setup more than anything useful for the day to day. Maybe I am starting to get old, but the aggressiveness of the car was just to much in this mode. My Audi has a similar race setup for its suspension, which I never use. I have yet to try the new M5 on the track, however I did get to track every M car on the track last year the the 2017 BMW M Festival and not a single car disappointed me.

The Competition – Large Performance 4 Door Sedans / Coupes

This is where the heavy hitters do battle, the prices are high and the numbers are close. It can generally come down to brand preference or the fastest and most powerful figures.

Brand/Model Engine Power/Torque 0-100km/h, seconds Seats Fuel, L/100km Boot Space, Litres Price Highest to Lowest
Porsche Panamera 4S 2.9L V6 Turbo 324kW / 550Nm 4.2 4 8.2 500 $275,300
Audi RS7 4.0L V8 TFSi 445kW / 700Nm 3.7 5 9.5 535 $224,900
Jaguar XJR 575 5.0L V8 Supercharged 423kW / 700Nm 4.4 5 11.1 479 $199,900
BMW M5 4.4L V8 Twin Turbo 441kW / 750Nm 3.4 5 10.5 530 $199,900
Mercedes-AMG E 63 4.0L V8 Bi-Turbo 420kW / 750Nm 3.5 5 9.3 540 $199,900
Lexus GS F 5.0L V8 351kW / 530Nm 4.6 5 11.3 480 $169,900

The pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Strong sleek design
  • The Sound is glorious
  • Astonishing performance
  • A true Euro Muscle car
  • Light and nimble for a big car
  • Luxury interior
  • Endless technology, tons of toys
  • Huge amount of performance customisation
  • Carbon roof says I’m fun
  • Good boot, nice depth
  • Cool logos in the headrests
  • Optional 4WD and 2WD
  • Lots of options for the same sort of money
  • Carbon bits on front bumper looked cheap and boy racer
  • Back seats not super roomy due to larger M multifunction driver and passenger seats

What we think

The M range really does have something for everyone. So If the M2 is a bit too raw for you, M3 is too small, and the M4 does not have enough doors, the more mature and refined M5 should tick a lot of the same boxes, while still being something you can live with on the day to day. It may not be for everyone as it ain’t cheap, neither is it really efficient, however you do get a lot for your money. High tech, high luxury, and a serious big boy toy that you can have a lot of fun in. I really enjoyed my time in the M5, and will miss the active diff and seats when I hand it back.

The BWM M5 is still clearly the king of the land, doing everything from the daily commute to weekend track days, all without breaking a sweat.

Rating – Chevron rating (5 out of 5)

2018 BMW M5

Vehicle Type Performance Sedan/Fastback
Starting Price $199,990 plus on-road costs
Tested Price $216,150 plus on-road costs (factory options only)
Engine M TwinPower Turbo 8-cylinder petrol engine
Power Kw / Torque Nm 441kW/750Nm
Transmission 8-speed sport automatic
0 – 100 kph, seconds 3.4
Spare Wheel Space saver
Kerb Weight, Kg 2440
Length x Width x Height, mm 4966 x 2126 x 1473
Fuel Tank, litres 68
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  10.5L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –  11.2L / 100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing N/A
Turning circle N/A

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 5-year warranty or up to 100,000 km, whichever occurs first.
ANCAP Rating 5 Stars


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John Galvin (JSG)
It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.


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