Silliest, most senseless, nastiest, moodiest, most cliched, fastest, most focussed, sportiest, costliest, coolest, hottest, most wilful and most fun are just some of the descriptive terms applied by Iain Robertson to BMW’s latest big saloon model.
In a gender-neutral new world of political correctness gone loopy, it is so rewarding to herald the arrival of testosterone packed motorcars that cock a snook at growing but unwelcome alternative conventions. Were you to reside in North America, your automotive kicks and mostly male penile extensions might come from thumpingly great, thunderously potent pickup trucks (although, a small tranche of sophistication and, thus, premium demand does exist for the best that Japan and Europe can bring to the performance table).
As ex-EU Europeans, we are somewhat spoiled by our close proximity to automotive engineering genius. We have it on home ground, thanks to Indian owned Jaguar and its SVR sideshow, if you can tolerate the unreliability. It also comes with added levity from Chinese owned Lotus. Even German owned Bentley provides eastern (Teutonic) promise in grand style. Yet, our contribution to the performance arena comes in spades with its inherent connections to the heartland of pinnacle world motorsport. In some ways, despite the external and aforementioned pressures, we have potent bloodlines running through our veins.
France never truly gets a look in, its style-centric mindset remains stuck in a Citroen ID/DS groove, from which it can never extricate itself. The Swedes sold out to China ages ago and, apart from teensy flashes of enterprise from Belgium and Spain, it seems they have other geese to cook. However, despite the supercar influence of the Italians, true and accessible high performance comes from the country with a fast-depleting network of unlimited roadways, Germany. I shall leave you to nominate the other bahn-stormers, large and small, of which BMW remains the most indomitable force.
The M prefix is protected voraciously and, although the CS suffix is a somewhat later conditional additive, it is also linked inextricably to BMW. While 7 and 9 remain unadorned in the BMW Series, 1 to 6 and 8 have all carried the Bavarian Motorsport link in various stages of their gestation, although the greatest of them has always been the 5. It is the newest iteration, revealed for speculative early order-placers, in M5 CS form, that can wave the red rag to Maserati’s bull and boast that it is the fastest four-door in series production. Mind you, it has taken long enough for the EU nannies to remove the strict ‘155-max’ that has reined-in BMW’s hyperformance for rather too long.
Here are the numbers: 635bhp, 553lbs ft (from 1,800 to 5,950rpm), 7,200rpm bi-turbo V8 engine limiter, 189mph (limited), 0-60mph in 2.7s (yes, faster than a Tesla EV), 248g/km CO2 and 25.9mpg, all in exchange for £140,780 and on sale this spring.
Thanks to the unerringly excellent talents of Mr Chris Willows, the former PR Director of BMW GB, I have had access to M5 exquisiteness from the outset in 1985 now through six generations. Each variant has raised the heartbeat and beads of perspiration, although it was the fourth generation, the Chris Bangle ‘flame surfaced’, normally aspirated, 5.0-litre V10 E60 of 2004 that took my breath away. When I was informed ‘off the record’ (although it is now on it) that the speed limiter had been removed for my launch return drive from Pau, in the South of France, I had no concept that, on a brand new and deserted French autoroute, I would hit an unprecedented indicated 211mph…
It was not the only thrill machine that I experienced from BMW’s hand-fettled M Sport division, when I drove the E61 estate car version a year later from Lincoln back to Pau for the World Touring Car race in a scarcely believable 12 hours, without touching a ‘pre-cameras obsessed’ Gallic motorway. It would be impossible to replicate the trip today.
While the wall of performance has now reached a fresh peak with the latest M5 CS, despite its alloyed and carbon-fibred perfection, it remains an ultra-performance cocktail of near-Molotov proportions. From the wind-cheating strakes on its rooftop, to the air-dammed front end and channelled rear, it is designed for ultimate stability and aero-efficiency to scorch to 200kph (124mph) in the same 10.4s my Suzuki Vitara can reach half that velocity. Supported by a rear-prioritised all-wheel drive system that can become totally rear-focussed at the depression of a button, the M5 CS can be halted by its ceramic braking system operating on dinner-plate sized, slotted and radially ventilated rotors, set within 20.0-inch diameter, forged Y-spoke alloy wheels.
Its interior is by far the most motorsport influenced of any BMW yet produced. The now customary digital instrument displays, both ahead of the driver, in the centre console and through a practical head-up windscreen projection provide instant status readouts to a driver ensconced within a carbon-fibre reinforced but lightweight racing seat. It is matched not only with the front passenger perch but also with two more similarly profiled buckets in the rear, each with a cliched Nürburgring circuit logo imprinted on the head restraint. Everything the driver needs access to is placed within tightly restrained reach, with shift paddles for the automatic transmission behind the cross-spokes of the tiller.
The number of electronic driver set-up options that extend to a variable, flap-controlled exhaust tone system verges on mind-boggling but can be tailored to specific requirements and centred on the steering wheel cross-spoke buttons. However, despite the car’s track focussed and capable mien, it remains a luxurious and well-equipped comfort package for the 99.9% of normal travel it is expected to cover. A choice of three paint finishes, the green and grey being matt, with the grey available in shiny finish and a new pale amber for the daytime running lamps signature complete the package.
Conclusion: Having formulated its own rule book, BMW is determined that none of us should forget what ICE performance signifies. Its handling, grip and dynamic elements are all exquisite.