The impertinent self-satisfaction of brown bread and an ultimate BMW
Munich car giant, BMW, has announced the latest version of its finest all-round M5 Competition performance saloon and Iain Robertson reveals the visceral pleasure attached to its driving experience and its jaunty cock o’ the snook at the PC brigade.
For some unfathomable reason, my relatively local supermarket ceased selling my favourite Allinson wholemeal thick sliced bread around ten months ago. I tried to change supermarkets but it transpired that none of the others stocked it either and I replaced it with sliced sour dough, or Hovis thick sliced, neither of which was substantial enough. I was desolate until last weekend. Allinson wholemeal thick sliced bread had been returned to the bread aisle. It was still wrapped in its practical, resealable packaging. Once opened, its lightly malted esters teased my nasal receptors. Its density, inherent moistness and balanced construction had not been lost. My staff of life, it was as tasty and wholesome as ever.
If you cannot perceive the direct connection between sliced bread, Cockney rhyming slang and one of the speediest saloon cars on planet Earth, then you might fail to comprehend the importance of M5, whether to me, or anybody else, for that matter. The sheer selfishness related to slipping backside across finest grained hide, to be confronted by the complexity of a Eurofighter cockpit must be experienced to be believed. It is the precision in evidence, with every switch, dial and detail having its place and demanding that you, the guest driver, must learn the operational nuances in a semblance of ‘pre-flight’ mode.
Yet, there is no automotive psychosis, however marginally maddening meeting the array for the first time must be. Familiarity breeds rapidly, with each heartbeat, the capillary action filling the body’s extremities in readiness to depress the ‘Start’ button and, dependent on proximity of walls and concrete ceiling, excite the senses with a basso profundo blast of sharp-edged reality emerging from the close-coupled exhaust tailpipes. It is unabashed M-car magic, direct from the ‘techno-gnomes of Munich’, each of which creates the hand-built architecture clad in carbon and the unique tricolour resident beneath the bonnet.
I still recall the first M5 (E28 in BMW-speak) I ever drove, in 1984. Boy! What a joy! Non-stymied by electronic interference, its rear-driven tail and a notional 286bhp were an enticement to adolescent misbehaviour. Flicking the tail out was as effective as flicking the vee at officialdom. Pointless really but ever so much fun. Roundabouts became a blur of oversteer in and out, while setting up a slipstream of acrid burnt rubber. I could never own one. It would eat me out of house and home.
A succession of M5 experiences culminated in the ultimate trust of the (then) UK PR team’s confidence in my skills to remove the 155mph politically correct speed limiter on the E60 designated M5 version of 2005. My memories of travelling at an indicated 209mph on a brand new, arrow-straight and utterly deserted Gallic autoroute will never leave me. The primeval punch associated with that car’s 5.0-litre V10 naturally-aspirated engine ought never be repeated today, in a world of electrification, a demand for lower road tax and a host of virtue signallers ready to tumble every statue erected to the magnificence of fossil-fuelled motorcars…except that it has been.
The F10 variant of 2011 introduced us to the 4.4-litre bi-turbo V8, continued in the current F90 form (2017) and now in Competition trim. Now producing a useful 625bhp allied to 553lbs ft of torque, the M5 Comp challenges the short-term supremacy of a Tesla Model S by blasting from 0-60mph in a scorchingly repeatable 3.0s dead (0-120mph in 10.0s). Naturally, it is Euro-limited to 155mph but also boasts a beneficial price tag advantage, weighing-in at £98,095, out of personal reach but surely within the mien of that monied segment of the new car scene.
Driving all four wheels through an 8-speed Steptronic gearbox that affords the driver total transmission control (zero auto-upshifts, when on the rev-limiter), it is no surprise that your cheeks will be ripped from your face with every indulgent acceleration test. Delving into the dynamic stability control, the driver can adjust the torque bias and how much intentional slip can be allowed on an otherwise exquisite example of chassis engineering. It is truly malleable and MDM (M Dynamic Mode) equates to controllable drifts and handling entertainment seldom granted these days to high performance car users.
Electronically enhanced suspension and steering, while lacking marginally the raw feedback possible with the original E28, provide a modicum of comfort that can be dialled into racetrack readiness, if so desired. Even the engine is mounted semi-rigidly to the front structure of the car, which influences cornering agility and immediacy of power delivery. Race-style ball-joints, instead of rubber mounts provide greater accuracy to the driver seeking precise handling. The car rides on unequally sized front to rear 20.0-inch alloy wheels and tyres (275/35 on 9.5J fronts; 285/35 on 10.5J rears). Even the exhaust tone can be adjusted through several settings using flap controls, from subtle and aurally comfortable to raucous, spitting and barking at its most severe.
Naturally, arresting an M5 demands high-performance brakes and the standard (for the first time) red callipers are six-pot units on the front, with single-pot and incorporated parking brake at the rear. Yet, blue or black can be specified and gold is reserved for the carbon-ceramic alternatives. Perhaps surprisingly, despite its racier nature, the M5 Competition is adorned only subtly with ‘go faster’ goodies, such as the skinny black gurney on the boot spoiler, or the matching air vents on both front wings. The front bumper is a smooth and rounded affair, although the enlarged ‘Double Kidney’ grille and pair of lower intakes do present a sense of purpose.
To be frank, I am not the biggest fan of BMW. However, I do appreciate the sporting streak that runs through the company and, even though it no longer expresses its intentions through its advertising, it is hard to disguise its performance enthusiasm.
Conclusion: For as long as petrol is available, you can rest assured that BMW will have a means by which to burn it quickly. The latest M5 Competition model is an ultimate car in all respects.