In the 15 years that I have been hanging out with men in the motoring industry, I have come to realize that men gossip like women, they’re just as much afraid of getting old (it just kicks at around 35 up) and that they gush like teenage girls on Twilight watch about cars. The BMW M5 is just one of them.
A couple of weeks ago, a small group of car enthusiasts were given first dibs at the first-ever fleet of M vehicles including the new M5. While waiting for their turn to drive, I can feel their enthusiasm as they shared stories of different cars and horsepower ratings like 10-year-old kids talking about Pokémon with all the facts and figures only Wikipedia can provide. It got me curious and started asking: What’s all the fuss?
The M5 was first introduced at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1984, becoming the first-ever saloon car that had the capacity of a race car. It was answering the demands of a comfortable race car. If you have not been in a race car, riding the original M5 was not fun at all considering that it got no air-con, the ride being so bumpy and the seats being so hard that after traveling for hours you would end up getting a sliming silhouette of bruises from the bucket seats. The M5 was introduced and basically changed the ball game. The marriage of speed and comfort became a lucrative band wagon which all supercar manufacturers have jumped into.
The latest incarnation of the M5 comes with the 4.4-liter M TwinPower Turbo V8 engine with a 7-speed M double-clutch transmission with Drive logic. It comes with more power—560 hp from the 500 hp of the previous non-turbo engine and packs a 502 lb-ft torque. Motortrend.com claims that, “like all force-fed BMW engines of late, these numbers are underreported. The horsepower figure is much closer to 600 hp than not, and peak torque is reputed to be just below 550 lb-ft” So on paper it already looks incredibly monstrous.
Driving Dr. Jekyll
At first I was asked to drive the M5 on its regular mode. I don’t understand how this unassuming sedan can be the stuff of male daydreams. The first thing I noticed sliding in is just how spacious and luxurious it felt. It’s like going into a cockpit of a speedboat.
No way is this car a speed demon. It looks exactly like the BMW 5 inside and out, except of course the badge of slanted lines of light blue, blue and red preceding an M. Trimmed in black leather interiors, a more intuitive I-Drive, 360-degree cameras and all the driver aids you can imagine.
Driving around the track you can feel the sluggishness due to its size, although you can feel the power as it goes around and the stability of the vehicle on the off camber corners, comfort and ease of driving such a big car pays when you are probably stuck in traffic.
After two laps around the Clark racetrack, I was asked to pull over and to press one of the M buttons. As I stepped onto the pedal to accelerate onto the main straight of the racetrack, I almost felt my foot retract as I heard a sudden roar. The seemingly timid car had come to life. The monster had taken over and showed what he is made of.
Driving Mr. Hyde
As soon as I hit the M button, the Active Front Steering was triggered, giving the car more agility on the corners. At the M2 setting, it goes berserk as this enables the engine to redline, therefore experiencing the speed it promises.
Riding Mr. Hyde with a person trained to drive it is something, well, too personal.
What can I say, the perks of being married to the sole Filipino BMW trainer. After a couple of laps I rode shotgun with JP Tuason on the wheel. The first thing I said was: “Honey, be careful we can’t afford to pay for this.” Which he just returned with a smug face and showed me how monstrous the M5 is. When JP was driving it, it felt really close to riding a race car without the feeling of being thrown all over the place. You forget how big the car is as it hit the apex and comes out speeding from the corner.
Having it all
The M5 is basically the marriage of what ifs. What if a good race car can transform to a comfortable and luxury car or vice versa. Although some purists believe this version sold out to become more of a sophisticated vehicle (specially with the sound system designed to enhance engine sound), while others believe it has achieved the perfect dual personality. The M5 is like a man who is confident on what he packs and you need to press the right buttons to unleash it.