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BMW M5 review: M for Monstrous
LET'S say you own a horse. The horse is a real charger; it's muscular, powerful, and takes a firm, experienced hand to get the best out of.
Would you give it some sort of mildly-calming tea before each ride, or a hyper-caffeinated energy drink?
BMW M, being the high-performance sub-brand for the German carmaker, has naturally opted for the latter with the latest version of its big bad warhorse, the M5.
It goes on sale here on Friday, and joins an elite club of cars with at least 600 horsepower under the bonnet. That's like taking your regular BMW 520i and giving it two more engines, plus a little extra for kicks.
That might sound a bit loony, but it's just how they roll at M.
The previous M5 already packed a considerable 575hp by the end of its lifetime. That it was already a car which could consume rear tyres like sugar cubes doesn't seem to have mattered to BMW M; minor engine modifications give the new model the 25 extra horsepower needed to reach the magic tally of 600, along with a 70 Newton-metre bump in peak torque.
That said, the M5 is not even the first car of this kind to pack 600hp from the factory - its arch-rival the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S was launched here last year with a neck-straining 613hp.
Yet, more power is exactly what the doctor didn't order, since the previous M5 was already tricky to drive hard, given how the huge torrent of power tended to overwhelm the rear wheels with ease.
This time around, however, BMW M seems mindful of the need not just to add to the M5's fury, but to make it easier to use. Engineers have added all-wheel drive (AWD), which gives the driver a much easier time by aiding forward traction.
That has also had the happy side effect of boosting the M5's accelerative prowess to absurd levels, too. The mad dash to 100km/h now takes just 3.4 seconds, which means it would take something like a Lamborghini or McLaren to outrun this BMW.
Hardcore enthusiasts might lament the switch to AWD, because it can make for a less involving or less challenging driving experience, but from a wider perspective, it's a logical move.
For lesser drivers like myself, AWD gives the M5 with an additional layer of control. I've no illusions about my ability (or lack thereof) to control a 600hp, 1.9-tonne machine driven hard. The extra traction was also especially welcome during the downpours that stretched over our test drive period.
Equally useful is the amount of customisation a driver has on hand. You can individually adjust the steering, gearbox, power delivery, exhaust sound, and suspension to your liking.
If that sounds like a headache, it's worth pointing out that the M5 also lets you pre-set your favoured setup with the two fire-alarm red M buttons mounted on the steering wheel.
All those tweakable settings mean the M5 can actually offer the same refinement inherent in the current 5 Series, so with the more relaxed settings engaged it will easily canter around town. It feels like a roomy, sedate business sedan, at least until you remember what it looks like.
Gaping air intakes, huge wheels and brakes, quadruple tailpipes, a fetching carbonfibre roof, and searing, metallic 'Marina Bay Blue' paintwork all make the M5 hard to miss and tell bystanders it's still not a car to take lightly.
To persuade your passengers of the same, toggle the most aggressive settings via an M button and then mash the accelerator pedal. The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 comes into full, growling play and the car charges forward with enough violence to turn selfies into bruising, un-Instagrammable forehead closeups.
Large it may be, the M5 still effortlessly delivers enough grip to make the resulting G-forces rip the smartphones right out of your passengers' hands.
If that doesn't do it, the M5 has another trick up its sleeve: Two-wheel drive mode, meaning you can engage in wanton rear tyre destruction if you've the gumption (not to mention, the self-confidence to control a big, sliding limo and the space to do it safely in). In that respect it's just like the old M5.
While the safety net of AWD can be switched off to offer the skilled driver tremendous fun, and as accomplished as the new M5 is, BMW M isn't quite done with it.
For those who feel 600hp is simply not enough (or who refuse to be outgunned by their Mercedes-AMG driving friends), an even higher performance M5 Competition model, with 625hp and even more performance upgrades, was recently announced.
If there's one thing you can count on with high-performance sedans, it's that makers like BMW M, with cars like the M5, are constantly intent on squeezing ever more power and performance out of each iteration.
Whether that's madness or delight depends on how monstrous you like your cars to be.
Engine 4,395cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power 600hp at 5,600-6,700rpm
Torque 750Nm at 1,800-5,600rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 3.4 seconds
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
Fuel Efficiency 10.5L/100km
Agent Performance Munich Autos
Price S$520,888 with COE