"The BMW M5 is one of the fastest, best handling executive saloons money can buy, but it's expensive."
The BMW M badge remains a stamp of performance unrivalled by the likes of Mercedes AMG. The BMW M5 therefore comes with a huge turbocharged V8 engine with massive reserves of power and performance that is born out of Formula One-derived technology. The suspension is electronically controlled and can be tuned for more speed or greater comfort using the easy-to-use steering-wheel-mounted controls. Everything about the M5 is driver-focused, from the weighting of the steering to the responsive gearbox, while also retaining all the appealing practicality of the standard BMW 5 Series, with its well-constructed interior, big boot and excellent everyday usability. Extras you can add on include optional sports leather seats that are really comfortable, while those with a thing for gadgets will enjoy that head-up display and enormous 10.2-inch sat-nav screen. While rivals such as the Mercedes E63 AMG do have appeal, the M5 is still the drivers favourite.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Speed is a thirsty mistress, and the M5 certainly drinks the fuel. That means combined fuel economy of 28.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 232g/km. The bad news is that we found that number dropped down to 15mpg if you drove the M5 aggressively, which we’re guessing most buyers are very likely to do. You do get 10 per cent more power, 30 per cent more torque and 30 per cent extra efficiency than the car it replaced – but it's still expensive. Plus, the high-tech gearbox and electronic suspension will need the very best (and expensive) servicing.
Interior & comfort
You can also use all the electronic controls on offer to make the M5 surprisingly comfortable, given the car's performance focus. Turn the electronically controlled suspension to its softest setting and the current M5 smoothes out most of the bumps in the road just as effectively as the rest of the 5 Series range. The engine is quiet at cruising speeds, with wind and tyre noise being kept at bay by the thick double-glazed windows, too. But everything is relative, so don’t expect the height of comfort as this is still a sporty car, first and foremost.
Practicality & boot space
This is still a 5 Series, so it's spacious on the inside and the 520-litre boot isn’t bad at all. Basically, the M5 is just as practical as the standard car that it's based on, with a large, generous glove compartment and deep door bins, too. You get all the trimmings of the ultimate executive car but with the extra kick of genuine, heart-pounding performance.
Reliability & safety
You wouldn’t be unreasonable for expecting a premium manufacturer like BMW to figure higher than 15th place in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings, but BMW remains the lowest ranking of its premium rivals. With Lexus topping the survey and Mercedes fifth, BMW's focus on producing the ultimate driving machine may have sacrificed some comfort and reliability. However, there's no denying that the current M5 is extremely well built, but it's likely to be bought by someone who's going to wring every last drop of performance out of it. If you plan to take it driving on the track, doing massive wheelspins, then the high-tech gearbox and advanced suspension will need plenty of maintenance to make sure they continue to function properly. The good news is that the standard sixth-generation 5 Series ranked an impressive 11th in the Driver Power list of the top 100 cars, holding onto to its 2012 position, which means owners are generally more than happy with its durability. It's also very safe, with the M5 sharing the 5 Series’ maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with electronic stability control (ESP), driver, passenger and front side airbag, and rear parking sensors all fitted as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
The M5 has 552bhp at its disposal thanks to the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine – which means accelerating from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds. Combine that with the Tuning package and you’ll also get a top speed of 190mph. Describing it as “fast” just doesn’t do the M5 justice. You can electronically tune virtually every aspect of the car to suit you, from steering response to gearbox ratios and speed, but whatever set-up you favour, the M5 is always thrilling to drive. If you accelerate while in third gear, the power is pretty breathtaking – so thankfully you’ve also got plenty of grip to help keep the big tyres on the straight and narrow.
Price, value for money & options
You better want that extra speed pretty badly, because you’ll have to pay for it, with the M5 proving to be much more expensive that the similarly equipped standard 5 Series. But you will get the exclusivity of the M badge, with sales numbering in the hundreds, and all the more driver-focused accessories and technology that help make the M5 unrivalled in its category. Plus, it's well equipped with standard-fit sports leather seats, climate control, keyless entry and 19-inch alloy wheels. Basically, you won’t be short-changed but you will need deeper pockets to both buy and run the M5 – but you should also get some money back in any second-hand deals you make, thanks to excellent resale values on the used car market. Currently, used car experts, CAP, reckon that this car retain 51 per cent of its value over three years of ownership.