Select Efficient mode via the Drive Performance button and the M5 bumbles around town with a simply remarkable level of refinement: the turbocharged V8 remains hushed, the eight-speed automatic 'box shuffles through the gears smoothly, and while there is some patter through the suspension over battered bitumen, it’s a small compromise for the incredible body control.
Ramp the drive system up to its most extreme Sport+ mode, however, and the M5 demonstrates a distinctive duality that buyers of previous M5’s have grown to love. For a turbocharged engine, accelerator response is virtually instantaneous, and despite weighing close to two tonnes, BMW has done an impressive job of concealing all that mass, with the M5 resisting lean through faster corners.
And thanks to four-wheel drive traction, you can deploy all 592 horses at any speed and in any gear with virtually no drama. In fact, in some respects it feels more like a grand tourer than a performance saloon in the way that it effortlessly dispatches large stretches of demanding country roads in the blink of an eye. In a word, it’s rapid.
However, from a pure driver’s perspective, this is arguably the least engaging fast 5-Series yet. With unshakable traction and an engine that works best in the lower half of the rev range, it feels more like a powerful autobahn muncher than a sharp performance car. And despite having a drive mode that let you turn off the four-wheel drive system – making it rear driven only – you have to have the traction control off as well, which far from ideal for inexperienced drivers.
Handily, you can tailor the driving experience by picking individual settings for the gearbox, suspension, steering and electronic stability control. But, even in its fastest shifting mode, there were occasions when upshifts feel rather ponderous using the paddles, certainly compared to the snappy shifts you get in a Porsche Panamera Turbo. And despite the steering being weighty enough in Sport or Sport+ mode, it doesn’t give much in the way of natural feedback.
Still, this is an almightily impressive saloon that is capable of eating supercars for breakfast in a straight line, while delivering you to your workplace unflustered. As an all-round machine, cars don’t come much better.
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