BMW’s M5 is an automotive icon in its own right – the big fast Bavarian autobahn-crusher is the consummate all-rounder, blending a high level of luxury with astounding performance.

The twin-turbo monster isn’t what you’d call cheap, though – the standard car used to cost a fair bit more than the Audi competition. Now with the stripped out M5 Pure landing at $185,000, BMW whipped out the spreadsheets and had some fun with the specification to produce the Nighthawk and White Shadow editions while at the same time cutting the price of the standard car.

The standard Australian M5 is chock-a-block with goodies, including performance brakes and a few extra kW from the volcanically powerful V8 as part of the Competition Pack.

The Nighthawk, as our matte black test car was known, weighed in at an RS6-baiting $235,930 and $5610 more than the standard M5 on which it is based.

Standard features include adaptive LED headlights, Bang and Olufsen high-end surround sound system, head-up display, matte paint, Competition Package, BMW’s Comfort Access system which means keyless entry and start as well as seat positions matched to the key, DAB+ tuner, four-zone climate control, sunroof, top-of-the-line Merino leather trim, carbon fibre bits and pieces, high performance (steel) brakes, soft-close doors, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera with surround view, sat-nav and various telematics services.

The M5 is as subtle as ever. The 20-inch alloys are joined by a body kit that could be an M Sport pack from a 520d. The black paint job is smooth and not as fragile as some other matte finishes and made our car blend into the background, sometimes a little more than we’d have liked – it seemed to be a magnet for idiots cutting us off.

Inside is standard 5-Series but filled with the goodies and ultra-comfortable seats. It’s more of a 4+1 seater but even when configured this way, it’s more than comfortable for decent drives in the middle perch.


Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability programs, blind spot sensor, reversing camera, collision mitigation and warning, brake force distribution, lane departure warning.

The 5 Series scored five ANCAP safety stars.

The headline act here is the 16-speaker B&O, controlled by the full-fat version of BMW’s iDrive. The big rotary controller sits on the console and doubles as a scratchpad for writing in addresses on the sat-nav.

The 10-inch screen dominates the top of the dash, the graphics smooth and clear. The stereo is mightily impressive in both power and clarity while the sat-nav is highly-detailed and accurate.

For extra passenger terror, you can switch to the Sports display on the screen to display how much of the power and torque you’re sending through the rear tyres.

BMW’s twin-turbo 4.4L V8 provides 423 kW and 680 Nm, up from 412 kW in the Pure. Matched to a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission with paddle shifts, the M5 will sprint to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds (with launch control) and BMW claims you’ll use 9.9L/100km when driving carefully and making full use of stop-start and regenerative braking.

Despite giving the car a thorough workout, we never saw the average rise above 14L/100km.


It may not be a lightweight at nearly 1.9 tonnes, but this M5 feels just as agile as the much smaller cars in BMW’s performance range.

In the first 100 metres, you can feel the potential in the M5, with that thundering V8 under the bonnet reacting instantly to throttle inputs with barely any turbo lag. The 7-speed transmission isn’t the smoothest in the world, especially at low speeds, but when you crank it up to Sport + and let everything loose, you’ll soon forget its sometimes lurchy low-speed progress.

The car really wakes up when you’re attacking it, something that has been always been one of the M5’s core values, from the precursor E12 M535i right through to the F10’s predecessor, the V10-powered E60.

While the some of the thunder from under the bonnet is synthetically produced, the actual result is all real. In Sport + mode, the acceleration is vicious and the M5 has a distinct advantage of being rear-wheel drive, the steering wheels uncorrupted by having to drive as well as turn.

Attacking is easy with M Dynamic Mode active. It allows the low-skilled driver some heroics without letting things get out of hand, which would be pretty easy in a car this big. If you want to find out, turn off the traction and stability control – things can get very, very sideways very very quickly. It’s terrific fun, but on the road, insanity.

Switch the mode selector back to Comfort, however, and it becomes a docile executive sedan, the only remaining clue being the noisy tyres (295/30 rears, 265/35 fronts) and the sometimes uncertain gearchange. The steering is light and fluid and the throttle is tamed to bring the intimidation level right down.

While the Audi RS6/RS7 pair are probably better cars to live with every day, the M5 will properly toast them on a Targa stage or a racetrack. While most owners of either car will never find out, a lot of what people are buying at this level is potential and history.

BMW M5 is a towering engineering achievement, getting all that power to the ground through just the two rear wheels while still being a liveable car for most people. And to top it off, if you’re okay with a few less toys, you can have the Pure for $50,000 less.

LIKES: Drivetrain, chassis, subtle presence
DISLIKES: Imperfect gearbox, pricey options, and, um…

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