Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 BMW M5

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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“One does not simply commute in an M5.”

They see you rollin’ – lol no, they don’t. You’re out of here.

This is the sort of vehicle that gets visibly frustrated with you when you try to drive like a normal person. Sure, BMW’s advanced set of electronics, computer processors, and drivetrain sensors can be configured to a “Comfort” mode, or even just “Normal” – but in the M5, it just feels wrong. Comfort mode results in throttle and transmission responses that remind me of every time my wife says, “Fine.”

Normal mode feels normal enough, but it’s a bit like sleeping in a polo shirt. It feels awkward and unnatural, and your partner finds it disconcerting.

On top of the steering wheel, there are two red levers. You can set those as a shortcut key to your favourite set-up of steering, suspension, transmission, and throttle response. You can even set one to the comfort modes, so you can pretend you haven’t just put your $113,000-plus sport sedan in a muzzle. “It’s not Comfort, it’s M2 mode!”

The other lever, if you’re anything like me, will be set to the most aggressive levels possible. And then, because life is life, and not a movie, you’ll crawl along in traffic and feel the car and your own blood pressure boiling.

And then, for a brief, glorious moment, the road will open. You’ll thumb the lever for your favourite mode, and stand on the happy pedal. You don’t accelerate in an M5. Instead, 553 lb-ft of torque and 600 hp will escort you to 100 km/h in less than 3.5 seconds. This is a lot of car.

Two twin-scroll turbochargers force air down the gaping maw of a 4.4L V8. That results in all 553 lb-ft being available from 1,800 rpm. They see you rollin’ – lol no, they don’t. You’re out of here.

They’ll hear you though, and more so if you select the exhaust’s most aggressive mode. There are four exhaust tips out back, two of which are usually blanked off by computer-controlled flaps. Press the button, and voila! No more blanking, just loud, angry breathing through all four pipes.

I have driven an M5, though not this tester, on track and it is capable of sheer brutality. To an M5, a tire is a weapon to be used against the asphalt, and to the asphalt, the M5 is a nightmare. While M-tuned all-wheel drive is the default, you can send 100 percent of that engine’s output to the rear wheels. The carbon-fibre roof and weight-shedding exhaust contribute to a chassis that is balanced and responsive despite weighing in at 1,930 kg. Steering with the throttle, and adjusting the yaw and trajectory of the M5 with the pedals is rewarding. It’s a package that inspires deep confidence.

I am what is politely described as a “mediocre driver” – but in this thing I feel like a driving god.

Everything about the M5 is executed flawlessly. The interior strikes a balance of aggression and energy without giving up the quintessential BMW luxury. The angry red ignition button and vivid red “M” levers add exactly the right splash of intention to the cockpit. The seats are comfortable, well-bolstered, and adjustable six-ways-to-Sunday – or, more accurately – 18 ways.

There’s more than enough room for four adult doughnut enthusiasts, and the ivory seats help make the interior feel lighter and more airy. If there’s any complaint, it’s that rear-seat passengers get far, far less bolstering than those up front. So drive gently when occupancy is full.

The Bowers and Wilkins stereo system is as aesthetically pleasing as it is aurally spectacular, and the BMW Connected Drive infotainment system is a brilliant one too. I still wish Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but this unit is built to make the M5 a mobile office for those who need it.

Among the tech features worth noting, that may be overlooked, is this M5’s 360-degree parking camera. Its rendering of the vehicle and birds-eye view is one of the most intricate, detailed, and useful systems on the market.

A 530 L cargo volume means you can haul a weekend’s worth of luggage for two with ease. If long weekend road trips with a partner are your primary focus, however, one of the other 5 Series variants will suit you better. Even in Comfort mode this M5 is never quite as gentle as any of its brethren. There’s an edge to this car you can’t dial out, no matter how many buttons, sensors, or magnetically charged particles there are in the suspension system.

The blue calipers peeking out from behind the 275/35 R 20 front and 285/35 R 20 rear wheels indicate this M5 is fitted with the six-piston, compound brakes rather than the gold-caliper carbon-ceramic options. Even still, these brakes have immense initial bite and strong, confident pedal feel. Unless you’re going to the track, I strongly suggest sticking with these brakes, as even these are a little grabby in day-to-day driving.

It’s remarkable in today’s automotive climate that there is a car still so raw that its rough edges are still felt. More remarkable when that visceral vehicle is replete with a full complement of driver aids and technology. Everything from a vivid head-up display, to adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, cornering braking control, lane-keep control, and traffic-jam assistance is on board here to make driving less stressful.

And yet, the M5’s seething, roiling spirit bubbles to the surface. It is inescapably aggressive, and unapologetically potent.


Engine Displacement 4.4L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 600 hp @ 6,600 rpm
Peak Torque 553 lb-ft @1,800 rpm
Fuel Economy 15.7/11.2/13.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 530 L
Model Tested 2018 BMW M5
Base Price $113,300
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,245
Price as Tested $136,145
Optional Equipment
$20,500 – Premium Package $6,500; Advanced Driver Assistance Package $1,500; Marina Blue Metallic Paint $4,900; Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround System $4,900; M Sport Exhaust System $1,500; M Carbon Engine Cover $1,200