The 2015 BMW M5 is closer to "the Ultimate Driving Machine," but it took a whole lot of tech to get it there. The M5 can be so comfortable that you'll actually want to drive it all day, and suddenly, almost scarily powerful and capable. The sedan makes no compromises to its M-badged pursuit of performance for daily driveability. And unlike its siblings, the M3 and M4, the 2015 BMW M5 feels like it was built for driving, not racing.
The M5 can be both genteel and brutal thanks to a collection of toggles that allow the driver to instantly customize the sedan's performance and character to an almost ridiculous degree. The engine, suspension, steering and transmission each have three individually selectable modes that transform aspects of the sedan from street-friendly to race-ready at the touch of a button
Twin scroll, twin turbo V-8 engine
Peek beneath our example's Sakhir Orange Metallic bonnet and you'll find a 4.4-liter V-8 engine that generates a stated 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. The engine is force-fed fuel and air via direct injection and a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers mounted in a "hot inside V" configuration. This means that the turbos are nestled between the engine's cylinder banks, rather than hung off the sides, for more compact packaging, more responsive spooling, and better control over thermal efficiency.
From there, our M5 has been further augmented with an optional $7,300 Competition package that adds yet 15 more ponies to the mix, bumping the final total to 575 horsepower. The Competition package also fits the sedan with black chrome tailpipes and 20-inch alloy wheels with performance tires and further tweaks the suspension, steering ratio and M Dynamic driving mode.
The engine has settings for Efficient, Sport and Sport Plus that tweak the output of the turbocharged mill and the responsiveness of the throttle.
Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission
The standard seven-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic transmission (DCT) has three settings of its own that adjust its programming and the aggressiveness of the shifts. In its lowest setting, mode 1, the transmission feels a bit lazy and emphasizes smooth and early shifts. Moving to mode 2 and 3 progressively speeds up the shifts and adjusts the shift points to allow the engine to build more power before moving on to the next gear.
Around town, I found this setting to be awkward for a few reasons. Primarily, the gearbox attempts to mimic a manual transmission and doesn't creep forward when idling, slips the clutch when accelerating from a stop, and rolls backward slightly when starting on an incline. When paired with the M5's anti-idling engine stop-and-start system, pulling away from a stop light was an inconsistent and sometimes jerky affair. Fortunately, the stop-start system can be disabled and the gearbox set to a more solid setting.
I also was a significantly annoyed to find that BMW's odd new shift lever doesn't feature a "Park" position, which led to quite a bit of confusion when the time came to get out of the M5 at the end of my first drive. I tried putting the transmission in neutral and setting the parking brake, but the dashboard flashed a warning light and a message stating that the vehicle could roll away. Baffled, I checked the digital owners manual found in theand found that I had, in fact, done the right thing and that the car would automatically shift to Park when powered off. However, I found it annoying that the car would still nag me with warnings and messages every time I went to park. Much later, colleague and Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham informed me that the proper M5 parking method, according to his contacts at BMW, is to leave the car in Drive, engage the parking brake, and shut down the engine. This was not what the manual stated, which left me even more confused. What happened to just putting a car in Park and being done with it?!
Once the M5 gets rolling, however, the seven-speed DCT is a gem. Shifts are banged out with lightning speed and an unbelievable precision. Standard paddle shifters allow the driver to manually move through the gears, but the computer did an excellent job downshifting where logical and making the most of the turbo V-8's wide powerband.
Of course, the Ultimate Driving Machine is available with an optional six-speed manual transmission; a zero-cost substitution for those who'd rather row their own ratios.
Standard adaptive suspension
The M5 features a standard three-mode adaptive suspension system with settings for Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus handling. In all three modes, the M5 did a fantastic job of remaining relatively flat and composed when cornering, the only difference that I was able to notice was that the Sport and Sport Plus modes offered a firmer ride that seemed to communicate more road feel through the seat of one's pants.
Like the suspension, the sedan's steering is also customizable with yet three more modes that offer progressively heavier feel and more feedback from Comfort to Sport to Sport Plus.