BMW M5 July 2010 – Final Report.

IMG_0088_4c3f6de82a0eb-lightboxBMW M5 – I purchase them with the best of intentions, lavish much love and affection upon them, throw great wads of cash in their direction during ownership and ensure they’re in tip-top condition. I will ‘sing’ their praises to anybody who cares to listen, and I will audibly tell the car that passengers are in error when they claim the car has a fault (yeah yeah I know…). I’ll seek out excellent specialists who know the cars at a granular level, and if I have to travel 80 miles as a consequence then so what. I’ll find a good local valet company to treat the car to a resin finish every two weeks and generally tend to the car’s every need.

And then I sell them.

I really shouldn’t say that I will never sell a car. The last time I made that declaration, I’d recently bought my first XJ40 Daimler Double-Six. Sold it 12 months later for a later model. In February of this year, I declared right here on A-J that I would never sell the BMW M5. I lied. It has been sold (well, it is up for SOR), and has been replaced with a simply immaculate V140 S600L Mercedes-Benz with less than 24k miles on the clock.

Reasons for this change are many and varied. To start with, consider the following or watch the following videos (two parts).

Part 1.

 

Part 2.

 

The way I look at it, having an M5 and driving it like a 528i is like being married to Kelly Brook then declaring celibacy. Cue loads of eye-rolling from the masses. Or buying an eight-bedroom mansion in the country and living in some pokey flat in the ‘burbs. It just doesn’t compute. Use the acceleration that the BMW M5 offers up and the inevitable gear-changes, whilst smooth, are not that comfortable for the passengers.

Yes, you can lower the wick and drive with moderation and consideration, but then why have an M5? When driving in accordance with its design, the passengers have no choice but to be involved in the process. The S600L removes this ambiguity from the equation. It will still thunder along at 150+, guzzle fuel at an amusing rate, and gather itself up and push on down the outside lane when the mood takes me, but it won’t make quite so much fuss about it. The flip side to that coin is that it won’t tear chunks out of apices but then I haven’t been able to do that much in 7 months of M5 ownership either. Plus the Merc is a V12 and as we all know by now, I do have a thing for V12s.

So an 80/20 split would work I hear you wail. For that twenty percent of the time when I’m alone in the car, I’ll get my kicks and the M5 will make me smile. Maybe. But with a young family imminent I’m not at all sure that those moments will be around in abundance. And for the other eighty percent of the time, the BMW M5 will forever be operating at half-effort, maximum. And that’s a criminal waste.

I’ve been told they are superb family cars, and indeed they are. But ‘family car’ status should not define the M5. BMWs are supposed to be about the driver.

I’ve made a great song-and-dance about driving the M5 properly and I admit that I can be quite pedantic when it comes to driving a superb car well. In isolation, it’s a magnificent beast and selling it will be the biggest car-related regret since flogging the Ferrari. But I simply cannot see the point of pootling along in an M5 because at some point, using the power will remove all the ‘camouflage’ and show the M5 for what it really is – a superb driver’s car first and a regular saloon second. This is not a problem providing the passengers are up for it but alas life is not like that.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s the transmission per se that’s the issue either, because it isn’t. Cars with even the merest whiff of sporting pretensions should not be self-shifters. But alas that doesn’t make them 100% user-friendly and that’s the lesson I will take away from the past 7 months. I’m not going to abandon manuals altogether of course – sacre bleu! – (I have already had another look at some Italian V12s with manual shifts), but as a daily solution and mixed with my circumstances, there are more suitable options.

Whatever, the death-knell has sounded for the M5 and this is a sad day. Family comes first though. Make of that what you will, but before passing judgment, consider the car you drive and answer me this – Do you drive it in company and in a ‘fit for purpose’ style more than seventy percent of the time? And if you do, are you in the fortunate position of your passengers always (as in, all the time) being on your wavelength? Or do you own a car which is capable of such clinical brilliance that it can take your breath away, but which under your stewardship is mostly straining at the leash, reined in and denied its head?

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Mark Williams