BMW launched its fifth-generation M5 at Hampton Downs last week, alongside the two-week NZ Festival of Motor Racing celebrating BMW Motorsport which marks 40 years for the German brand's high-performance M Division.

What's new

BMW replaced the previous M5's normally aspirated V10 with a 4.4-litre turbo V8 developed from the X5M and X6M. The smaller motor delivers more grunt, with a 30 per cent torque boost over a wider rev range, the 680Nm on tap from 1500 to 5750rpm while power peaks at 412kW from 6000 to 7000rpm. Yet the car is less thirsty, at 9.9l/100km using 4.4 fewer litres per 100km than its predecessor despite a much extended tech and features list for less money, at $229,000.

The trade-off is weight. This F10 M5 is 1945kg, its predecessor 1830. However, power-to-weight is slightly better, and the car's suspension suits its sporting focus, and uses three-setting electronically controlled dampers and an active diff so you can steer it on the throttle.


The company line

This M5 starts a year of model launches: with 3 Series, Mini Roadster and Coupe and 6 Series Gran Coupe. Managing director Mark Gilbert says BMW's menu is expanding, with hybrids, M Sport and electric cars. But, "we have to look at where the opportunity is... the bottom line is, we want to make money."

What we say

This tarmac eater truly doubles as an uber-luxury sedan, so there are few visual clues to its mighty performance: the gills with their subtle M-badges, the four muffler outlets and the altered mirror design, plus those 20-inch alloy wheels barely masking massive 400mm front discs and painted calipers.

On the road

Drive the M5 like a testosterone-addled hoon and you're barely aware of its heft. You will be well over the speed limit - with zero to 100 in 4.4 very busy seconds and the car hits 200km/h in 13. At legal speeds it's barely idling, which is why we took it to the track - with race trainers aboard to issue vital instructions.

Vital, because this M5's performance is so effortless you don't notice its speed Fortunately, the brakes are good.

Hauling out of corners requires finesse - abundant power firing the stability control almost continually and mandating early gear changes to avoid it. You can tune the steering, transmission, suspension and gear-change speed to suit your track or road focus, but whatever you choose, 680Nm is an awful lot of mumbo to corral.

Why you'll buy one

You want a luxury performance car.

Why you won't

You don't want performance to be diluted by the weight.