One-day Test: BMW M5 Competition Pack
The movie saying goes that, with great power comes great responsibility. It might have originally been said with reference to the ability to shoot webs from your wrists and climb up walls, but it is also equally true of driving a supercar.
You see, supercars command a great deal of power, and not a lot of weight to lug around with that power, making them particularly quick. But they also hunker down low on the ground, compromising visibility – and they are wider than most SUVs. The engine is frequently mid-mounted right behind the driver, meaning that it is quite tricky to sense the weight transfer when tackling corners, and there is a huge rear-view penalty.
So there is a degree of responsibility in driving a supercar, but unlike Spidy, that responsibility is not to the people of New York City, but rather to yourself, because you are the one that will end up in a with a rolling 360 degree view of the ditch on the side of the road if you get it wrong.
This was very true of most supercars built in the 1980s. Porsche’s answer to Ferrari’s radical F40, the 959, was released to the public because it intended to campaign the 959 as a Group B world rally championship contender, and according to FIA rules, 200 road-going cars had to be built for that to happen. Porsche complied and when it was time to find a power plant for the road-legal 959, the answer was simple: it used the exact same engine powering the rally car. No changes made.
Lamborghini’s Diablo, which was built as a road car, is exceptionally true to its name in that driving it was notoriously demanding because of the sheer size of the thing, and that 80 percent of the car’s weight was contributed by a large-bore V12, bunked up behind you.
Things are not quite as intense these days. Supercars such as the R8 and latest generation Ferrari 458 have made it possible to feel like a hero behind the wheel, and not experience heart palpitations every time a corner pops up between you and the next straight.
But Uncle Ben’s wise words are still relevant to even these cars. Push it, and it will go wrong – unless you are in my one-day test car: the latest BMW M5.
I will be first to admit that the M5 is not a supercar in the traditional sense of the word, but then, this not any old M5, this is the Competition Pack-endowed version. It adds a little more power and some minor aero pieces and suspension revisions, as well as carbon ceramic brakes.
So: 423 kW, 680 Nm of torque and carbon ceramic, track-ready brakes? Seems pretty damn close to a supercar to me.
However, while any other supercar would require everyone except your best friend to wait outside because there are only two seats, the M5 will accommodate more than double that number of occupants, and entertain with optional rear-mounted LCD screens. It is also supremely comfortable, with huge seats taking up the width of the cockpit instead of the supercar staple buckets, direct from Le Mans ‘R Us.
You will need those comfy seats to keep your back from slamming into a wall every time you try a sporty pull-off though, as BMW claims the extra power and revised suspension have resulted in the M5 Competition Pack being able to complete a 0-100 km/h sprint in 3,7 seconds, and will crush a quarter-mile in just 11,9 seconds.
This is also partially due to BMW’s M-DCT 7 speed gearbox, which is in my opinion the best dual-clutch transmission on the market. It is snappy at low and high revs, even at its tamest setting. That gearbox, linked to an M-Division 4,4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, means that there is always buckets of power available, and at any point on the rev range.
What’s more, it’s easy to drive in traffic, or with intent. BMW’s MDM traction and dynamic stability program is distant enough to allow you have some degree of fun, but will quickly yet subtly step in to correct an over-indulgent use of the throttle.
The M5 then has great power, but the constraint of responsible use of power is not imposed from a self-safety point of view. The M5 has that built in, Uncle Ben-approved you could say, and for that reason it is a masterpiece of modern motoring.
But great things have their price, and the M5 is no different. Our test model arrived with a an extensive list of options, which pushed the R1.2 million retail price past R1.7 million. To put that in perspective, the optional extras, including the Competition Pack, cost more than our BMW M135i long termer’s asking price!
There is no doubt that the M5 is faster and more comfortable than the 1-Series, but I felt that the hatchback manages to be 80 percent as fun, most of the time, because of traffic and general urban living. But as far as raw power wrapped in a package that can be used on a day to day basis is concerned, it doesn’t get better than the BMW M5…