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Gear up for some big thrills

When BMW launched the previous generation M5 saloon in Ireland it took over a private airfield for the day and rumour has it that the owner of the venue decided it would be fun to race the M5 against a helicopter.

No doubt attendees also bathed in Cristal champagne and took home a gift box from Dior. That was 2005 and BMW went on to sell as many as 100 examples of the high-performance machine, while another 60 or so were imported privately. But we don't need to tell you that Ireland is a very different place now -- as indeed is the rest of the world.

Hence it's no surprise to find BMW gushing about how much more efficient its all-new M5 is. Apparently a significant 30 per cent less fuel is used on average, while CO2 emissions drop from a heady 344g/km to a moderately more palatable 232g/km (although that makes no difference to VRT or annual road tax). At this end of the market that's not likely to be a major consideration, though potential buyers will like that the new M5 has an equally impressive 30 per cent gain in torque.

Without getting too technical, that means a ballistic, horizon-attracting, eye-widening pace. he benchmark 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds does nothing to describe the acceleration on offer from this car. It's even more impressive when on the move than from a standing start, as the twin-turbo V8 engine's grunt is effectively always available. Not only has it the ability to scare you and four passengers silly, it sounds fabulous. The burble from the quad exhausts at idle rises to a blood-curdling bellow on full song.

Yet the M5 has always had an alter ego -- it doubles up as a luxury car. Where the previous model tipped the balance in favour of sportiness, the newcomer features a raft of additional options and technologies to allow the driver to customise the car to their liking.

This goes further than before, with two distinct programmable modes. It may sound fiddly, but an owner can tweak a whole list of things, including the steering and throttle response, how much the stability control intervenes, how quickly the gearbox changes gear and even what's displayed in the effective head-up display system. Most important of them all is the adaptive damping. The softest setting is the only one you'll need on Irish roads, though don't for a second think that it turns the M5 into a land yacht.

The M5 manages to engage the driver while delivering big thrills. Yet it can also cosset its occupants on a long journey as well as any other 5 Series.

Another side of the fastest 5 Series that no doubt appeals to the wealthy is that it's remarkably subtle.

Okay, I admit that it would stand out on a grey October day in, say, Mountrath, but paint it black (as most Irish buyers probably will) and it may pass as any M Sport 5 Series. Those in the know will spot the more menacing front bumper design, the tell-tale 'gills' on the front wings and, of course, the characteristic four exhausts. Still, it hardly screams 'look at me', does it?

That is, of course, until you put your foot down. To avoid accruing penalty points at an alarming rate you'll need a lot of self-restraint to own an M5. Or access to your own private airfield.


Price: €132,240. Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol. Transmission: seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive. Power: 560hp Torque: 680Nm. 0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds

On sale: December 3.

Sunday Independent