Saturday 18 November 2017

Won the Lotto? Well, this could be the car for you . . .

Life goes on. Even when it seems problems overshadow us, the momentum of every day keeps us going. Of course, a bit of distraction is never any harm. So may I invite you to take a deep breath and forget about everything for a minute or two and say hello to this new thunderbolt of a BMW M5.

Life goes a lot faster in this fifth generation super-performance version of the 5-series, I can tell you.

This is absolute Dreamsville. I suppose we should be happy we can still dream. As far as I know, it doesn't cost anything yet.

Yes, it would be great to be able to afford a car of this stature and performance. But you know what? Even in Dreamsville, not everything is perfect. I'll tell you about that in a minute.

In Dreamsville you could, however, drive this at something near its capability and not be jailed for being in control of a low-flying jet. You could also avert your gaze when you put nearly €65 worth of petrol into it to bring it up from half full.

And you could terrify your cousin on a daily basis on the open road with the lion's roar of acceleration and the pulsating power from its V8 petrol engine (the previous one had a less-powerful V10). It simply unleashes 560bhp -- five to six times the power of a moderate family car.

This is the most power production engine the M people have made. Even though power is up 10pc, they say fuel consumption is down 30pc -- or 28.5mpg -- (otherwise you'd be putting €85 into it for half a tank). And funnelling all that into an extraordinary sensation of movement and thrust is a superb chassis.

There is no doubting this is some way ahead of the previous one. The race-bred technology shines through.

I like the idea of what they call the Active M Differential. This splits the power between the rear wheels so you get exceptional traction.

You can tweak the car's settings, including suspension and steering, with an array of buttons. I kept the suspension set-up in Sport (there is Comfort and Sport Plus) and got on with the fun. Just to give you an idea of detail, though, it has what BMW calls a low-speed assistance function so the M5 goes smoothly in heavy traffic with the merest touch on the accelerator.

The other thing I liked about it was that while it caught the eye (big alloys, air intakes, M 'gills', pair of twin exhausts, etc); it didn't have that wide-eyed, rocket-launch look for which a case could be made to reflect its capabilities.

Inside there was that big cabin (plenty of rear room, huge boot) decked out with the emphasis on sporty comfort rather than plush luxury. Great seats, loads of adjustment and a brilliant driving position behind that big snout of a bonnet. Serious comfort in an icon.

But fallibility (possibly mine) intruded into Dreamsville.

They have this seven-speed M Drivelogic double-clutch transmission gearbox. You can use the conventional lever (for auto and/or manual shift) or the paddles behind the wheel. The latter is great fun.

But I wasn't happy with it how the lever worked. There was, I felt, far too much fiddling and nudging to get what I wanted. Even after a good while with it, I still wasn't at ease. I still had to check far too often. I can't believe it was so fiddly and uncertain.

It is so unlike BMW and is one of the two major reasons -- price obviously being the other -- that would seriously put me off the car. Yes, I felt that strongly about it because at this level and at that money such basics should be operated without thought.

And it was in contrast with so much that was right with this icon -- proof that life goes on in the slow and fast lanes.

ecunningham@independent.ie

Indo Motoring

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