Less is more for BMW

super saloon

BMW M5 interior
BMW M5 racetrack side
BMW M5 deep
BMW M5 rear
BMW M5 Front
BMW M5 Side

A NEW M car from BMW is always a special event, but a new M5 is perhaps the most special of all.

The magical M-Sport badge is dotted throughout the BMW range, on everything from the 1 Series to the bulky X6, but - in my opinion at least - it sits most squarely on the back of the 5 Series saloon.

Not that there's anything wrong with the M3, based as it is on the company's flagship 3 Series saloon.

But apart from a couple of outings as a four-door, it's always been a coupe and, once it has passed into the second-hand market, often exists in a world of after-market exhausts and lairy spoilers that push it away from what most people would consider a proper saloon.

Bigger and more luxurious than the M3, the M5 has always had space and comfort to spare - add fearsome performance to the mix and you have something to make those who can afford £70,000-plus for a car sit up and take notice.

The new M5 represents a significant engineering re-think for the technical geniuses at the M-Sport division.

The last model, launched on the E60 model platform in 2005, had an incredible, high-revving, 5.0-litre V10 powerplant that pushed out 507bhp - but also produced more CO2 than is now considered polite. Fuel consumption was also somewhat more than environmental campaigners would like, let alone those who had to pay to put the petrol in.

So less is more for the new F10M model - it's lost two cylinders, returning to the classic V8 cylinder configuration, dropped in capacity to 4.4-litres and has been fitted for the first time with two twin-scroll turbochargers. That means less CO2, greater mpg, and a smaller carbon footprint for the BMW range as a whole.

That's important for BMW - as official car suppliers to the 2012 Olympics, they had to meet strict carbon limits.

But as is so often the case with modern performance cars, the engineers have leapt over the restrictions placed in their way and produced a car that is greener but also considerably more powerful - how does 560bhp sound (up 10 per cent on the old car) or a Tarmac-tearing 680NM of torque (up 30 per cent), on top of 30 per cent greater fuel economy?

While we're looking at the statistics, the new M5 sprints in Usain Bolt fashion to 62mph in just 4.4 very memorable seconds, on to the limited top speed of 155mph.

Take Usain out of the driving seat and you should be able to get 28.5mpg on the combined cycle, with an overall CO2 figure of 232g/km.

The car also comes with a lot more equipment as standard than in previous incarnations, with top-end sat nav, leather upholstery, sun roof, seven-speed double clutch transmission and head-up display among the toys.

There's also a multi-function steering wheel with a plethora of buttons that allow all sorts of interesting performance options to be accessed.

Chief among these are the M1 and M2 buttons. These allow you to configure various settings of traction control, suspension, throttle response, steering, and gearshift to put optimum performance literally beneath your fingers.

On the road, the sum of these parts amounts to a marvellous whole - potter about town as if you're driving the most modest 5 Series in the range, and then unleash the beast when it's safe and proper to do so.

On Britain's roads, these opportunities are sadly few and far between.

However, at the car's launch on spectacular roads high in the Pyrenees, with only the odd tractor for company, the M5 flew round the hairpins and up the mountain passes with the speed and agility of a turbocharged mountain goat pursued by a missile.

Even with the traction control backed off via the M buttons, grip is monstrous and the car's limits far beyond the range of normal mortals.

A session at the picturesque Pau-Arnos racetrack confirmed this - even with a talented French racing driver at the wheel the car refused to get out of shape despite some tight corners and a damp surface.

Super saloon? The description hardly does the M5 justice.

It may cost £73,000 - and you would probably want to spend another five grand on options like reversing cameras and electronic seats - but there is little else on the road that will deliver so much performance, with so much comfort and practicality.

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