Richard Aucock
08/05/2007 00:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

BMW M5 Touring review (2007-2012)



BMW M5 (© BMW)

What: BMW M5 Touring
Where: Newbury, England
Price: £67,075
Available: Now
Key rivals: Audi S6, Mercedes E 63 AMG

Summary

BMW’s load-lugging, 500bhp 5.0-litre V10 Porsche-baiter sounds thrilling on paper – how does it fare in the real world it should appeal so strongly to?

Likes: No hyper estate is more thrilling to thrash – or as cool
Dislikes: Relative lack of thrills when you’re not on it, torque dearth


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Scientific tour-de-force

BMW M5 Touring (© Image © BMW)

This is potentially one of the most rewarding BMW M cars there’s yet been. Take one M5 hyper saloon, complete with 500bhp V10 engine (the same format they used to use in Formula 1, before they became too fast). Then, remove the mechanicals. Fit to a BMW 5-Series Touring. Result? A hardcore estate that will eat Porsches for breakfast, while still carrying the family, the dog and enough luggage for one monumental touring holiday. Here at MSN Cars, we’ve fallen in love with Audi RS6s and Mercedes E 63 AMG estates over the years. Has BMW just launched the daddy of them all?

Gently does it

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

As the main difference over the saloon is the estate car rear, you’ll check that out first. Open the hatch and 1,650 litres of well-planned space is on offer, complete with lashing points for dog guards and ample storage cubbies. All very practical – but it’s the four exhaust pipes glinting below that catch your eye. It’s therefore odd to find they don’t loudly bark when you settle into the deeply bolstered driver’s seat up front. Yes, the seat bolster has pneumatically squeezed you, and yes, the red dials do display some crazy numbers – but where’s the drama expected of a £60k super estate?

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

Things continue to be a little uneventful on the move. Light steering, low noise levels and a pretty exceptional ride all make it feel more like a 523i than a hardcore M model. More worryingly, the engine feels flat; boot it out of junctions and it doesn’t do much at all at low revs (and that’s without a fully-laden rear). The only drama comes from the hesitant, jerky semi-auto seven-speed gearbox, and that’s drama you could do without. You start to wonder if BMW hasn’t slanted the set-up too much towards the “rational” buyers expected to choose this car.

Engage hyperdrive

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

If you know your M cars, you know what you need to do. Press ‘Power’ on the gearlever console, to release the 400bhp start-up power cap. Suddenly, the M5 becomes much harder-edged and lively: speeds are warped as we expect, high revs achieved more quickly – even the exhausts start to wail operatic quadrophenia. Next, jab the ‘MDM’ button on the steering wheel. This ‘MDrive Management’ mode sharpens the dampers, quickens the gearshift, adds leniency to the stability control, even squeezes the seat bolsters more tightly. Result? Here’s the M5T you were expecting, here’s the interstellar performance you were waiting for.

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

Its first trick is to slip the clutch away from the line and out of junctions. This helps the revs rise more quickly to the sweet spot, and will even tweak the rear end if you’re really on it. 4.8 seconds later, you’ll see the red speedo needle point to 60mph; all the subsequent benchmarks will be quickly ticked off too, until 155mph and the electronic limiter arrives. Unlimited, BMW say it would do 200mph. For a car with the equivalent of three Mondeo-sized boots tacked on the rear, that’s just crazy. Even a Porsche 911 Turbo stops at 193mph.

On-board thrills

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

But you need such fury to get the best from the M5T: wrestle it like a rabid dog, throw it about, never go higher than 4th gear and always, always keep the revs at 6k or above. The intensity of mechanical noise is awesome, the alacrity of throttle response is razor-aggressive; judge inputs accordingly by throwing it around like a darting hot hatch and the car becomes an eel in an electrolyte. Steering, so accurate, develops some sensation, while the chassis goes exactly where you desire and has more than enough grip for when the pace summoned inevitably surprises you.

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

You bet it’s thrilling. Come to a 30mph zone and it’s not only the pet dog in the back that’ll be quivering from the intensity of it; as the cacophony of mechanical harmony descends once again, the sheer scale of what BMW has achieved becomes clear. A Touring M-car, no softer than the saloon, that’s as thrilling as any supercar but perfect for the run to the supermarket. Should be perfect; if it weren’t for such inertia when you’re not in the zone, when you’re not hyped up like when on an F1 qualifier.

Estate mistake?

BMW M5 Touring (© image © BMW)

And this is where the M5T becomes puzzling. No matter how hyper, performance estates should also feel special when they’re doing the things they’re designed for; going to the tip, dog walks and so on. But BMW’s from-the-side-it’s-a-big-Z4-M-Coupe estate doesn’t – well, not as much as it should. The lethargy of such a large engine always surprises, while the peace and refinement are nice but a bit more edge would be nice. Yes, the rewards are there when you go for it. But you can’t exactly do that with a granny and a grandfather clock in the rear, can you?

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The MSN Cars verdict: ****

There’s no denying the M5 Touring is a thriller. But it’s almost too clever for its own good, chasing numbers rather than all-round sensations. It has the split personality to go with its dual roles.

Ratings out of five: BMW M5 Touring

Performance****
Ride & handling****
Interior****
Safety****
Price**
Practicality*****
Fuel economy**
MSN Cars verdict**** 

Need to know

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