||01-03-2006 12:05 PM
Personal Review of the E60 M5
So, I'm driving around tonight, minding my own business, on my way to get some food. I'm driving down West Sahara (huge concentration of dealerships there). I'm coming up on the Mercedes place so as per usual, I glance over to see what they've got as I'm driving by. To my surprise, they have a silver E60 5-series, equipped with what looks like the M-Sports package. As I'm wondering to myself what they're doing with a BMW, I notice something. It had fender gills. Huh? What? That couldn't be the new M5 could it?
One yank of the e-brake and judicious amounts of tire smoke later, I'm heading back in the direction that I just came. Slowly, I drive by the dealership. Yeah. It's an 06 M5, used and for sale. Well, now, I can't very well pass this up now can I? I roll into the lot, slowly and with much revving of my own five liter V-8, just to make sure every salesman sees me. After all, I was just going out to get a Beef and Cheddar, I'm wearing my Dickies, running shoes, t-shirt, and my days-off wallet chain that extends to my knee. They need to see me in my M5 or else they won't take me seriously. Finally, I pull into a spot and take my time getting out of the car. After a due amount of time, I walk up to a saleman, introduce myself, and express mild interest in the M5. So we head out to look at it, he grabs the key (which isn't really a key in the regular sense), and we climb in.
We all know what they look like on the outside. Some like it, others don't, so I won't get into that. I'm somewhat undecided on the looks, and I knew that the driving experience and quality would sway the balance of my opinion on this car. So let's move on to what most people haven't seen. Inside, this thing is trimmed like a Roller. Everything is rock solid, tap on it and it sounds like it's made from solid steel. The switchgear all makes a wonderful tick when operated, the glovebox and center console both glide gently open, even the cupholders finally feel of quality. The leather is unbelievably soft and supple and giving, more something you'd expect with expensive Italian furniture. Honestly, this is the first BMW I've ever been in that has an interior on par with the comparable Audi model. Super so far then.
To start the car, you insert the aforementioned "key" into a slot. It looks like a regular alarm fob, but that's all there is. There is no actual metal key part on it. Just the plastic fob that snaps into it's receptacle. Then, you push the start button on the dash (rather than the cooler location that the A6 sports) and it fires up sounding much like any other car. No huge roar, no drama, just a car. Slap it into gear and we're off. The ride is good, firm but not harsh, planted, but smooth. After letting the car warm up, I'm ready to see how big a stick she carries. I glide around a corner and mash it. Now the weird thing about the E39 M5 is that it doesn't feel very fast, if only because the powerband is so smooth. You feel it in your gut, but there's never the neck snapping, gotta go now, urgency that I'm used to encountering with fast cars, such as my FD. But you're still going very, very fast. The E60 is the exact same way, at least in the 400hp mode. You dont' really feel it go as much as you all of the sudden realize that what was over there a second ago is behind you now. It's deceptive, and quite likely to get many owners tickets without even trying. So let's try it again, but in M-mode.
M-mode is roughly akin to lacing a lion's food with PCP, then thumping him on the nose. The suspension, differential, transmission, seat settings all go to a pre-programed setting, the traction control is completely disengaged, and to top it off, the engine is unfettered to the full 507hp. I didn't get a chance to try the launch control, but once rolling, this thing is mind-blowing. It still doesn't feel as fast as it is, but you can reach arrest me now speeds in no time at all. I'll put it this way, I took off on one lonely stretch of road and within two blocks, this Beast was doing 110mph. 110. I was flabbergasted, truly. It's just now you're here, now you're not. This thing is way too cool.
So with the power issue sorted, I wanted to see how she took the corners. Again, marvelous. It feels like a 3000# coupe, not a 4000# sedan. Great balance, great grip, great feedback. Very little body roll, almost no dive under braking. Loads and loads of grip. It's a good thing that the seat bolsters are independantly adjustable, as my small frame was flopping all over the place until I snugged them up, at which point I felt as stable as in a real race seat. The rearward weight transfer on the throttle was a little more than I expected, but with 507hp, understeer is not going to be a concern. Ever. The only minor gripe is that you feel just a bit less connected in this M5 than in mine. There's just a slight buffer between you and the road that I didn't like. With mine, you can feel the grip from every corner, you can judge perfecly exactly how far you can push the chassis and reel her back in at the exact moment that you need to, and I felt that way from the moment I first drove mine. You don't have quite that feeling in the new one, not quite the same level of response. Still stellar, by all means, but there's more there that could be had. Still, no doubt about it, between the power and the handling, this is shaping up to be one serious contender.
The brakes are well, they're brakes, and it was cold enough during my drive that there was no way I could have gotten them to fade, even if they were capable of it. They are a tad grabby when cold, but after the first stop, they stay consistant and predictable for a long time. The car drops speed very well considering it's weight and tires.
So, the power is out if this world, the handling is up there with some of the best sports coupes I've driven, the brakes are better than expected, the ride is comfortable and capable at the same time, and the interior is finally what you deserve for spending that kind of money on a car. That just about covers everything. Except for the one thing that makes this car a complete and total, utterly hopeless, laughable, worthless piece of s**t.
The transmission. SMG, hah! POS is more like it. I was seriously thinking of considering one of these once the hard money lending really take off, maybe in six months to a year, if I'm lucky. Not now, not without a real transmission in it. This has got to be the worst transmission EVER bolted into a motorized vehicle. Horrible doesn't even begin to describe the state of affairs in this case. It's truly terrifying, and it genuinely ruins this entire car. No matter what you're doing, the tranmission is irritating. Launching like a normal person in traffic, it does ok, just ok. When just cruising, it takes longer to shift than a drunk chimpanzee, and it's not as smooth as the chimp would be. You can feel the car completely drop the throttle causing a lurch forward for you and your passengers, then the clutch disengages, it selects a new gear, and drops the clutch back in with no feathering of the throttle causing another lurch, before finally feeding in the gas and resuming like it should. And that is with the shifting on the aggressive setting. Put it on any of the lower settings and you might as well climb out of the car, crawl under it, and change the gears by hand. Then, in M-mode, it's even worse. Sure it's god-awful fast in M-mode, but it's even more herky jerky than when cruising. When you hit the paddle to upshift, you're actually forced forward as it does all I described earlier, but in rapid succession. There's no lag, which is good, but it feels just like if you were in your regular manual transmission car and you went to redline in a gear, pushed the clutch in, let the revs fall to idle, then dumped the clutch without touching the gas. Horrendous. It's such a violent change that I would be scared to shift it while cornering at speed. It would turn you around, I'd almost guarantee it. Plus, when taking off fast without launch control, the clutch is at full engagement way too soon, causing the engine to momentarily bog and making the car jump around like you're just learning to drive. All in all, words cannot possibly describe the loathing I feel for the SMG. I would not be at all surprized to find out that the transmission's stupidity had something to do with why this nearly brand new, highly sought after car is sitting at a used lot with only 1900 miles on the clock.
BMW, if you're reading this, you are stupid, and I hate you for ruining what could have been the best car you ever made with that abberation of a transmission. Put a regular 6-speed in it, or die in a fire. One of the two. Thanks.
By the way, if anyone's interested, the asking price was a few bucks under a hundred grand.