BMW M5 F90 Long-term Review | CAR Magazine

BMW M5 F90 long-term review: the final verdict

Published: 03 February 2020

Latest BMW M5 Review
► CAR lives with an F90 M5
► 6 months with the super-saloon
► The verdict is now in

Ah, for six, brief, glorious months I have been the Lord of Realms, Master of All I Survey, the Sovereign Prince of Oversteer. Now my BMW M5 has gone and I’m feeling much reduced. To drive such a cult car – and, in the 2018 guise, one that’s back on top form – has been a real privilege. No exaggeration, I felt a little thrill inside every day, climbing into this car.

Of course, there have been plenty of boring journeys over the last six months – early-morning motorway slogs in gluey traffic, long hours listening to Radio 4, frustrated efforts to get home on a Friday night. In such situations, the M5 plays the role of executive saloon as well as you’d hope: quiet, comfortable, piled high with technology.

The only downside is the fuel economy of the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8: on average I have filled up once a week, and over six months the price of a tank of fuel has gone up from £82 to £90 per fill. On a good week that would buy me 350 miles, but often it was a lot less. On our CAR long-term test car jaunt to Wales (as featured in the August issue), the M5 was thrashed mercilessly by the whole team, and we guzzled a tank in just 143 miles – achieving 10.5mpg.

Trouble is, the monstrous performance of the M5 proved so addictive, every time I urged myself ‘Come on, drive sensibly, think of the fuel…’ I’d last about five miles before cracking. I mean, what’s the point of an M5 if you drive like a granny? Next thing I know, I’d be pressing the red M2 button on the steering wheel, configuring the car to rear-wheel drive and traction control off, and the fuel tank would once again be drained like a bath with the plug pulled out.

My favourite trick was to slide the M5 all the way round a long, curving off-ramp, a 180-degree oversteer drift from slip road up to bridge, every night on my way home. That off-ramp will remind me of the BMW forever.

Interestingly, the way the M5 behaved mid-slide changed a lot towards the end of our time together. Normally I’m not the kind to get bogged down in nerdy tyre details, but after our rowdy shoot with stunt driver Matt Sherren last month, the M5’s tyres were down to the canvas. BMW had arranged for another set to be fitted so I could drive home safely, and the 20-inch Pirelli P-Zeros were replaced by Michelins.

I couldn’t believe the difference they made, at the limit of adhesion – the Michelins made the car more prone to understeer when initially provoked, and the rears didn’t break away as cleanly. The M5 would just glide on the Pirellis. If you want to drift your M5, make sure it’s fitted with the P Zeros.

Apart from that, I just know the M5 recalibrated my brain with its speed, its acceleration, and its astounding carbon brakes. Stealthy, sexy and supercar fast, it’s been an intense reaffirmation of the M5’s cult status. I’m beginning to realise: it wasn’t me that was King of the Road – it was always this mind-blowing car.

Price £89,705
As tested £102,825
Engine 4395cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 591bhp @ 5600rpm, 553lb ft @ 1800rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 3.4sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 241g/km CO2
Miles this month 1701
Total 9500
Our mpg 23.4
Official mpg 26.9
Fuel this month £444
Extra costs None

Cost new £102,825 (including £13,120 of extras)
Private sale price £82,379
Part-exchange price £78,854
Cost per mile 25p
Cost per mile including depreciation £3.35

By Mark Walton




Month 5 of our BMW M5 long-term test: we attend drift school with a stunt driver

Riding alongside a stunt driver in a BMW M5 is such fun. Oh God, I feel sick! The way you spin round, lurching from side to side, it’s so exhilirating. Stop the car, I feel sick, I feel sick! The constant surging and braking, turning your stomach like a cement mixer full of breakfast. OK STOP THE CAR, HERE IT COMES!

I’m here to learn, and already – after just three minutes in the passenger seat – I’ve learned I really don’t want to be a stunt driver. Unlike Matt Sherren. 

Sherren is an experienced British stuntman who was recently in action in the latest Tom Cruise film, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Like two previous instalments of the M:I franchise, Fallout features a cast of BMWs in a big corporate tie-up with Paramount. Sherren didn’t drive the BMW in the film – and no, he isn’t ‘besties’ with Tom, so no point asking for celebrity gossip. But we thought we could ask how to do a stunt in our BMW M5 long-term test car, and maybe find out what kind of person spends his whole life wanting to set his own trousers on fire.

Matt Sherren is a stunt driver from the Mission: Impossible series - gave Mark Walton (right) some tips

‘It started in the careers library at school,’ Matt explains. ‘I lived in Grimsby, I had to pull two cards out of this careers box, and I chose cameraman and stuntman. And the teacher said, “Well, that’s never going to happen.” So that was all my dreams shattered! But I played county cricket, football and swimming, then I went travelling round Australia. While I was there, I saw a live stunt show and just thought, “That’s what I want to do!” So I came home, did my training and joined the British Stunt Register. It took me five years.’ 

Matt makes it sound straightforward, but there’s no official stunt training course, you just have to get on and do it yourself. 

‘You have to become an expert in six different disciplines, up to instructor level,’ Matt explains. ‘I looked at the syllabus and had none of the skills. Driving was on the list, and I would have loved to have done that, but it’s expensive and it wasn’t an option at the time. So I did trampolining, horse riding, scuba, swimming, fighting and a high-falling skill, which was diving. My first film was The Bourne Ultimatum. That was the first time I saw my name up on the screen.’

I ask Matt what he did in that movie. ‘Not a lot really! I shot a gun and chased a baddie down a corridor.’ But Matt’s career took off, and over the last 10 years he’s worked all over Europe, with credits in movies including Spectre, Wonder Woman and Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as TV shows like Taboo and Game of Thrones

More recently, Matt returned to the idea of becoming a driver. ‘Injuries go with the territory,’ he says, ‘but as you get older, you don’t bounce so much. Driving seemed like an option – though there’s a lot of energy when you smash a car up, and you can still get hurt.’

Again, with no formal training available, Matt learnt his new craft by trial and error on an airfield, between traffic cones. He started in an MX-5, moving up to a Nissan 350Z. ‘The Mazda is like a little ballerina, so delicate and light, and if you get something wrong it’s easy to correct. When you step up to the 350Z, the extra power is great but it can also be dangerous. If you overpower it, or get the steering wrong, you’re off.’ 

Not that Matt gets to drive many 350Zs or M5s in films: ‘I usually play a heavy,’ he tells me, ‘because of my baldness’ – and he usually gets handed cheap screen-fodder. For Mission: Impossible he spent two weeks in Paris driving forgettable French cheapies. ‘For stunt work, it’s often left-hand drive, front-wheel drive, lazy cars.’ 

BMW M5 drift school with Mark Walton

So it’s a treat for Matt to drive our M5. ‘It’s a big car, with a lot of engine!’ he says admiringly, as the tyres cool and I sway, feeling green. 

‘The power and torque make drifting easier, but then you’ve got to manage it – you can easily use too much power and spin out. Same with the long wheelbase – there’s more play, more leniency in the way the tail comes out, but there’s also a lot of weight moving around.’

The one thing he’s missing is a proper handbrake lever – the M5 has an electronic button. ‘The handbrake is quite a vital piece of equipment [in stunt work]. In tight areas you can just turn, a little nip of handbrake, power on and you’re in a slide.’ 

Without this, Matt decides to show me the reverse J-turn. Basically, you drive in reverse, whip the steering wheel, and the momentum of that big engine swings the car screeching round 180°, then you drive off, shooting AK-47s out of the back window. Easy…

BMW M5: destroyed rear tyres

Except  that it isn’t. You have to reverse fast and straight, looking in your rear-view mirror, hand upside-down on the wheel at six o’clock. Then you have to be really committed in your steering input, and – as the nose swings round – you have to complete a let-go-of-the-wheel, look-where-you’re-going, engage-first-gear, grab-the-steering-when-you’re-pointing-straight-and-drive-off-seamlessly action, all in one nauseating instant. Get it wrong in an open space like today and you get an ugly wobble-pause before driving off. Not very Tom Cruise. But get it wrong in a tight Parisian street, full of pedestrians, and there are consequences. 

‘The stunt co-ordinator has to have trust in what you do,’ says Matt. ‘A lot of money is being spent on the production, and lost minutes… re-sets for takes… there’s a lot of pressure to do your job, otherwise you’re costing them money.’

And all this, while looking the part for the rolling cameras. ‘You have to act it out – you’ve got to really try to be that MI5 agent,’ Matt urges me. I glance in the mirror. I look anaemic, my eyes are watering and my expression is one of pitiful defeat. If the next instalment is called Mission: Impossible – Throw Up I’m a shoo-in. 

By Mark Walton

Month 4 living with a BMW M5: the BMW M5’s huge key!

New BMW M5 key

The M5 Display Key is 6cm wide, 10cm long and 2cm thick – nearly as big as a mobile phone, and almost as heavy. The touchscreen allows you to lock doors and check the fuel range from your house (assuming you’re in range).

It came as part of a £1195 Comfort Package, but you can buy it as an individual extra for £235. I’d rather have a key as slender as a credit card – and surely the greatest luxury in modern life is to be unencumbered by stuff that needs recharging?

By Mark Walton

Logbook: BMW M5 F90

Engine 4395cc twin-turbo V8, 592bhp @ 5600rpm, 553lb ft @ 1800rpm 
Gearbox 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 3.4sec 0-62mph, 190mph, 241g/km CO2  
Price £89,705
As tested £102,820
Miles this month 958
Total miles 6758
Our mpg 21.9
Official mpg 26.9
Fuel this month £259
Extra costs None

Month 2 of our BMW M5 long-term test review: the M5’s life as an MPV

When I’m not thrashing our BMW M5 within an inch of its life on my way home from work, it also has to act as a family car. That means – despite its carbon brakes and near-600bhp – it has to suffer all the everyday abuse that Renault Scenics and Nissan Qashqais have to deal with: you know, brown banana skins in door pockets, organic fruit bars trampled into carpets, crumbs, crumbs in every concave orifice that could possibly hold a crumb.

Of course, the BMW handles it all like any other big family saloon would – though there’s such a thoroughness to the M5’s engineering, I like to think of those sober, earnest M division engineers, smearing Marmite over the interior in the name of scientific evaluation. ‘Ja, der Britische Marmeladetest.’

CAR magazine's Mark Walton and our BMW M5

One of the things I’ve been really impressed by is the size of the BMW’s boot. My God, it’s huge. We recently went for a long weekend in North Norfolk and because our five-year-old daughter recently learnt to ride, we decided to take her bike. We almost took our Subaru Forester workhorse because we had so much stuff to take, but at the last minute I decided to try the M5 for size. Sure enough, the boot swallowed the bike, plus the three tons of expeditionary equipment on top. The M5’s boot is low, wide and deep, but at 530 litres, the luggage capacity is more than a 380-litre VW Golf and almost the same as a 570-litre Renault Scenic MPV. And the Scenic can’t drift round a roundabout ’til its tyres burst into flames.

Less practical for the family are those M Carbon ceramic brakes. They’re stunningly powerful and dependable, and as a sporty £7495 option they’re great when you’re driving ten-tenths to beat your personal best to the office. But at slow speed, round town, they’re unbelievably grabby.

I’m only just learning to breathe on them to slow the car down smoothly at low speed – for the first few weeks it’s been like an astronaut selection test, the whole family subjected to sudden, screeching, eyeball-deforming halts at every traffic light. Oops! Sorry! No wonder my daughter keeps scattering crumbs everywhere.

By Mark Walton

Logbook: BMW M5 F90

Engine 4395cc twin-turbo V8, 592bhp @ 5600rpm, 553lb ft @ 1800rpm 
Gearbox 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 3.4sec 0-62mph, 190mph, 241g/km CO2  
Price £89,705
As tested £102,820
Miles this month 930
Total miles 5800
Our mpg 16.9
Official mpg 26.9
Fuel this month £252
Extra costs None

Month 1 living with a 2018 BMW M5: hello and welcome

God I love this BMW M5, and it’s ALL MINE FOR SIX MONTHS. I’m still in shock. I think my fellow writers at CAR are a bit stunned too – how did I pull it off? Not sure exactly – the keys were just there, so I took them and ran.

It’s the most expensive long-term test car I’ve ever run for CAR. The basic on-the-road price for the new M5 is £89,705, and for that you get all-wheel drive (a first for the M5) and a drivetrain that ditches BMW’s razor-sharp twin-clutch DTC in favour of a regular eight-speed auto ‘box. All standard, no choice.

Of course, there are other options if you want to spend more dollar: our car is finished in Rhodonite Silver paint (£1095); it has a sports exhaust (£1100); a couple of equipment packs, Premium and Comfort (£1995 and £1195 respectively), that add things like soft-close doors and a heated steering wheel; plus a few details like Apple CarPlay (£235) and stripy M seatbelts (£260). The price is now approaching £95k, but tick the box that says M Carbon Ceramic Brakes – go on, tick it, I know you want to – and you add a hefty £7495 to the bill, bringing our car’s total to £102,820

M5 LTT drifting

So, I’m in love with an automatic 4×4? Better explain. First, it’s the monster engine, a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that puts out 592bhp, up almost 40bhp on the last generation M5. It is a gigantic, NASA-style Saturn rocket of an engine that flings this nearly two-tonne saloon around as if it were made of paper. The stats say 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and a top speed (derestricted) of 190mph. But those numbers can’t convey the in-gear acceleration – the shove it gives you in second gear, or the way it overtakes in third or fourth. When I take unwitting passengers out for a quick blast, they all do the same thing: yelp, grimace and instinctively reach for the grab handle. It is savagely quick.

I’m also in love with this switchable chassis. This is unusual for me – normally I hate wallowy Comfort modes and Sport settings that are so stiff they rattle your fillings out. Usually, I just end up in Normal.

But in the new M5, the settings make this my perfect all-rounder. So it’s raining and the traffic is heavy and I’m on my way home? Just leave everything in Comfort, 4×4, auto, traction control on. True, the M5 is relatively bland like this – it feels quick but subdued, the steering lacks feel and there are no fireworks.

But then there are the two bright red M buttons on the steering wheel, that look like they should only be deployed by a fireman. Despite some criticism of hyper-complexity, the secret to this car is spending five minutes creating your perfect M1 and M2 settings. So if I’m in a hurry and I don’t want lurid oversteer, I choose M1, which I’ve set to be 4×4 but now with Sport steering, engine response and suspension, and half-way-house traction control allowing a little bit of slip.

And if I really want to let rip, slide my way home and roast the tyres, I choose M2, which I’ve set up as a nutter mode: everything in Sport Plus, pure rear-wheel drive, traction completely off. Now the M5 will oversteer round roundabouts like a drift car while I climb out and wave at the crowd from the bonnet. It’s three distinctive personalities in one car.

So, I’m ignoring the fuel consumption (13mpg if you abuse the M2 button) and I’m literally counting down the weeks, dreading the day it goes back. Until then, it’s all MINE MINE MINE!

By Mark Walton

Logbook: BMW M5 F90

Engine 4395cc twin-turbo V8, 592bhp @ 5600rpm, 553lb ft @ 1800rpm 
Gearbox 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 3.4sec 0-62mph, 190mph, 241g/km CO2  
Price £89,705
As tested £102,820
Miles this month 1820
Total miles 3584
Our mpg 20.5
Official mpg 26.9
Fuel this month £622
Extra costs None

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast