If there’s one type of car the Germans have really made their own, it’s sports saloons. While Italian manufacturers have perfected the art of making automotive art on wheels in the form of sleek and noisy supercars, a German sports saloon might be far less ostentatious or special, but it should give any supercar worth its salt a run for its money in a straight line.
Perhaps no car of this ilk better represents the breed than the BMW M5, and in particular, this 2014 Competition LCI model you see here. In its own way, the F10 M5 was still a bit lary – there’s the same brutish power plant under the bonnet as there is in the current F90, but there’s a more mechanical-feeling seven-speed dual-clutch transmission behind it. Oh, and it’s still rear-wheel drive, making it perfect for some shenanigans.
Yet, its ability to do such shenanigans are still clearly secondary to its main Clark Kent-type character. It’s a superhero in a suit, but a flick of a switch is all it takes to swap it out for a cape.
Of course, the stunning Monte Carlo Blue of the M5 you see here gives away a bit more that this isn’t your ordinary run of the mill 5 Series – in grey, silver, or black, you’ll fly under the radar far more – but even still, part of the M5’s charm is that you need to be a bit of a trainspotter to notice the subtle changes they sport. The unique front bumper, the quad exhausts, the unique wheel designs… non-car people might not notice these unique touches, but if you know, you know.
You know that under the bonnet of this beast hides a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 making 423kW at 6000rpm – an 11kW increase courtesy of the Competition package made standard for facelifted 2014 models – and 680Nm at just 1500rpm. You know that it can get from 0-100km/h in just 4.2 seconds, marking a 0.2-second increase over pre-facelift models. And most importantly, you know that this thing isn’t to be messed with at a set of lights.
That’s despite this engine not having much in the way of bark, as even the Akrapovic exhaust fitted to this car – one of a few minor modifications – wasn’t enough to get it truly flexing its vocal chords. But what it lacks in bark, it makes up for with its bite, as the way the M5 delivers its turn of speed is just extraordinary.
As the two turbochargers – which are mounted between the cylinder banks to improve responsiveness – begin to breathe upon this engine, it thrusts forward absolutely effortlessly, so much so that it almost doesn’t feel as fast as it actually is.
Its composure at high speed is the greatest reminder of what makes German cars so unique. It’s clear that this was purpose-built for the Autobahn, with its cabin serving as a sensory deprivation tank that makes those long highway drives less tiring and grating, especially as the ride is certainly comfortable for what is a car of this performance level. What’s going past the windows might be a blur, but from behind the wheel it feels like a gentle stroll.
That composure is something mirrored by the M5 when you pitch it at some corners, too, with its precise steering helping you position it precisely on the road for what was a big car in its time – although it doesn’t feel quite as large by today’s standards. Competition models like this one feature unique steering and stability control tuning, stiffer stabiliser bars, and suspension that drops its height by 10mm, only further improving upon the F10’s handling.
Don’t think that all this precision makes the M5 feel any less raw, though. While the V8 might be buttery smooth and its steering surprisingly dainty by modern standards, the dual-clutch transmission adds in the mechanical feeling that some modern sports saloons with their torque converter autos sorely lack.
With three degrees of shift ferocity – something you can independently switch between along with the steering, damping, and throttle response, or have it all pre-programmed to your tastes using the M buttons on the steering wheel – the way it slots between gears makes you remember why DCTs were so favoured in these days. It’s smooth enough when you’re simply driving around town, but it’s when you dial it up a bit and control it with the paddles when it feels most alive and connected. I also love that it uses the pedal box from a manual BMW sans clutch pedal, meaning the brake pedal is small and placed right next to the throttle to make switching between the two a quicker process. That’s the sort of thoughtful touch you get from the makers of the ultimate driving machine.
Still being rear-wheel drive only makes the F10 M5 feel more raw than its modern counterpart as well. While I wasn’t going to get the tail hanging out on public roads in a car a mate had just purchased, it’s clear that this thing is capable of it. You can feel the inimitable push as it lays down the power, and its limited-slip differential can be felt working away as you apply the throttle on the exit from a bend.
Even though the M5 is very usable, it’s worth remembering that it is still a high-performance car. These ‘S63’ V8 engines do get a bad rap online, but with overly cautious maintenance (think oil changes every 5000km rather than the recommended 30,000km, a truly ridiculous interval) I’m told there’s less to fret about when it comes to infamous rod bearing wear and VANOS variable valve timing system faults. With those turbos mounted in that ‘hot vee’ configuration, it does also cause this engine to build up some heat, so keep an eye out for that on warmer days like the one I drove it on.
Fortunately, that was something I could do quite easily thanks to the clever steering wheel fitted to this car. A factory option, this Alcantara tiller features a small digital display at the top for monitoring water and oil temperatures, along with other performance metrics such as acceleration and cornering Gs. It’s also flanked by a set of shift lights for when you’re taking full control of the transmission yourself.
Other than the DCT-specific shifter arrangement (which doesn’t have a Park function; you simply leave it in Neutral and apply the electronic handbrake) the rest of the interior is standard F10 5 Series, meaning it holds up fairly well by todays standards.
The semi-digital instrument cluster looks fantastic, the old iDrive system is functional enough with satellite navigation and Bluetooth, there’s a Harman Kardon audio system for playing your music through, crisp metal trim and high quality black leather adorn the majority of surfaces, and it has most of the driver assistance technology current models do with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and low-speed auto emergency braking.
Being BMW’s mid-size offering, there’s also enough room for comfortably carrying four passengers inside – the sculpting of the rear seats means you’ll want to save the middle seat for occasional use at most, plus outboard passengers benefit from sunshades on the rear side windows – as well as their gear in its relatively sizeable although typically narrow boot, which you can blame the fat rear tyres for intruding upon.
While the F10 generation of the M5 might have come out over a decade ago by this point, there’s no denying that it still holds up as a used proposition today. Just look at the typical price point they currently sit at – between $70,000 and $90,000 (AUD) depending upon the year, specification, and mileage – and it’s undeniable that the amount of car you’re getting for the money is absolutely incredible, especially when you consider that this cost $229,900 when new back in 2014. Plus, the recent fluctuation in the used car market means that sort of valuation is pretty stable for the time being; most of the depreciation has been handled already.
If you are looking at an F10 BMW M5, this LCI model from 2014 onwards has to be the one to go for. With the Competition package made standard – something that’s still the case on the current M5 due to Aussie buyers’ tastes – and smarter, slightly more modern styling, it proves that both new and used, an M5 is the way to have your cake and eat it too.
An unassuming sedan that will scare a supercar in a straight line? The F10 M5 is still just that to this day – and with a tune, which I’m sure many owners will be tempted by, it’ll do a bit more than scare cars worth far more than it. Maintain it properly (and make sure prior owners have also done the same) and at its current values, an F10 is a big win.
My thanks to Pierre for providing the opportunity to review this vehicle. If you have a well-maintained modern classic that you think would be worth us documenting, drop us a line on the Drive Section Facebook or Instagram accounts, or at email@example.com as we’d love to feature anything noteworthy from across the automotive spectrum.
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