Stare long and hard at this frosty blue BMW M5 and you will be able to tell that it’s the facelift. You'll pick out the 'square' LED rings, twin-spoke theme to the kidney grille (a design feature of 'M' cars), the massive 'M' wheels and the tweaked tail-lamps. Admittedly, it isn't much of a facelift even by mild facelift standards, but most of the changes to this car are under the skin. In Germany, you can now opt for the Competition Pack that raises power by 14.7bhp to 567bhp (although torque remains the same) with spring and damping rates firmer by 20 percent. The stabiliser bars are 15 percent stiffer and the steering rack is 10 percent quicker and you can opt for serving dish-sized carbon-ceramic brakes (the gold calipers are the giveaway). How much better is the car for these improvements? We went to Munich to hammer it over de-restricted autobahns, hopped over the Alps to Austria for lunch and threw it around a few back-roads to gauge exactly that.
As always, the twin-turbo, 4.4-litre V8 is an atomic bomb in disguise. BMW claims a 4.2sec 0-100kph time which is impressive considering this is a rear-wheel drive car and as such, is limited by available traction. The 69.3kgm of torque kicks in at 1500rpm, stays that way till 5750rpm at which point 567bhp takes over and blows you to kingdom come. As a result, the top-end of the rev-band is even more mental than before – from around 5000rpm till its 7250rpm redline, you get a scream in your ears and an incredibly hair-raising run up till the limiter cuts in. Try a redline run in the higher gears and you better be wearing a diaper – it's that quick, exciting and scary. The engine pulls in one long, smooth rush and the seven-speed dual clutch transmission snaps through gears with mild thumps (depending on the level of gearshift aggressiveness you've dialled up on the transmission). Tunnel vision is the order of the day and this happens even on a broad six-lane autobahn! We were limited to 240kph thanks to the winter tyres fitted on our car. Normal M5s (if you can call it that) are restricted to a 250kph top-speed and if you ask nicely and pay a fee, BMW will unlock this and give you a 305kph top speed. In a sedan!
The problem then is that the M5 weighs 1,945kg. This isn't an issue in a straight line (the engine simply overcomes the mass) but when you throw an M5 at a corner, it feels its size.
It feels broad from the driver's seat and most back roads simply feel too small for an enthusiastically driven F10. Yes, some of the squirming under hard cornering and braking may have been down to the less than optimal winter tyres, but you can't shake off the feeling of the sheer momentum you are carrying around.
Yes, the stiffer suspension and quicker steering does mean the Competition Pack M5 feels a bit more agile but that's it. Even with the suspension set on 'Sport-plus', the car never settles down. It's always moving about and keeps you on edge. You end up, at least on public roads, trying to predict what the car will do next and that kind of kills the fun. You have to work to get the car around corners smoothly rather than the car working with you to provide entertainment. Also, the rear axle struggles to put all that power down on anything less than a billiard table-smooth surface and the traction-control system works overtime and chops power viciously. The ride is quite nice though but then again, the roads were rather smooth too.
Admittedly, the harder you drive it, the better the M5 responds and what you need then is a racetrack. On public roads, the M5's limits – read that as lateral grip – are so high, it would be rather foolish to approach them.
It's quite clear that the M5 is a mature, more luxurious super saloon designed to appeal to a wider, older crowd. Two-and-a-half pages of the three-page press-release that accompanied the facelifted car talks about LED headlamps, touch-sensitive iDrive controller, the new lane departure warning system, collision warning system and the new online entertainment option.
There's another problem. When the facelifted M5 gets to India in the second quarter of 2014, it is unlikely that BMW will offer the Competition Pack here. So, what we will get is the facelift and extra equipment wrapped around the 552.3bhp engine. It is likely that the facelifted M5 will cost a bit more than the current car as well.
For that price, you can look forward to ballistic performance mixed with four-door, five seat, big-boot practicality and for most, that will be more than enough.