Dark Matters

Looks like an M5, drinks likes something very unlike an M5 indeed

The M5 is something of a holy object for the Church of Petrol. Even the new F10, which has a turbocharged V8 instead of the soaring, naturally-aspirated V10 of the E60 version, is venerated and blessed with super unleaded. It has five hundred and sixty-odd horsepower instead of five hundred and seven. It looks glorious. It’s an M5 and that’s basically enough for canonisation as far as the Church of Petrol is concerned.

The pure white car in the picture above isn’t an M5 or indeed anything from the Holy Lands. It drinks from the Black Pump. It may look righteous but it’s a diesel. It’s the M550d xDrive. It has a tuned version of the 3.0 litre six-cylinder turbodiesel which has a third turbocharger bolted to it. God alone knows where they’ve put it. Or maybe the Other Fellah. I certainly don’t. I do know that it produces 381 German horses and 546lb-ft of torque. Lumme. That’s 126 horsepower per litre. That figure sticks in my head because it’s in the same area as a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale. So the diesel exec is as highly-tuned as a track-inspired supercar. That’s kind of scary.

Left-hand drive versions are available with BMW’s xDrive four wheel drive system. The right-hand drive versions for the British market will be rear-wheel drive only and about 80kg lighter as a result than those on sale over the Channel. You can have it as a saloon or Touring estate and it’s going to look like an M5. It’s not going to have an M5’s fuel consumption. BMW claims a ba’ hair short of 45mpg. You’re not going to get that in real life but it’s going to be better than the petrol car’s. A few years ago, 45mpg would have been a fine result for a smallish hatch and now it’s claimed for a 380-brake sex exec. A diesel and that’s a small miracle.

The Predictable M5 Post

This could be another in the occasional Things I Like series. I like the M5. I have always liked the M5. I liked the M635CSi which was the first rendition of the M-car for the masses. The M1 was too rare and exotic and nothing like a practical day-to-day proposition. The M635CSi used the M1’s straight six engine in combination with a delicately pretty coupe bodyshell. The first E28 M5 came along a little later and used the same engine. I was mesmerised by the concept of it. I remember that CAR didn’t quite know what to make of it. They tested it against the Citroen CX for its ride and Jaguar XJ6 for its refinement. There was probably something against which they could compare its performance but that wasn’t an AMG Mercedes saloon. AMG was still a niche tuner of Mercedes cars and not as mainstream as it is today.

The second generation E34 M5 used the same classic straight six engine, ultimately in a 3.8 litre capacity which produced 340bhp, a considerable increase on the original’s 286bhp from 3.5 litres. It was the last of the truly exotic M5s. It was hand-built in small numbers at the M-Division in Garching. From the V8-engined E39, all M5s were built on the same production line as other 5-series. The E60 had a V10 which revved and revved and then revved some more and a sequential gearbox which confused with all its various settings. It had two states of tune depending on whether or not you pressed the M button, although why you wouldn’t press the M button is beyond me. It took the engine from about 400hp to 507hp. To go Twitterish for a moment; nom, nom, nom.

And now there’s a new one. It’s a twin-turbocharged, petrol, 56ohp V8 related to that in the 550i but heavily reworked. It’s also similar to the engines in the scabrous X5M and pointless X6M. Unlike those four-wheel drive munters, the new M5 is really quite handsome. The E60 broke with M5 tradition in being quite shouty. The new F10 version is slightly calmer than the E60 but still louder than the M5 norm. When you have more or less the same amount of horsepower as a Ferrari 458 you’re allowed to shout a little.

I think that the current 5-series is one of the more attractive BMWs of recent years. I’m not going to bash Bangle like so many have done. His BMWs were beautifully proportioned but had unusual surfacing and strange detailing. He also cam up with the frankly astonishing Fiat Coupe. That car drags my eyeballs around after it each and every time I see it, not that that happens very often. Anyway the F10 5-series is a calm, dignified but assertive design on the outside and clean and comforting on the inside. It has none of the unhappiness of the E60 or ungainliness of the 5GT. The M5 is a 550i Sport which has been to the gym for some intensive training then to a very good tailor for a new suit to cover it’s muscles without hiding them completely.

If I were to have a spare £75,000 and could only buy one car, it would probably be this one. The AMG is lairier, the XFR has silly lights now (that post is coming shortly) and the XJ Supersports is too big. The Audi S8 has also recently downsized from a V10 to a twin-turbo V8 and has one of those gorgeous places to be interiors the Gas Station Podisode would go “Ping!” at. I don’t have the necessary readies, though. Previous generation M5s are much more affordable. An E60 has been seen in the wild for £18k and that has to be some kind of bargain. It’s possibly with the Devil but that’s still a bargain. The V8-engined E39 is much less expensive – from about £6k with lots to choose from around £10k – and an E34 isn’t quite banger racer material but it’s not far off. An E28 is what the Germans call a Youngtimer and will only appreciate in value if you look after it. The least expensive I found on Pistonheads is £16k. It’s the one I would have and then keep for special occasions. Mind you, going to the shops for bread and milk is a special occasion if you make the journey in an M5.

Saloons Are Cooler Than Coupes. Discuss.

I was watching the episode of Top Gear broadcast on BBC2 last night. It was the one with the film where Clarkson pretends that a Sierra Cosworth is Belgian and an oompah band causes May’s 190E-16 2.3 to break down and Hammond has an E36 M3 Evo saloon with dubious leather trim and those horrid wooden grab handles on the doors. Oddly enough, I found myself wondering just how much an M3 saloon would cost so I went onto Pistonheads to find out. Not much, as it turns out.

I happen to think that the M3 saloon is cooler than the coupe and I’ll tell you why: it’s rarer and less likely to attract undue attention. So, I’m right and everybody else is wrong. Except I’m not. One of the cars I looked at last night had sold by this morning. Someone else must have been watching Top Gear last night too. Yes, the ‘wooden’ trim is so Cherman it’s probably working out ways to get the trains to run on time, and it’s possible that the four door might be a little more floppy than the two door but an E36 M3 is going to have been thrashed and will be floppy anyway. You won’t be able to notice the difference. And you can get your mates in the back more easily – if you had any mates. Since this is an M3, you probably don’t have mates so much as acquaintances you routinely try to humiliate. Consequently they will quietly trash those back seats to which they have had such easy access. Sorry about that.

I also think that the current 3 Series looks better as a saloon than a coupe. The rear end of the two door has a whiff of the Honda Civics about it. Remember the Civic coupe? The first one? The one the Americans bought for their kids to go to college in? See what I mean? The saloon has a bit more oomph than the coupe, especially in the face- and bum-lifted version we have now.


This is the silly version. It’s called the CRT, short for Carbon Racing Technology. It’s an M3 saloon with the engine from the last limited run M3, the GTS, some carbon bits and bobs including the roof and some bucket seats in the front and rear. It doesn’t matter that it costs far too much money because BMW is only making 67 of them, they’re all sold and none of them are coming to Britain. Sadly, the misanthropic bastards in Britain who buy M3s don’t like the saloon. Idiots. I know the GTS is orange and I have a thing for an orange car but I’d have the CRT over the GTS in a New York second.

Now, would one of you less misanthropic bastards be so kind as to order an M3 saloon with the DCT, in white with black leather interior, please. I’ll be along in 15 years or so to take it off your hands. You can be the cool one in the meantime.

Men Are Weak


I know it's orange, but this is still July

Some people are suckers for pictures of kittens doing cute things. In the last week alone I’ve been tickled by a kitten trying to fight its own reflection in a mirror, another kitten having a bad attack of the mads on a bed and surprised kitty. That last one worried me after a while because I thought the poor wee thing looked terrified. They won’t be trying that tickley shit when it grows up and gets claws which would give them a thorough mauling.

Other people really, really like pictures of boobies. Okay, sometimes the same people who like pictures of kittens doing cute things also like pictures of boobies. Boobies can be cute too, after all. They can have this perky thing going on. Anyhoo. My point is that people like the things they like and other people can make money or gain kudos by providing goods or services to them. YouTube clips of kittens doing the cutest things and pictures of ladies without their bras are only two of them.

Another is the BMW 1-Series M Coupe. evo has one on long-term test. No doubt other mags will get their examples in time. The M Division is building a limited number of them and BMW GB has already sold its allocation. I have to ask myself then why they are running one. I’ve come to the conclusion that men are weak. We are dull and predictable people  who like shiny, loud, orange things wearing M badges and we will buy anything which has a picture of them. The 1-Series M comes in two other colours but nobody is going to look at a black or a silver one when there is one of those orange ones knocking around the place.

The best motoring journalism puts the reader into the driver’s seat to share an experience they might not otherwise have. There will probably be as many Ferrari 458 Italias sold in the UK as 1Ms over the next couple of years so this is going to be a rare car and I know that there are lots of enthusiasts who would love to have one to play with for a while. I just wish that we weren’t quite so jackdawish in our attraction to the shiny, the loud and the orange.