Well I needed something a bit fit for the weekend and the best on offer was a new BMW 525 with the M sports pack. It’s only the 6, which pales to comparison to its big brother V10. But when it comes to the twisties, it’s all car!
First things first, this car is bloody irritating. It took me about ten minutes to learn how to start it (key chain in hole, press it in, foot on brake, trans in park, hit ‘start’ button), ten minutes to learn how to change from HD TV to normal FM radio. Then another 5 minutes to explain to my girlfriend how to start it and the rest of the day changing my driving style to suit it! Clearly this is not my idea of fun.
Inside the interior is nothing special. There’s a chrome gear level that looks like an eighties Commodore 64 joystick, very firm seats and some of the finest fake wood I’ve ever seen. The irony of which isn’t lost of BMW that have managed to convince themselves that people will pay $100K for fake wood! The firmness of the seats of matched by those run-flat tyres. Which means no longer can you just drive over bumps, you need to actively avoid them unless you’re best mates with your chiropractor.
Of course being a Beamer, it well and truly steers and handles. In a straight line, Joe Commodore will keep up with you. But he will absolutely eat your dust through the twisties. The six speed auto changes super quick and never hesitates. The super sensitive steering really comes alive. Easily the shortest turn to lock of any car I’ve ever driven. Again it’s irritating in town, but very welcome when driving with some spirited aggression.
Despite the lack of straight line grunt, if you don’t love the silky smooth 6 after an hour of corners, there’s something wrong with you. It revs out past seven grand and really, really wails. The exhaust note is just sublime. It’s a very rewarding drive and you don’t miss the extra two (or four) cylinders of the up spec models.
Looks wise, you can take it or leave it. But frankly, I think it’s stunning. Particularly with the 18″ M series rims my rental car had. Sadly I can’t say the same for its grip levels. Better drivers than yours truly will be able to flick it sideways. But I found it just grips and grips with subtle understeer. Who buys a sporty rear wheel drive car for grip? It must be the same guy that came up with the world’s best fake wood. All that energy that usually sends the car sliding, now goes up the driver’s spine. Which is yes very bloody uncomfortable when you’re trying to have some good old greasy fun.
Grip aside, this cat purrs. It’s great to drive, but not so great to live with. It would be like living with a supermodel that thinks you’re gay and won’t do anything with you. Better still a supermodel that looks great until you try and do anything fun or meaningful with her (anyone who’s ever tried to learn iDrive quickly could relate I’m sure).
Sure enough the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that’s the greatest flaw with this car. There was probably nothing wrong with the previous E39 5 series. But they had to do something better. They had to add more lipstick to the pig; they had to add more safety features otherwise people wouldn’t trade up to the new model. Underneath all that garnish is a brilliant car, but not one I could live with. I’d rather be pushing an Alfa than fiddling with iDrive…