- Available for £40,000
- 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 petrol, all-wheel drive
- Supercar performance for five people at once
- Switchable AWD/RWD = best of every world
- Impressive cabin tech
- Seems very reliable, just one potential weak link
Today we’re looking at the 2017-on F90 M5, the sixth generation of BMW’s majestic dynasty of sporting saloons. The F90 was launched at the Frankfurt show in 2017, by which point the proliferation of safety systems and technology had moved ‘weight’ well up the table of problems faced by larger cars with sporting aims. In that respect BMW did well to bring the F90 in at 1,930kg, 15kg under the gen-five F10 M5 of 2011, bearing in mind the fact that the older rear-wheel drive car had half as much driveshaft hardware to lug around.
The F90 M5 used essentially the same S63 4.4 V8 engine as the F10, the car that brought twin-scroll turbocharging to the M5 for the first time. One key difference was that the powered-up F90 had to run an 8-speed ZF torque converter automatic instead of the F10’s 7-speed double-clutch auto. The F10’s torque band was actually wider than the F90’s, but its lower peak power and torque figures (560hp/502lb ft versus 600hp/533lb ft) and reduced traction off the line made it a full second slower than the F90 over the 0-62mph dash despite having a faster-changing DCT transmission. For comparison, the 1,830kg gen-four E60 M5 with its 5.0 litre 500hp/384lb ft naturally aspirated V10, two-wheel drive and 7-speed auto needed 4.7 seconds for the 0-62. The F10 and F90 top speeds were identical at 155mph, or getting on for 190mph with the M Driver’s Package.
The F90 was the first M5 to be sold with no manual gearbox option. It was also the first non-rear-wheel drive M5, although it was as near to RWD as BMW could get it, the XDrive system with Active M diff being set up to keep the front end clear of power for as much of the time as possible. There were three DSC modes: 4WD, which gave maximum traction while allowing some rear slip; 4WD Sport, which sent more torque to the rear and allowed more oversteer; and 2WD, which as you might guess was (reportedly at least) pure rear-wheel drive. To get the F90 M5 off with a bang, the 400 First Edition cars announced at Frankfurt ’17 were released in spring 2018. They were all in Frozen (matte) Dark Red with black 20-inch wheels, black accents inside and out and black ‘sport’ exhausts.
In late 2018 the M5 Competition was launched. It had the same torque as the straight M5 but a power hike to 617hp, giving it a 0-62mph time of 3.3 seconds. On the chassis side, there were three designs of 20-inch wheels and a 7mm drop in the ride height. Black replaced shiny metal in the kidney grille surrounds, tailpipes, rear diffuser and badges. There was an M Sport exhaust that was claimed to be louder than the standard one. Anyway, it went well enough, one German car mag chucking a Competition around the Nordschleife in 7mins 35.9sec.
The Competition replaced the standard M5 in BMW GB’s catalogue at the time of the model’s LCI refresh in 2020. This facelift brought tweaks to the front and rear styling, a bigger (12.3-inch) touch screen with iDrive 7.0, natural speech recognition, wireless Android Auto compatibility (previously it was only Apple CarPlay), cloud-based BMW Maps navigation and the digital dash from the G80 M3. Brake calipers came in high-gloss black or red and there were new body colour options including Brands Hatch Grey and Motegi Red. Tanzanite Blue II, Aventurine II and Matte Frozen Bluestone joined the Individual palette. There were new M and Track modes, new shocks, and a new adaptive damper system. Customers had the opportunity to shop for manually adjustable coilovers that could drop the ride height by up to 20mm over the amount provided by the standard adaptive arrangement. Different leather/Alcantara seat choices were offered too, but it all came at a price: £100,850 before options.
A CS (Club Sport) edition appeared in 2021. With production limited by time (one year) rather than numbers, the CS had a new aero kit featuring plenty of ‘raw’ carbonfibre. A CFRP bonnet, 20-inch forged wheels, and standard carbon ceramic brakes all helped to reduce weight by a claimed 70kg over the Competition’s. In addition, there was revised suspension, a 7mm lower ride height, 635hp courtesy of revised turbos and higher fuel injection pressure (again the 553lb ft of torque was unchanged), with a freer-revving top end. There was also a new interior look too with an Alcantara steering wheel, the slightly peculiar but certainly distinctive Nürburgring-graphicked M Carbon lightweight front seats from the G80 M3, individual bucket seats in the back, posh new ‘gold bronze’ wheels and brightwork setting off its grey (metallic or frozen) or frozen deep green paint, P Zero Corsa PZC4 tyres as a no-cost option, and a UK price tag of £140,780, which was as near as dammit £40k more than the Competition.
Quite a price, but also quite a machine. It was the most powerful road car ever produced by the M Division, dispatching the 0-62 in 3.0 seconds and providing a fine mix of handling and comfort to boot. The UK allocation of CSs – an unspecified number – was immediately taken up, but as we went to press in early September 2023 you could make up for lost time by buying a lovely low-miler from PH Classifieds. We’ll link you to that one in the Verdict at the end, which also contains a snippet of potentially interesting news for fans of fast estates.
By mid-2023 a stop had been put on M5 orders in readiness for the startup of the new G60 5 Series line in October ’23, so there will be no new F90 M5s to buy unless you find an unregistered one floating about in some far-flung Hedridean BMW dealership, if there is such a thing. The good news, especially if you’ve naughtily skipped to the end and have seen the price of that CS, is that you can get into an F90 M5 at a much more everyday cost, to whit £40,000 for a high-miles (70-100k) example. Add £5k to our budget and your selection will grow to include cars with less than half that mileage. Prices start from around £47k for a 50,000-miler.
SPECIFICATION | BMW M5 (F90, 2017-on)
Engine: 4,395cc V8 32v twin turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 592@5,700-6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553@1,800-5,700rpm
0-62mph (secs): 3.4
Top speed (mph): 155 (189 with M Driver’s Package)
Weight (kg): 1,930
MPG (official combined): 26.9
CO2 (g/km): 241
Wheels (in): 9.5 x 19 (f), 10.5 x 19 (r)
Tyres: 275/40 (f), 285/40 (r)
On sale: 2017 - 2023
Price new: £88,880
Price now: from £40,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
As you’d expect, the latest M5 was the most powerful of the genre in terms of sheer horsepower but the peak torque was arguably even more spectacular. Not just the amount of it, but the spread of it: 553lb ft from 1,800rpm all the way up to 5,700rpm, at which point the engine’s 900rpm-wide 600hp peak power band kicked in. Hooked up to the more than decent 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive it was perhaps hardly surprising that, despite its 1,930kg weight, the F90 stormed the 0-62mph run in 3.4 seconds or less. That’s Ferrari V12 and Lamborghini Huracan territory. The BMW tramped on effortlessly from there to cover the 0-100mph in 7.3 seconds and the 0-124mph in 11.1 seconds, which was a freaky experience in a four-door luxury car.
Exhaust flap openings were determined by your choice of driving mode, Efficient, Sport or Sport Plus, or by a new-for-the-M5 M Sound Control button, but the sound, though more crackly on the overrun in the sportier setting, was somehow never hair-raisingly exciting or emotive. The M Sport exhaust mentioned earlier was a popular option as it gave the M5 an extra dose of character that helped bond it to owners. More impressive in some ways however was the limo-like peace that you could experience in an M5 when you weren’t flooring it. Some likened it to an S-Class. This tourability aspect was the M5’s ace in the hole. With a good-sized 530-litre boot short weekend ski trips to the Alps were entirely feasible.
For some reason, quite a lot of F90 M5 classified ads have ‘DCT’ in the description, but as mentioned earlier, unlike the preceding F10 this car was too grunty to take a twin-clutch box. It’s far from a cause for despair though. More than one serial M5 owner has rated the F90’s smooth ZF trans higher in normal driving than the F10’s relatively ‘jerky’ and sometimes troublesome DCT unit. In manual mode, the F90’s box remained in gear at the rev limiter and a Drivelogic switch allowed the driver to adjust the shift mapping. On the Competition model the LCI-on Track mode disabled not only the driver aids but also the infotainment system to remove all distractions.
Generally speaking, the F90 M5’s mechanical reliability record has been excellent. There were recalls in 2018 and 2019 to correct possible shorting in the transmission wiring harness (which we think may have affected US cars only) and to sort out the high-pressure fuel pump which was not always properly attached to the engine, leading to cracks and leaks. The low-pressure pump developed faults for some owners too, causing their engines to die on a restart after a drive. Videoing this event was a good idea if you could catch it as dealers weren’t always able to replicate the issue when you took the car in, and even if they did they usually wanted to keep the car in overnight for tests which could be inconvenient if they didn’t have any courtesy cars. Replacing the pump fixed the issue and there were some successful warranty claims for that.
The maintenance schedule was every year or 10,000 miles for an engine oil change, every other oil change or 20k miles for a cabin air filter change, every third oil change or 30k miles for the engine air filter and spark plugs, and every fifth oil change or 50k miles for diff fluid changes. The oxygen sensor should be changed at 150k and the times for the brake fluid flush, new pads and assorted other items would be indicated on the screen. You could buy a Service Inclusive package from BMW to cover the first four years’ services for around £2,000.
Besides M-specific double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, the F90 M5 had wider tracks than those of the standard 5 Series along with staggered size wheels, 9.5 front and 10.5 rear. It also had an incredibly sophisticated electronic chassis control system with three-mode Servotronic and Variable Damper Control systems and the xDrive all-wheel drive setup with an Active M e-differential on the back axle. It added up to an unlikely-sounding mixture of face-distorting performance and rear-wheel drive sensations coupled with a feeling that nothing would ever go horribly wrong, almost irrespective of conditions.
You had to put some effort into working out the best mode and setting combinations. There were no active roll bars or four-wheel steering, and the ride could certainly feel a little choppy on British roads, but the adaptive suspension in the LCI-on cars removed a lot of angst for UK owners. Compared to something like a C7 Audi S6 4.0-litre quattro some felt that the M5 had a weightier feel, a greater sense of security in crosswinds and a more planted feeling going into fast corners even without the extra driven axle. The steering was quick by any standards, and remarkably so for such a big car. Comp cars could feel a bit too nobbly on British roads, however. The CS was a step above both the regular M5 and the Competition in terms of its body control and ability to carry big speeds on track, and easily ranks amongst the very best modern-day super saloons.
Carbon ceramic brakes that were standard on the CS appeared on the M5 options list. Pilot Sport 4 or Cup 2 tyres were recommended by and for owners looking not only to extract the maximum performance from their cars but also to achieve a comfier ride than that provided by the factory-fit P Zeroes. The odd tyre pressure monitoring system has conked out but that’s not exclusive to the M5 or even BMW. Some owners have heard odd clunks from M5 front ends, similar to those heard on some F85 X5Ms. Improperly torqued subframe bolts were suspected by some owners but we couldn’t track that one down to a definitive conclusion. Sometimes these noises would disappear of their own accord.
You’ll need to do some diligent research on any F90 M5 you’re thinking of buying. They might be relatively new but it only takes a second to crash one and judging by the Cat N and S cars in the classifieds more than one owner has done just that.
Did the F90 M5 look better than the F10 M5? That’s always going to be a matter of opinion. There was certainly technical beauty in the F90’s body in terms of both construction and materials. The bonnet was made of aluminium and for the first time in an M5, the roof was made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic.
The addition of driveshaft hardware at the back imposed a reduction in the size of the fuel tank from the F10’s 83 litres (over 18 gallons) to 68 litres (under 15 gallons). That looked disappointing for buyers planning big continental journeys as it seemed to reduce the potential between-fills range to 300 miles or less if you were pressing on, but those who have had both the F10 and the F90 M5 reckon that BMW’s ongoing improvements to ‘efficient dynamics’ more than compensated for the F90 tank’s smaller capacity.
The adaptive cruise gubbins at the front of the car was heated to keep it free from snow and ice. The boot lid opening was foot-operated. The adaptive LED headlights were very cool just to look at close-ups.
For some, the F90 M5’s interior was a huge improvement over the F10’s. For others, it was trying a bit too hard, but there was no denying the smartness or the sheer volume of the tech in there. You could spend a full week working through the manual and still fail to discover everything that was available.
Extended leather was standard as were race-style multifunction seats with illuminated M5 logos. Seats were heated front and rear, with ventilation (but not air-conditioning) on the fronts, and an automatic on-and-off function when preset temperatures were reached. The wheel was heated too.
The head-up display carried over from the F10 had shift lights and a load of other configurable features. Other lovely touches were the speed warning function that created a red band on the speedo face showing just how far over the limit you were going, and the mystically detached external camera view of the car that could be rotated via gesture control. Audio volume could be raised or lowered using this system by twirling your finger around in front of the screen.
The big red M1 and M2 mode-memory buttons were a boon for those who didn’t want to have to remember their favourite settings, but the buttons themselves were a bit urgent-looking and perhaps not in keeping with the historically understated M5 style. Bowers & Wilkins audio with its illuminated ‘cyclone’ metal-mesh speakers was another flashy option if you felt the need to impress your passengers.
A recall was done in 2018 to fix over-reading fuel gauges. In 2019, F90 M5s were brought in to address the lack of an image from the rear camera. That was a software problem. The four-zone LCD panel could develop unwanted ‘lines’.
Bemoaning the steady erosion of the M badge’s sanctity has been a popular sport among BMW purists for a good while now. With specific reference to the F90, some thought that earlier M5 engines had had stronger connections to motorsport: the E38 and E34 were hand-built motors descended from the M1 supercar, the E39 put in plenty of racetrack time, the E60 V10 linked back to BMW’s F1 exploits and so on. All that was true, but it was hardly the F90’s or BMW’s fault that global legislation put a much bigger distance between road and track than was the case in ‘the good old days’.
Besides, if you weren’t unduly concerned by such perceptions of badge erosion you were most likely going to be extremely pleased with your F90 M5. It was a brilliant drive that was just as useable on a commute as it was on a chicane. Ideally, that commute wouldn’t involve too many narrow lanes as it was a physically beefy vehicle, but the M5’s girth was something you could get used to over time.
The flexible all-wheel drive that could be defaulted to rear-wheel drive added a valuable new dimension to the M5 experience. Few other cars of any sort would leave it behind. If you factored in the number of seats and the luggage capacity it provided, the number of cars that could beat its overall package became very small indeed. Fuel pump issues apart, reliability looks amazing. It’s early days yet and who knows what might happen with the cabin tech over time but if all goes according to plan an M5 could be all the car that any of us would ever need.
Especially when you factor in the prices you can get them at. As noted earlier it is possible to pick one up for £40k but the most affordable F90 M5 on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this 48,000-mile 2018 specimen in grey with white leather at £46,000. The cheapest Competition was this 33,000-mile 2018 car at a fiver under £55k, but for a thousand more we’d also be looking at this two-owner 21,000-miler from 2019.
‘Ultimate’ post-LCI Comp cars are highly rated by their owners but for the most barnstorming F90 M5 experience you’ll be wanting to take a squint at this 4,000-mile Club Sport with £6k’s worth of Akrapovic slip-on exhaust amping up the noise. Yours for £147,500, which is pretty much the new list price of the CS plus the cost of the zorst.
Or, if you don’t mind waiting and are suitably well-endowed in the wallet department, how about an M5 Touring? Yes, we know there isn’t an F90 M5 Touring and we know there hasn’t been an M5 estate since the E60/61 version was canned back in 2010 with only 1,009 cars sold, but the wunderwagen is set to make a return next year (2024) with a plug-in hybridised version of the same S63 twin-turbo 4.4 V8 that’s powered the last two M5s. Rumours not contradicted by BMW M division’s head of development Dirk Hacker suggest that this will be putting out 790hp and 737lb ft. We should all buy one if only to celebrate his name.
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