These days, numbers no longer do the talking.
We have comfortably exceeded every available record to break for the modern sports car. Fastest lap times – check. Fastest acceleration – check. Shortest braking distance – check. You get what I mean; there is so much improvement from cars of yesteryear that now we are spoilt by excellence.
We are fortunate in that sense because we, quantitatively, are now enjoying what the best of the automotive world can offer. Like the new F10 M5, for instance.
It has a score sheet that would make any school teacher proud – 552bhp, 680Nm of torque, 0-100mph in 8 seconds and a comfortable top speed in excess of 300km/h. However, like the old adage that top scoring students are not necessarily the ones who would make the most of their life in the future, there are as many reasons why the M5 doesn’t tickle my senses as much as it should.
Glance down the spec sheet and a huge figure will immediately put off especially keen drivers: 1870kg. That is ‘only’ 22kg more than the E60 M5, but then its predecessor wasn’t a featherweight to begin with. It’s simple physics (like I know it enough to say…): more weight requires more power. Hence the 552bhp and more importantly, the 680 torques needed to shift the F10 as fast as an M5 should.
Qualitatively, some things have not changed, which is good. Pace is definitely still intact; in fact, this is the fastest M5 ever made. It still does luxury for 5 people in supreme comfort. It still has a boot and practicality for a family. But some things are now lost.
Where the older cars (I’d have to go back to as far as the E34 for a comparison) were airy, friendly to drive and possessed excellent visibility, the F10 M5 feels like it has just taken the size of its larger brother, the 7-Series. I have to qualify that I haven’t driven the new M5 – but having been behind the wheel of the F10 family, I am of the opinion that it has grown to a size too big for its own good. Consequently, it is more unwieldy, less maneuverable and a lot more difficult to place. It’s as if a lean frame was bloated with empty spaces below that metal bodywork that altogether makes a car unnecessarily large.
There’s also the power chase. I no longer am excited by power. One of my favourite phrases which is likely to rile some people is that ‘power is cheap’. It is no longer such a stunning achievement to build the world’s most powerful engine. Garages with their home-made engineering can develop 1,000bhp reliably. The challenge now is building a car that makes the most of its power by becoming lighter and smaller, giving us all of the elements that had been lost in the process: dexterity, clarity in response and economy not by superlatives but by efficiency of performance.
I’m also saddened that the dual clutch gearbox has all but reinforced the naysayers of the manual transmission. ‘It’s faster, why bother?’; ‘It’s cleaner, why bother?’; ‘It’s easier, why bother?’. I have no doubt that the dual clutch box is all of this – quantitatively, it is a superior product. But you know what, call me old school or silly or even certifiable, but manual gearboxes will be in the defining epoch of a generation of drivers who still bothered to drive. That which we call ‘driving’ is something I will always fight to preserve and protect. Hope you do too.