BMW's M series arrives in India. Shapur Kotwal takes this monster in four-door saloon disguise on a drive at the Buddh Circuit

BMW has officially bought the M series to India and the M5 is the first one to grace our shores. With BMW's marketing muscle and after-sales support behind selling its extra-sporty saloons and SUVs, it spells good news for potential buyers. But can the new M5 live up to its reputation? Can it set the bar impossibly high yet again? Some of these questions get answered in our first impression of BMW's technological tour-de-force.

Engine and gearbox

So what is an M5 you ask? Take one standard 5-series, rip out 90 per cent of the parts and replace them with altogether more serious hardware. It's the M way. So, bare chassis severely stiffened, the work begins. To start off, a 552bhp twin-turbo monster of a V8 is squeezed into the engine bay. And what makes it so potent? The motor uses twin-scroll turbos for serious amounts of thump, cross-flow exhaust manifolds to smoothen out the delivery of turbo boost, direct injection for a roughly 40 per cent increase in torque, throttle-less Valvetronic for improved efficiency, a dry-sump oil system for improved flow under high g's and a seven-speed, twin-clutch gearbox especially engineered (not just tuned) for sporty performance.

Then in goes a hydraulic steering system, new lighter aluminium arms for the double-wishbone front suspension, a new rear axle with an active differential, and a rear sub-frame that's rigidly bolted to the body (no soft, comfort-oriented bushes used here). Appropriate wheels and rubber are added on, massive six-piston, fixed-caliper discs are used at the front, and there are some new bits on the outside as well. It's not an outlandish design, but one look at the M5 and you know it means business.

The Buddh Circuit in Greater Noida is one of the smoothest circuits in the world. And so, as soon as I get in, I select the sportiest setting and hit the starter. The motor fires with a subdued, open-mouthed growl that gets hard-edged as I rev it. There's just so much power and torque from this twin-turbo motor even at 3500rpm, I wonder how much harder it will pull further up the powerband so I press harder. It's near the 7200rpm redline that the beast really comes alive. Full-bore attacks feel as accelerative as a drag car, the turbos puff hard to give this car massive mid-range punch and the gearbox is so quick, it makes hard acceleration feel like one long, breathless charge at the horizon. BMW claims a 0-100 time of 4.4sec and a de-restricted top speed of 305kph.

Better grip

Then, as I get to spend more time on the track alone, I manage to up the pace even more. The lines get neater, braking points get more precise and I naturally begin to use more of the M5's inherent grip. And it's only then that I can scratch away that layer of inertness and get to the really good stuff. The M Differential allows you quite some degree of slip before it intervenes, the steering remains obedient and communicative, even as the front wheels have less and less grip to play with, and the M5 talents, otherwise hidden deep within, start to show, right up there with the proper, dedicated sports cars. And then I turn around and see the full-sized leather sofa in the rear.

There is no doubt about the fact that the new M5 is a clear notch higher than its predecessors; this is an incredible car that has a breathtakingly wide set of talents. But after a brief track drive, does it make sense in the real world is unclear. Can its combination of ballistic performance, decent ground clearance and luxury car comfort make it India's most practical supercar? We can answer this question when we test BMW's groundbreaking new Rs. 98.9 lakh M5 on our roads. Would I bet on the new M5 proving itself off the track? Simply, yes.

Keywords: BMW M series