2019 BMW M5 Competition: First impressions after 24hrs with the F90

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Since this is a legit luxury/executive saloon, I’m going to review it in context. It’s not an all-out sports car like the 458, M2c or GTS. So I guess it’s safe to say that driver/passenger comfort and amenities are the primary criteria to when choosing a car like this. If it performed wonderfully but had the discomfort quotient of an Elise, it would make no sense to own one. Fortunately this is not the case. I’ve never been in a car that has this many comfort and driver aid features:

  • Front seats with multiple massage modes (exercise and sports)… check!
  • Parking cameras ubiquitous enough to creep problem out… check!
  • Automatic steering correction for bad lane swerving drivers… check!
  • Ability to control the infotainment system with hand gestures and user-configurable gang signs… check!
  • An absurdly dynamic B&W audio system capable of shattering ear drums and boiling drums of water… check!

I haven’t been given a walk thru of all the features because I didn’t have AN HOUR to spend with the salesperson. Maybe I’ll actually read the manual sometime.

How it drives: Within the first 100 yards of driving the M5C, I immediately noticed how similar it was to my M2C in many subjective areas. Steering feel and weight are similar. The way it carries its mass into a corner is similar. The tightness of the chassis which contributes to quick reflexes is similar. Basically, it is nice to see that the two latest M cars share so much of the same DNA. It comforts me to know that BMW didn’t just luck out with the M2’s greatness. The new team at BMW’s M division not only know how to make a captivating car but also are able to work with the bean counters and desk jockeys so it is not diluted by the time it reaches production.

A few things jump out immediately: The steering ratio is surprisingly quick. And since the chassis is so rigid, the fast turn-in response doesn’t induce any creaks or rattles. Nor does it spring load the chassis as it did in the F10 M5. Instead it just takes an immediate set and diligently obeys your mid-corner intentions.

Brake pedal is firm and braking force is progressive. The car is not lacking in this department. Can’t say how they will hold up under track use but I’m not sure how many people will take a 2 ton luxosedan to the racetrack. Certainly no complains for aggressive street use.

Ride quality is what you expect from an M car running 20 inch wheels and low profile tires. It’s reasonably compliant in his comfort setting. Sport plus and sports settings are actually usable depending on situation and road surface quality. It still doesn’t come close to the compliance/handling compromise of the Ferrari 458 on my bumpy test road but it’s quite good considering the weight and mechanical grip of the car. I’m really impressed on how hard you can drive this car on tight technical bumpy roads with it never really getting out of sorts as you would expect from any 4000+lbs midsize sedan. In fact that is what separates current M cars from other sedans with sporty pretensions. It’s that last 2/10th of the performance envelope that make current M cars unique. Where as other cars become sloppy at the limit, the current M cars retain their cornering balance and steering precision. They didn’t have to do this with the M5 but I’m glad they did. If the current M2 and M5 are any indication of where BMW is heading, the new M3/4 is going to be killer.

Engine Power: It’s good but it could certainly be better. You can tell the the calibration team purposely limited the rate of torque rise with respect to pedal demand. Power rolls in smoothly instead of the in-your-face torque punch you would expect from a 4.4l twin turbo engine run its considerable boost pressure. This does lend to the almost NA-like power delivery but it does leave you wanting more. This is really obvious at times when the ECU determines that it is reasonable to give you the full, unmetered beans. When that happens, it’s as fast as you would expect a high 10s 1/4 mile car to be. But when not engaging in behavior that the ECU could interpret as instrumented testing (0-60, 1/4 mile, etc) it does seem to leave some on the table. It’s never anything less than impressively quick but those few times it’s incomprehensibly quick tends to raise expectations every time your right foot goes to the floor.

AWD/RWD: This is the area that interested me the most. Will the car behave like a typical poorly balanced AWD drive car that gets dynamically rescued by the all wheel drive torque distribution. Or will it feel like a real drive car with just that extra bit of forward traction when needed. I am happy to say that it’s the latter. In fact at anything up to aggressive driving it’s hard to distinguish between rear wheel drive and all wheel drive modes. Even in rear will drive mode the car exhibits a better balance in superior for traction than the F10 M5. So that extra drive from the front wheels is not a Band-Aid. It’s an enhancement! It’s clever in that it never tugs the steering wheel from your hands. It never suddenly changes yaw. The whole experience just feels very natural, forgiving and eminently drifty. Which is what an M5 is all about, no?

More to come as I accumulate more seat time 🙂

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First Impressions: Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory vs. Ducati Panigale V4S Comparisons

Took the 1100 Factory to Catalyst Reaction today for a suspension set-up just as I do with all my bikes almost immediately upon delivery. As I suspected the front end was too soft and the back end was too stiff. So appropriate adjustments were made to damping and preload. End result is a very nice riding bike with decent compliance over normal roads/highways. Also did the first oil change (150 miles) as I do with all my bikes. I do this because most of the break-in particles are shed in the first 50-100 miles. The next oil change will be done at just under 1000 miles. Both bikes will be run on a dyno in a couple of days (just want to accumulate another couple hundred miles on it). Those results should be very interesting because their engines, while both explosively powerful, couldn’t feel any more different on the road.

After I came back from my ride, I hopped on to the Ducati V4S and took it for a 20 min ride while my riding impressions of the Ape were still fresh in my head. While I’ll have a far more exhaustive and detailed review posted up in a few days (after the dyno test) and then again in a couple of weeks (after the track test), here are some take away thoughts after using both bikes in the real world where 95% of the time you are just cruising around with only 5% of the time when you are actually attacking a corner. All while doing so surfaces that are not always as smooth as that of a racetrack:

1) The 1100 Factory exhibits more mid-corner stability It is less upset by rough inputs. This partly has to do with how much input it requires from the rider. Counter-steering to initiate a corner takes maybe 50% more force than it does in the V4S. The Duc feels like a lighter bike. Almost like a 600 but with the power output of a nuclear reactor.

2) The 1100 Factory’s engine is a masterpiece. It makes all the right sounds and has a power curve that feels as flat as Nevada. It builds speeds at an absurd rate without much drama. The Duc, on the other hand, really lights your hair on fire when you open it up. Especially in the first few gears were the longer swing arm and reverse spinning crank make it more wheelie resistant and able to put more power to the ground before wheel/traction control intervenes by cutting the throttle. The taller 60 profile tire on the Duc also gives it a bigger contact patch which helps. But the taller tire also gives a subtle “balloon-y” effect where the rear of the bike doesn’t feel quite as connected to the ground as it does on the Ape. I’ll be curious how they feel in a couple of weeks at Thunderhill Raceway when they are both shod with the same Pirelli slicks. The Duc’s engine is definitely adopts more of a Jekyll and Hyde personally. At lower engine speeds, it feels and sounds like any other Ducati v-twin in the way it lopes smoothly and pleasantly. No harshness. Just a lot of character. But when it spins up it adopts an almost manic presence devoid of harness but full of fury. It’s certainly the more dramatic feeling engine of the two. Where it takes a distant second to the Ape is in sound quality. But then again, the Ape is probably the best sounding bike I’ve every heard. It revs like the 1000cc RSV4 but with the snap, crackle and pop of the 1100 Tuono which, quite frankly, is the perfect combination.

3) Aprilia’s focus on racetrack prowess has ever more clear by how out-of-its-element it feels riding over rough back roads. Even after setting up the suspension, you can tell that it wants to live on nothing short of a smooth and polished race track. The dynamically adjustable Öhlins on the Duc really shine in this environment. While no super bike is meant to perform in these conditions, the Duc still gets the job done while the Aprilia needs to be ridden 10-15mph slower in order for the rider to feel as confident. But when a nice smooth corner arrives, you can almost hear the Ape “hold my beer” and attack the corner in a way that few other bikes can. Utter confidence and predictability.

Ran out of time! A lot more info to come as time permits 🙂

Such Wow, Much Excite.

After a custom alignment and corner-weighting, it’s getting really good! So much better than it was when it was stock with ridiculous spring rates. The difference is so profound that I don’t think I can sell it now.

Next up: Toe links to remove some bushing deflection in the rear suspension. Might even experiment with slightly softer springs up front depending on results from next weeks testing we Laguna Seca.

Much excite!

Some Thoughts: 550BHP 2019 M2 Competition

“Affordable” automotive nirvana can be found with a 550bhp M2C. Drove it aggressively for the first time (on my way to gym of course) and it’s nothing short of brilliant. More details to come as time permits 🙂

But cliff notes: the extra power doesn’t overwhelm the chassis the least bit. The only difference is that the power drifts it would do in 2nd gear, it can now do in 3rd gear. And now with an obvious power peak at 6k, it is actually a joy to rev out.

And driven hard on a backroad, the car should get about 100 miles to a tank! At thunderhill, 2 40 min sessions depleted a whole tank at stock power levels. With another 110hp, it’s going to be even more ridiculous.

On the Dyno, ready for development
Power coming in nicely!
Back in the stable

Thoughts and Notes About Our New M2C!

It’s hard to explain just how good this car is. Only 200 miles on the clock and it’s already my favorite non-Ferrari I’ve ever driven.

But I’ll try…. 

Just drove the M2C on my epic test road to the gym. I should be working out now, but I want to dump some more thought before they slip my mind:

1) I’ve said it before but the MDM mode is the best driving aid I’ve ever tested. On my entire drive to the gym (15 min or HARD driving), it never intervened once. And that includes fast bumpy corners that involve full throttle and opposite lock at exit. It knows when you have things under control by how much counter-steer you are dialing in. If it deems you a competent driver, it just lets you do your thing and never gets in the way. It never seems to moderate wheelspin at all. And when it thinks you screwed up, it still allows a few feet of rear axle slide before pulling in the reins. Shockingly good and I can’t wait for more vehicles to adopt these kinds of stability control strategies. I’m really looking forward to see how effective it will be when the car gets a tune and another 100hp.

2) I can say that, without a doubt, this is the best driving sports car I’ve ever driven under $150k. It is more fun, involving and dynamically honest than a (non-turbo or GT3) 991 which suffers from the same maladies as all rear engine 911s suffer from on the street: -too much rear grip and not enough power 
-a light front end that requires constant management when hauling ass on real (imperfect) roads.

3) The M2C reminds me of my old 987 Cayman S in terms of innate goodness. But with a more a more smile/drift inducing power plant and vastly superior traction control system (I always had to disabled it completely in the Cayman for any serious driving). The M2C also offers better visibility which positively contributes to driver confidence. The only thing the 987 did better than the M2C was offer more tactile steering feedback but that is to be expected when comparing hydraulic to electric assist. But when not comparing it to a car with one of the best steering feels I’ve experienced, the M2C is still surprisingly good and definitely better than the first gen M2 or any other modern BMW M car for that matter.

4) This is the only car I’ve driven, along with the 458, that simply doesn’t do anything poorly due to engineering compromise. As a result, there is nothing that requires fixing/tweaking. No suspension work to be done. No brake upgrades needed. Sure, more power would be nice. But if it wasn’t due to the nature of my job, I’d be perfectly with the current power level.

5) If you are considering a used 991, drive an new M2C. Hard. It provides slightly more utility and an honestly better driving experience. Dammit, I sound like I should be on BMWs payroll. If you told me a few months ago that there is a modern M car that I would actually like, I wouldn’t believe it. But it’s true. And it’s strength really don’t become obvious until you are pushing it right up to its limit. Which unfortunately means that most people will never realize it. But kudos to BMW for actually building a car for drivers and not posers.