Friday, November 25, 2005

Is it a BMW M5?

On my way home from last week’s HRM examination, I saw a BMW 5 series across the street, with a delicious looking front air dam and large is alloy rims. It looked like the kind of an air dam that the M Division would mount on their M cars- gaping centre vent for the radiator and twin air scoops leading through the air filters to the combustion chambers.

Was it an M5?

I looked hard, turning my head progressively as I continued walking. I was curious, but not the extent of crossing the busy street and fondling it. I glanced ahead to make sure I was not walking into a lamp post, and continued staring at the grey BMW.

The problem, or perhaps plus point, about the M5 is that it is a reasonably well concealed high performance luxury saloon. From the exterior, there is very little indication of the 500 bhp available from its 10 throttle 40 valve engine, until the car whooshes past you, V10 engine wailing richly at 8000 rpm. And then it becomes clear, as distinct as night is from day, that this is the M5, with its four stainless steel exhaust pipes ventilating the 5 litre power plant. And they are not mere chrome shrouds over the tips of ugly pipes- the pipes themselves are proper seamless stainless steel tubing, not curled up sheet metal.

Click here for a large image (wallpaper size: 1024 x 768)

Another tell tale sign of an M car is the air vent just above the front wheel arches. On the M3 and M5, this vent is garnished with parallel silver strips.

Of course, there’s the obligatory M5 insignia, but anyone with a skin thick enough can paste an imitation one on their car. A set of 4 stainless steel exhaust pipes, on the other hand, is not something that falls out of the sky every now and then.. The moment you see a quartet of stainless steel pipes, it can be taken for granted that it’s an M.*

The car in question was not an M5; it failed the exhaust-pipe counting test.


While crossing a traffic intersection on Sunday, I saw a brilliantly polished black Mercedes, an S-class. For an S-class, its air dam was remarkably deep, and the wire mesh was shinier than the norm. It also had large shiny silver AMG rims with 5 pairs of parallel spokes. To top it off, a chrome badge aft of the front wheel arch proudly proclaimed “V8 kompressor”.

“That’s an S55 AMG,” I declared.

Click here for a large image

Depicted is the 2002 model. Note that the rear light clusters have 2 clear horizontal strips, while later S-classes have 4 narrow ones. S55 cars produced in 2003 and later include a supercharger, called a kompressor. Hence the "V8 kompressor" label, which is not present in this 02 model.

When the rear of the car became visible, indeed it was an S55. It had the unmistakable pair of large oval polished chrome exhaust pipes distinctive of AMG cars

Yea, I occasionally like to impress myself and maybe the friends around me by pointing out the slightly less obvious facts.

* Applies only to newer models. Older models do not have this extravagant number of exhaust pipes.