Volkl M5 Mantra Review
Cons: Minor chatter
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In previous designs, the Mantra was 100mm underfoot and had a full camber profile with lots of a metal and a large turning radius. Those iterations were burly and hard-charging but took an expert level skier to stay in control of them at all times. The M5 is now only 96mm underfoot, but hasn't lost any of its float-ability in soft snow compared to previous versions of the Mantra. Volkl also cut the weight of the ski by getting rid of sheets of metal, while keeping some of the power by adding titanal layers around the edges.
The M5 has a shorter turn radius (21m vs. 25.4m) due to an increased sidecut. This, when combined with camber underfoot, lends itself to making shorter/snappier turns.
Stability at Speed
Just because the M5 Mantra lacks the full metal sheets found in previous versions, does NOT mean the ski is scared of speed. On the contrary, the faster you push this ski, the more fun it becomes. The Titanal Frame Technology implemented in the M5 is plenty to keep the ski riding smooth and stable, no matter what your speed limit may be. Even though it has a bit of rocker in the tip, the majority of the ski's edge engages when making turns at high speed.
The M5 has excellent torsional rigidity, and this helps the edges hold when making high-speed turns. The skis also feel quite damp in all conditions, similar to other top performers in the stability category. They definitely do not suffer from noticeable tip chatter despite having a carbon inlay in the tip.
A fair warning from our testers: It is easy to feel confident and in control while going VERY fast on these skis. The ski area speed police may profile you for skiing on the M5 Mantras.
The biggest difference between previous Mantras and the M5s is their carving skills. Not to say that the old Mantras couldn't lay down a nice turn, because they could, but the M5 is much more fun for many more skiers. The M5's camber and sidecut profile make it easier to play with the size and shape of your turns whenever you want to. It is also easier to carve at slower speeds than the previous version was. This comes in handy if you need to let your friends catch up.
The multilayer wood core is still light and poppy, but the reintroduction of generous camber underfoot adds even more pop and energy when carving turns. The more energy you put into the skis, the more you get in return. The turn radius of the M5 is still quite long at 21m, especially when compared to narrower skis with much shorter turn radiuses. But our testers were still able to transition from edge to edge quickly to make shorter radius carving turns.
When Mother Nature wreaks havoc on the snow, our testers were squabbling over who got to test the M5s for the day. The Volkl Mantra has long been crowned the Crud King and this year's M5 is no different. While some worried that losing full layers of titanal would make the ski less damp and unable to absorb the impact of skiing through crud, our testers reported back that this year's version has not skipped a beat. Crud is not something any skier seeks out, but being able to handle it is a trademark of a true all-mountain ski.
Despite having a relatively fat and lightweight tip, the M5 does not have the same deflection problems as other skis that floundered in this category. It tracks well when it is driven with purpose through chunder or frozen chicken heads, staying right in line with where you want it to go. Even the closest comparisons in our lineup tended to bounce around and rattle your fillings in the worst of the worst conditions.
Some of our testers did notice that, because the Mantra no longer has a full rocker profile, the tails may not release as easily in the crud. But the difference was not noticeable enough to decrease its performance rating.
The M5 Mantra improved it's powder skills over older versions of the same ski, despite losing a full 4mm underfoot! Before you say, Inconceivable!, let us explain. The M5 shed quite a bit of weight, which makes it easier to control and more maneuverable in soft snow. It has a wide tip and tail (134mm and 117mm, respectively), and the rocker in the front of the ski is plenty to keep you on top of most powder days. Finally, although the old version's fully rockered profile made for easier slarvey/buttery turns, the slightly upturned tail of the new M5 allows the ski to release well in soft snow. And the camber profile did not deter our tester's from spreading a thick layer of butter across the freshly coated mountains.
Now, the 96mm underfoot M5 is never going to compete in deep, cold-smoke powder with much fatter skis with tons of rocker that are specifically designed for those conditions. But it certainly held it's own on average pow days from 4-10 inches. Also, when compared to a ski of similar width, the Blizzard Bonafide (98mm), the M5 clearly outperformed in terms of float-ability and fun in the pow.
If you could guarantee that the only conditions you'll be skiing are 18" of untracked blower powder all day long, then I'd point you to our Men's Powder Ski review. BUT, if you're like the rest of us, mere mortals who are jostling with the rest of the lift-served crowds on a powder day, the M5 is a ski that will get you to your stash, serve up 30 super fun pow turns, and get you back to the chair all while putting a huge smile on your face.
Playfulness is yet another category where the Volkl M5 has improved. What was once a super stiff and unforgiving ski, is now one with lots of energy and pop. Similar in swing weight and maneuverability, the M5 as much more playful than it's predecessors.
As evidenced by our action-packed photos of this year's Mantra M5, they are incredibly fun to get air born. Plenty of pop leads to easy take-offs, and a much more forgiving and larger sweet spot makes for easier landings. Because it is slightly stiffer than most skis, it did not win this testing category, but if you're looking for an all-mountain ski that can hold its own in all types of freeride terrain, the M5 is a solid choice.
The M5 no longer feels too stiff to handle all bump sizes. We put this ski through the wringer with some of the best competition bump skiers we know, and they were impressed at how much more fun the M5 is in mogul terrain. The narrower waist, lighter weight, and overall more forgiving flex allowed our testers to actually control the M5, rather than the ski controlling our testers.
Clearly, this ski is not specifically designed for moguls, but a skilled bump skier would still enjoy the M5 fun on his favorite bump line. It is slightly more maneuverable than skis of similar dimensions, despite being of similar dimensions. It handles bumps ranging from baby bumps to monster man-eating bumps appropriately. The best part about the M5 is that if your not a zipper-line competition mogul skier, they air over moguls and can rip through them like a mini-rally course with ease.
In all seriousness, the M5 Mantra will get you where you want to go and back to the lift with ease. It handles all conditions and terrain extremely well and rides like a finely tuned sports car. Our tester's favorite thing about the newly designed Mantra is that almost anyone, skiing at any level, can get the same consistent performance, no matter where they choose to take them.
You'd think the best ski in this category would be the priciest, but it is not. The M5 Mantra sells for right at an average price for all of the skis in this review. It has all the bells, whistles, and capability of a ski that sells for $1,200, but at nearly half the price. In our opinion, this ski has a great cost-performance ratio.
Thank you, Volkl. Thank you for making crucial tweaks to the M5 (lighter, bigger sweet spot, etc.) while keeping that same hard-charging Mantra DNA we all know and love. This is truly an all-mountain ski that lends its smile-inducing ability to the majority of skiers in all areas of the country. From East Coast to West coast, skiers rejoice! The Mantra is back and better than ever.
— Andrew Pierce