SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: BMW M5 ENGINE: 4.9-liter DOHC V-8 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 394 hp @ 6,600 rpm/368 lb-ft @ 3,800 rpm TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual WHEELBASE: 111.4 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 188.34 x 70.9 x 56.6 in. STICKER PRICE: $62,070
BMW has three lines of automobiles. There are the standard 3-, 5- and 7-Series, there are the Z- sports cars, and there is the M line of souped up sedans (and in one case a coupe). This week the car in question is the M5, which is the "hot 5-Series sedan with a 4.9 (read five) liter engine that delivers an enormous 394 horsepower.
You'll note that the sticker price on this car is in excess of $70,000, which puts it out o the price range of most drivers. However, this is a car that comes as close as anything to matching BMW's motto of "The Ultimate Driving Machine."
Under the hood is this 5-liter DOHC, 32-valve V-8 engine that has more torque and horsepower than almost anything I've driven, certainly anything I've driven with four seats. The engine is connected to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission built by Getrag, a company that has a lot of experience building gearboxes for high-powered cars. This gearbox was a pleasure to use. It had close ratios in that you could get away with using a higher gear that ideal, but you really wanted to use the correct gear for maximum performance.
The M5 had some other sporty features. Among these were four-wheel disc brakes with AB, 18-inch chromed aluminum wheels, low-profile tire. The M5 also had BMW's tire pressure monitoring system that uses wheel-speed sensors to detect abnormal variations in the tires' rotational speed, indicating a falloff in tire pressure. If there is a discrepancy in diagonally compared wheel speeds, the driver is alerted by a signal on the instrument panel.
For entertainment, the M5 had an excellent sound system, although the spoken word came with an annoying digitally produced echo that I found impossible to eliminate. Many luxury cars have CD players in the dash. The M5 had a six CD changer in the trunk, but no in-dash player. It did, however, have provision for hands-off telephone use.
All in all, this was an extremely comfortable car. I have always liked the 5-Series because of its size. It is probably what most people call a mid-sized car. It is not too small, nor is it too large. It can easily carry five adults in comfort and luxury, with enough space in the cavernous trunk for luggage for all those five people. We did not put the carrying capacity to a test with people, but we did use it for cargo. For example, we had a cooler in the trunk and an aquarium in the back seat. This is one of the strangest combinations we've carried in a test vehicle, and probably the only time this combination will appear in an M5.
The M5 has a 180 mph speedometer. According to BMW (we didn't check it out), the top speed is an electronically limited 155 mph. There is a navigational systme located in the center of the dash that found us an obscure basketball game about an hour away from home. One other point about this game. My estimated travel time was an hour and a half. I made it in less than an hour. I don't believe I drove dangerously. The M5 is a comfortable car to drive at the speed limit (and above). It is a safe car as well, with front sir bags, aide air bags for the front and rear passengers. Also included was BMW's unique head protection system that deploys another airbag from the A-pillar to protect the driver's and front passenger's heads.
Luxury touches included leather seating, tasteful wood trim in the cockpit, a wooden gear shift knob and hand brake handle. Even the leather steering wheel cover was stitched in "M" colors of red and blue.
Handling of the M5 is exquisite, which makes high-speed travel safe no matter what kind of road you're on. The front suspension is a double-pivot strut type, while the rear uses four links. There are stabilizer bars front and rear with twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers.
I especially liked the cruise control switches located on the steering wheel, sound system controls on the steering wheel and the navigation system.
The M5 is undoubtedly one of the finest automobiles I have driven, particularly if I'm referring to performance cars. It's also comfortable and safe. It does everything it can do to keep you out of trouble, but if you get into trouble it's also as safe as can be made. It had very few things wrong with it -- my biggest complaint was with the sound system -- but other than that it's as close to perfect as you can get.