Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 BMW M5, Part 1

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Interstate 95 from Warwick to Providence is cop alley. The RI state police headquarters lies just off the highway; troopers can nip out, nab a pad of speeders and still have time to get a proper cup of coffee. Discretion being the better part of staying out of jail, I drove the new M5 down this stretch of road at 70mph with the SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox) in Drive, plushly suspended, conservatively horsed, Solo license protector on stun. Great stuff: luxury appointments, JJ Cale, smooth ride, hakuna mutata. But Jalopnik doesn t pay me the big bucks (full stop) to drive uber-Bimmers like a manic depressive on the wrong side of the endorphin arc. So

After passing a fresh points victim and his jackbooted antagonist (that ll keep em busy) and entering a clear stretch with infinite site lines, I pressed the M5 s power button once (summoning 500hp), the EDC (Electronic Damper Control) button twice (firming-up the suspension), the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) button twice (disabling Nanny to allow the most aggressive shifting program) and the shift program selector button three times (accessing the aforementioned maximum cog-swapping aggressivity). Then I pulled the left wheel-mounted paddle towards me four times (putting the engine at the top of third gear). And then I pressed go.

I immediately experienced the kind of epic, maniacal, seriously stupid forward thrust that autobahnsturmers use to pace Porsche Turbos to 200mph. (A 500hp, race-bred V10 engine will do that kind of thing, even if the car holstering it weighs a couple of tons). Any doubts about the new M5 s right to be called Heinz the Ferrari-Slayer disappeared almost as fast as the traffic being pulled backwards by God s almighty hand. By the time I d wrung the full M5Monte from third and paddled into fourth, I was well on my way to V-Max (or at least the 155mph choke point) and, hang on, is that my exit?


Indeed it was. I d like to say I carried a sensible amount of speed down that off-ramp, but what the Hell does sensible mean in a car that spent its formative years frolicking with RUF s, Novitecs and Alpinas on the N rburgring? The M5 hung on to the twisting tarmac like a groupie sucker-fishing a rock star at a backstage bash. Even when I lost the second apex (and felt a surge of adrenalin that would have Hulked Dr. Banner in a heartbeat), the M5 just drifted the beat boys and freed my soul. I don t think I could — or would want to — negotiate that slalom any faster in an Enzo. Safe!

OK, M5 fanatics and Honda-driving dreamers, you ve had your turn. You can rest safe in the knowledge that the M5 is significantly faster and sharper than the previous model, able to leap long countries in a single bound (if it didn t consume gas in the low 8 s).


Now, if you re the kind of person who wants their BMW to do more than simply outpoint Maranello s magic motors at the ragged edge of legality/safety/sanity, I ve got bad news: the M5 is no longer a consummate all-rounder. While the family four-door can perform circus stunts to shame the headliners, it s an awkward slow-speed cruiser suffering from a bad case of techno-kill.


You might have clocked the M5 s technoverload when I chronicled the car s five-step program for G-force junkies. I would be remiss if I didn t mention that there s a steering wheel button that can be programmed to provide instant access to all-Nannies-off-deck maximum mental mode. I would be equally remiss if I didn t point out that the M5 s SMG system doesn t deliver rapid-fire quickshifts in that realm, or smooth progress at the other end of the spectrum, in its least aggressive Drive setting.


In fact, in low-rev low-speed situations, the M5 s V10 makes a distinctly diesel-like clatter, while the fancy schmancy gearbox takes a CVT-like eternity to roll with the changes. Floor the M5 around town and the engine power can up and die, like a Chevy Vega choking on unleaded. What s more, thanks to Bimmerstyler Bangle s bling-based bungling, the flame surfaced M5 is about as subtle as a pimped-out 70 s Lincoln Continental.

In short, if you want a car that burbles along pleasantly like the old M5, stealth-prowling the highways and byways, this ain t it. (Go and get you one a them AMG Mercs.) If you want a sedan that can accelerate and corner like the hounds of Hell mixing it up on a greyhound track, 100hp more power to you. Just remember to bring your gas card, and leave the kids at home. [by Robert Farago]


Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 BMW M5, Part 2, Part 3 [internal]