Dan Scanlan test drives BMW’s uber-sedan boasting muscles and grace. 
He really likes it!
Thirty years ago, BMW came up with a plan – embed a sports car in the skin of a family sedan. The result: a 3,500-pound M5 with a then-amazing 256-horsepower inline six where about 180-horsepower normally lived. It delivered a still-fast, impressive 0-60 mph sprint in way under seven seconds.

Fast forward to 2012, when the fifth generation M5 was introduced with 560-horsepower twin-turbo V-8 replacing a 5-liter V-10. Sixty mph came up in 4.2 seconds and four could still ride in a car that had the sound and feel of a 2-seater. Not enough? Here in Monte Carlo Blue Metallic, hunkered down a bit lower than its sibling, is the latest iteration pumping out 575-horsepower through the rear wheels thanks to a $7,300 Competition Package.

BMW says the regular M5’s 4.4-liter V-8 and its dual turbochargers have about 10 percent more power than the last-gen V-10, 30 percent more torque and 25 percent better fuel economy. The twin-scroll turbochargers nestle inside the V-8’s cylinder banks, one working low in the rpm and the other higher so boost is there across the board.

The Competition Package sees the turbos’ boost pressure raised and a modified exhaust installed for an added 15-horsepower and a wonderful engine snarl. As such, we got 3.9 seconds to 60 mph when the drivetrain is set in Sport Plus. That lessens traction control and quickens throttle input and shift points, with a lightning-quick 7.2-second run to 100-mph and wheelspin in the first-second shift. The exhaust note was a glorious snarl under thrust and a delicious crackle-pop on auto-blip downshifts.

The seven-speed double clutch transmission gets three shift programs, ranging from efficient gear selection for best fuel mileage to one delaying shifts until higher in the rev range. There’s Launch Control function, with so many steps to setting up launch control that it took a few minutes to set up. Then it didn’t work!

BMW’s latest M5 gets four-wheel independent suspension with new forged aluminum suspension components, coil springs with firmer calibration and stiffer anti-sway bars that lower the car by 10 millimeters. We could customize the driving experience via buttons, Comfort, Efficient, Sport & Sport +, next to the gear shift to change the power steering feel, drivetrain response and suspension setting via electronically controlled shock absorbers.

Sport was my favorite when I drove myself, especially with the sticky rubber. Sport + further stiffens the suspension so it reacts very quickly to bumps, a bit choppy in rebound. It lessens stability intervention for some tail out action in turns – immensely fun. Shifts come hammer-blow- quick. But the Sport steering setting loads it up so much you need muscle
to use it – too much.

 It doesn’t hurt that the M-specific steering wheel has a thick rim with red and blue stitching and two nicely placed and long paddle shifters behind it. You can pre-program two steering wheel buttons to deliver a mix of these settings immediately. Traction control can be fully disengaged by holding the traction control button for more than five seconds, the result burning rubber into second gear with a delicious exhaust snarl and turbo sound. That and M Dynamic Mode allow you to lessen stability control to let the tail work on a racetrack.

Select Sport all-round and our 5,800-mile-old M5 becomes a very tossable and fun four-door sports car. Steering feel is precise as we tackled tight turns with almost no body roll, the rubber gripping beautifully. The car stays neutral and flat in a decreasing radius exit ramp and can be powered out at the end with no drama. Pushes hard out of a tight turn and the rear rubber does want to power oversteer, but it grips as traction control quickly helps.

The M5 is a serious sedan with sports coupe manners and great grip, and very secure for high speed cruising. Although you do feel its size. And during a wet weekend, we found a hair too much throttle in Sport setting resulted in a downshift and wheelspin at highway speed, a minute side-step of the tail caught quickly. What also helped wet or dry was the optional carbon-ceramic 16.1-inch front/15.6-inches rear disc brakes with huge heat resistance, a great pedal feel and immediate stopping power. Even stops from 100-mph were smooth, short and with minimal nosedive.

The M5’s twin kidney grill is part of a blunt nose, the hood’s power design lines converging on it with slim vertical black slats. The wide lower central mouth is part of BMW M’s design language, flanked by deep side air intakes with air-channeling flaps in the lower edges. Yes, there are LED light rings on the four Adaptive Xenon headlights for that distinctive BMW look, with a white LED eyebrow that adds to the glaring gaze. And there’s the almost-trademark chrome fender vent with LED accent light, the body side’s upper design line spearing the door handles.

Taillights get concentric curved LED strips. In back, a diffuser in the lower bumper channels airflow, with quad exhaust pipes and a slim spoiler on the trunk. Finally, flared muscular wheel arches neatly frame the ComPack’s 20-inch forged wheels with gloss gray accents. They offer a clear look at the huge cross-drilled carbon ceramic rotors with gold calipers. The car rides on low profile Michelin Pilot SuperSports wider in back.

BMW’s sweeping and clean design continues once you slip into the heavily bolstered sport seats with 14-way power adjustments including seat bottom massage, heating and cooling. The padded black dash top flows into a gentle cowl bulge hosting clean white-on-black gauges – trip computer display on the bottom of the 200-mph speedo and the Sport/Comfort display for the drivetrain, steering and suspension settings at the bottom of the 8,000-rpm tach.

High dash center is a 10.2-inch display for the navigation, phone, and powerful harmon-kardon AM-FM-CD-SiriusXM stereo, all controlled off the iDrive controller on the center console just to the right of the gearshift. An alloy knob can be twisted, nudged or tapped to access a screen menu for audio, multimedia, telephone, navigation, car settings, even the on-board owner’s manual. The iDrive also handled the head-up display.

Some interesting touches include an alloy M driver’s footrest, textured alloy accents across the dash and a black suede headliner that everyone loved to touch. The car had Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, City Collision Mitigation that automatically brakes above 37 mph, and pedestrian protection for slower speeds.

All this comes at a cost – $90,900 for the base BMW M5 and $117,075 for our test car with the $9,250 carbon ceramic brakes and $7,3000 Competition Package (w/20-inch wheel/tire combo) the biggest pieces. Another $5,500 adds the executive package with power rear sunshade, ventilated front seats with massage, head-up display, power trunk lid, heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seats. Add $1,900 for the blind spot detection, side and surround-view cameras and the safety systems, plus destination and Gas Guzzler fees.

The bottom line: A four-passenger luxury sedan that is almost as fast as a Corvette, has a lot of luxury and technology, and yet can feel like a genteel touring car. It is an aggressive car cloaked in a sleekly muscular body that can unleash its fangs when exercised, but doesn’t shout it by its looks – too much.

For more information about the latex luxury-performance vehicles from BMW, please visit http://www.bmwusa.com/default.aspx