We drive every new car that comes onto the American market, and most of them are, more or less, pretty good. Some of them are very, very, good. And then, once or twice a year, a truly spectacular car comes along that really causes us jaded automotive journalists to wipe the drool from our mouths. The new M5 is such a car. Our appetites were whetted last March, when this 5-series on steroids debuted in thinly veiled concept form at the Geneva Motor Show. Now, the production M5 officially enters the world stage in Paris, and we expect that the French will be quite receptive to this particular example of Bavarian beefcake.
We’ve already driven this fourth-generation M5, and it is nothing short of sensational. (Read our complete review in the upcoming November issue of Automobile Magazine.) BMW‘s first production V-10 engine is a technological masterpiece, deriving much of its design and engineering brief from the BMW Formula 1 V-10, such as the individual throttle butterflies and the lightweight alloy construction. Displacing five liters–the same as the last-generation M5’s V-8–this high-revving engine delivers a breathtaking 500 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 409 pound-feet of torque at 6100 rpm and is mated to a super-quick seven-speed sequential-manual transmission. The redline is an incredible 8250 rpm, because BMW chose to develop an engine with high revs–like a race car’s–rather than increasing displacement, which adds weight and takes up more underhood space. Unlike Mercedes with its E55 AMG, BMW also eschewed a supercharger, which it felt did not meet the characteristics of an M product.
Some may quibble that BMW neglects to offer either a conventional automatic transmission or a conventional six-speed manual, like its predecessor, but BMW maintains that its third-generation, paddle-shifted SMG is “the next step beyond manual transmissions; and that the driver is better off not having to remove his hands from the steering wheel when he wants to dance through the seven gears. Gearchanges occur 19 percent faster than in previous SMGs.
There are a lot of high-horsepower, high-dollar cars on the market these days, but what many of them have demonstrated is that a powerful engine does not necessarily guarantee a particularly rewarding driving experience. The M5, though, promises a more complete feeling of connectedness between driver and car that is surprisingly rare.
First Generation, 1984-87
286-hp inline six
0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds
Total production: 2200 units
Second Generation, 1988-95
315-hp inline six
0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds
Total production: 12,000 units
Third Generation, 1998-2003
0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds
Total production: 20,000-plus units
Fourth Generation, 2005 debut
(on sale in U.S. fall 2005, estimated price $85,000)500-hp V-10
0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds
Total production: Time will tell