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All-Star: 2006 BMW M5

Alex Pphotographers

Previous BMW M5s were all wonderful cars at or near the top of the sport-sedan pyramid, but the new one exists in another realm. Having vanquished other sport sedans, BMW decided to make the latest M5 a supercar.

To gird the M5 for this new challenge, BMW upgraded its engine from a V-8 to aV-10, kicking in another 100 hp, for a total of 500 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed SMG paddle-shift transmission sends power to the rear wheels.

BMW also fitted the M5 with a bargeload of electronics, which the driver can use to control the V-10's power output, the speed of the transmission's shifts, the firmness of the dampers, the quickness of the steering, the response of the throttle, and the traction and stability control. The electronics (and their acronyms) are so numerous and their operation so complex that they threaten to overwhelm the driving experience.

Fat chance. The purist might bemoan the electronics, but complaints melt away the first time you floor the throttle. The M5 simply inhales pavement, accelerating at a furious pace. The heads-up tach display goes from green to orange to red almost instantly, and you're glad the next gear is just a paddle flip away. Not only is the M5 insanely fast, but it's incredibly composed as well. The spot-on steering and torque-sensing M-Differential make the driver feel like a hero when sliding. This is a car whose abilities are remarkably easy to access.

Of course, you can't access any car's abilities if it's always in the garage. But the M5 is the first ultraexotic with a sedan body, and its resultant practicality allows it to be driven every day. That's an All-Star achievement worth celebrating.