- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

“M” Power for BMW is akin to “AMG” for Mercedes-Benz, “S” for Porsche, “SRT” for Chrysler and “SVT” for Ford — all represent the passionate division arms of the respective auto manufacturers that produce their own brand of high-performance vehicles. The legendary BMW subsidiary is formally known as BMW M GmbH.

The original M car was the 1979 M1. The first M5 was a European six-cylinder model produced in 1984, which didn’t appear in the U.S. until 1988. It was based on the E28 5-Series, and only 1,200 were built. The second-generation M5 debuted in the U.S. in 1991, also powered by a six-cylinder engine. The third-generation 2000 M5 was the first V-8-powered model.

Enter the fourth-generation M5 — what may well be the quintessential sports car with four doors, packed full of technological marvels and luxurious amenities, not to mention blistering performance capability. The M5 for 2006 is powered by a 5.0-liter DOHC 40-valve V-10 engine situated up front, connected to a seven-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) automatic transmission that transmits the driving force to the rear wheels. The engine delivers a maximum of 500 horsepower, redlining at 8,250 rpm, and 383 foot-pounds of torque, but with a twist — there are 279 combinations of control settings through the MDrive system, as well as a magical MDrive button on the steering wheel, allowing a one-touch selection of the driver’s preferred combination of the same.

The M5 scoots from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph (electronically limited).

There are three power and throttle response settings: P400 is the default mode allowing for only a 400 horsepower output, with a “normal” accelerator response; P500 represents the “normal performance” setting, providing a full 500 horsepower with a quicker throttle response. Both may conveniently be selected with the console-mounted Power button. P500 Sport, the third setting, allows for full engine power with an even more rapid throttle response, and is selectable only through the MDrive menu on IDrive. SMG offers seven forward gears, doing everything a manual transmission is capable of, along with several things a manual can’t do.

There are five automated programs in Drive D1-D5 and six programs in the Sequential mode: S1-S6. Shifts may be handled automatically; by the gearshift lever; or by steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The M5 differs from the BMW 550i visually with an enhanced bumper/spoiler/air-intake lower fascia; traditional BMW M side gills; 19-inch BMW M Double Spoke cast alloy wheels; unique, sharply accented side rocker panels; satin-finished chrome side window trim; specially designed M exterior mirrors; distinctively formed lower trunk lid section; four round stainless exhaust outlets (two per side); and four unique BMW M exterior color choices.

The test car was base-priced at $81,200, but since it was equipped with every available option, the final sticker totaled $92,475 before adding the $3,700 Gas Guzzler Tax. Options included: rear-door-mounted side-impact air bag; Comfort Access feature; power rear sun shade with manual side window shades; M multifunction seats with active width adjustment; seat ventilation; fold-down rear seats; rear-seat heating; head-up display; Sirius satellite radio; and full leather interior.

The standard features inventory was far too lengthy to list here, but the base car is pretty amazing in its own right.

The BMW M5 is an astonishing driving machine, if not totally intuitive in terms of operating its myriad of functions. In fact, getting the optimum performance out of the M5 requires living with the car for awhile, particularly with its 279 MDrive functional possibilities.

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