- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

There are going to be an awful lot of sports car drivers out on the road who are going to be very surprised. The surprise will come as soon they realize a large luxury sedan just blew their doors off.

The surprise for the driver of the BMW M5 comes as soon as the start button is pushed and the 10 cylinders of the 5.0-liter engine come to life. With an exhaust growl that will send shivers up the spine, this sedan immediately signals that it is a brawny performer.

The M5, like every M series vehicle, adds a wide array of performance features that literally will take you miles upon miles to learn and appreciate. What BMW calls MDrive injects even more performance to the fray. And, once you push this button, you will know that the car is transformed into an even more advanced road warrior.

Most noticeable in these changes is the increase in available power from the sophisticated 10-cylinder engine. In normal mode the horsepower rating rests at 400, push the magic button and it increases to 500 horsepower. I had great fun cruising down the highway at a steady speed while pushing the button on and off. I was enthralled at the instantaneous change in power.

The MDrive also changes the M5 character in other aspects as you can feel the suspension system tighten and the shifting of the gearing quicken. Shifting with the racing-inspired paddle shifters takes some familiarization. Following hours upon hours behind the wheel of the M5, I found myself continually attempting to get smoother with my shifts. Excitedly, I found that I was getting the shifting to work best while pushing the car hard through the corners of the race track I had at my disposal.

The M5 is a fine road car with all the amenities one would care to have on a road adventure. What takes this BMW to a higher level is the fact that is absolutely incredible out on the race track. Release the beast found within and this car will not disappoint you. There are so many innovations encapsulated in this engine that makes it perform with the magic it does that I can not cover them here.

Like a few of the super exotic cars on the market, the racing-inspired paddle shifter is the price you pay to be in this game. Just don’t call this BMW transmission an automatic, for it is far from those vague gear changes found on the traditional automatic transmission. You will also get more than just a raised eyebrow from any BMW aficionado standing close by.

The Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) in this car is, in fact, a manual gear box mated to a automatic shifting system that gives the driver positive response at each of the seven gear changes.

That’s right, seven gears. As the auto industry grows toward squeezing out every bit of mileage of a gallon of gas as well as increasing the performance, we will see more gears added to our transmissions.

In typical BMW fashion, the M5 is an incredibly comfortable car to drive. Not only comfortable around town on short jaunts to the mall, but during longer vacation drives that tick off the miles. This BMW will make taking trips more a necessity than an obligation. The car is so much fun to drive you will be making up excuses to visit the in-laws.

This is a car I could easily see sitting in my garage, although it would not be sitting for long because I would be behind the wheel out on my favorite country road. Wrapping a performance car in a package of such luxury makes lusting after those super-performance exotic cars unnecessary. The M5 will fill any void you might feel and wrap you in comfort as well.

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