REVIEW: The 2018 BMW M5 Is a Wolf In Chic Clothing

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Looking for a roomy racecar that looks great for all occasions? Look no further than the BMW M5.

What is it? 

The BMW M5 is the genetically modified 5 Series that every BMW sedan owner imagines they drive. This BMW is the real deal. No tiny 2-liter engine or hybrid window dressing needed. The M5 is a beast and can match almost any car in the world in almost any situation in the world, real or imagined.

Pricing and trims

BMW doesn’t include its M cars with the series from which they are derived in its configurators, in its marketing, or its thoughts. So we won’t either. On paper, the M5 could start at about $104,000. That imaginary M5 would have no backup camera. At least we think that is the case. Ours had one listed among its options. The “base” M5 is really just a sort of theory that allows enthusiasts magazines to write something to the effect of “…but you could get one without all the extras for the amazingly low price of…”  We don’t pretend.

 – Looking for a great new or used vehicle? Start your search at BestRide.com.

Our M5 had a sticker price of $129,795. Let’s call it $130K. That includes option packages most BMW M5 shoppers will want and some they don’t. For example, they will want the special wheels for $1,300, the special Bowers and Wilkins audio system for $3,400 and the $1,700 Driving Assistant Package (adaptive cruise control) and $4,000 Executive package (heated seats are in that one). The M Carbon Ceramic Brakes for $8,500 seems a bit pricey and we didn’t like them around town, so maybe a shopper would want to skip that one. We’d all like to skip the $1,000 Gas Guzzler Tax. The $300 for Apple CarPlay seems a bit hard to swallow considering almost every $20K starter car includes it for free, but to BMW’s credit, it is the first to cut the cord on that important technology.

Performance

In a nutshell, the BMW M5 accelerates about as quickly as an SRT Hellcat. BMW says it takes 3.2 seconds to scoot from 0-60 MPH and we believe them. AWD is part of this M car’s tricks. It can put all (or most) of its 600 hp on the ground in a flash. The sticky gumball 20″ ultra-high performance street/track tires help too. They sucked up every little stone or acorn we drove over and flung them against the fenders. Very cool.

Once underway calling up almost shocking levels of thrust is simple. Toe the power pedal and watch the world rush past in a blur. The M5 never seems to work hard unless you make it. Even then, you back off before it is truly at its maximum because the world is just too small. Turns, stop signs, cars, and the horizon come just too fast.

BMW has an amazing work of art in its 4.4-liter twin turbo V8. There is no delay in any of its power delivery situations. Like most performance cars, the M5 has some cool settings you can adjust. The engine, steering and suspension are all adjustable in three gradual steps towards insanity.

What makes the M5 a little unusual is that it has two little red paddles on the steering wheel that allow you to pre-program your naughty modes and then have them all available instantly with a paddle tap. Smart. That is how the real world works. You are cruising along in Comfort and Efficient, and then something comes up and you want Sport Plus for a few seconds or minutes. Tap a paddle. Then resume civil life without having to peck through menus.

What is not so easy to understand and takes at least a week to get used to (we never quite got it) is the new BMW gear selector. We at BestRide have owned modern BMWs and grew accustomed to the toggle switch method for Park. This new one is totally unique. Park is now hidden below the actual handle. Can you see it there? Doing a K-turn in traffic in this car until you know this system cold can put your life in danger. Or the life of a person to whom you lend the car.

Ride and handling

Having tested a few different large BMWs that felt a bit disconnected from the road, the M5 was redemption for BMW in our book. The steering is amazing and the AWD (BMW actually calls it 4WD) is never in the way. The handling is also superb. Racecar perfect. Zero body lean. Sharp turn in, grip forever, and no bad habits. The brakes are a different story. Automakers imagineered carbon ceramic brakes so that on the 10th lap of a racetrack the brakes would not fade. Fade means become soft and cause longer stopping distances that are hard to predict. We have no doubt that the brakes on this M5 are immune to fade on any racetrack. However, in town and on normal roads in all situations, the brakes are super sensitive. It is almost impossible to stop normally. One has to feather the pedal so softly it is difficult to modulate the stops. Use normal force on the brake pedal and you will hang in your seatbelt as your sunglasses hit the dash. BMW can fix this with a 4rth settings button.

Seating

The front seats of the M5 are adjustable in ways normal premium seats are not. For example, there is the thigh extension. The bolster adjustment that lets you adjust how firmly the car hugs you. The power headrest. And finally, the mid-back tilt. If you can’t get comfortable here it’s not the car’s fault. The M5 logo badges also light up so when you walk away at a valet station they are visible inside the darkened car. What we liked most about the seats was that you can both heat and also cool them at the same time. This may seem to make little sense, but on a 97-degree day with the AC blasting, you can still use the heated seats to sooth an aching back without sweating down below. Genius. Last, massage for both front passengers. We think that covers all the possibilities. If you can think of any more, please contact BMW directly.

There is a back seat too. It’s pretty comfy and with the front seats moved just a smidge forward can accommodate full-size adults headed out to dinner. The trunk has no spare (and the tires are not run-flats) so there is a lot of space. The trunk is mostly long, rather than tall or wide.

Infotainment and controls

All of the usual BMW infotainment stuff is here. The rotary mouse works as it always has. We’ve come to like it. BMW offers a very easy system in which to work when connecting phones and apps. However, there is no Android Auto. So 43% of BMW M5 shoppers are out of luck in that regard.

Styling

What we have not mentioned yet is just how perfectly BMW nailed the styling of the M5. This is a modern sedan without the puffer fish bloat or the faux-coupe rear quarter. Rather, it seems sharp and sleek. Chic seems about right. This is a timeless look that works for every adult situation. It’s also not overly good-looking in a way that seems flashy. Understated elegance is an Audi specialty, but BMW’s M5 has that theme nailed. Those who want BMW’s classic hints will find them in the new, but somehow still old grill, and in the Hoffmeister kink. (Google it)

Inside, the car is also perfect. No gawd-awful wood anywhere to make the car seem frumpy and no silly green materials on the seats. Just soft, well-styled perforated leather. You can’t get this stuff in a Tesla. The Bowers and Wilkins speakers are spiral lit and look great at night as does the accent lighting. The wheel is meaty and satisfying to hold in a corner. It also looks bad-ass with those functional M paddles. Dying for a niggle? BMW could make the smartphone tray (with wireless charging) a bit larger and a bit easier to access. That’s pretty much it.

Overall

We found the BMW M5 to be one of the best sedans we have ever tested. Without a doubt, it is one of the fastest full-week on-road test vehicles we have ever enjoyed. Couple that with elegant looks and classy interior styling and this M5 is hard to top. Those looking for a racetrack-capable roomy sedan that also works for business and evenings out will find it in the 2018 BMW M5.

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham