Sweet mercy, what a machine!
In the grand automotive scheme of things, BMWs aren’t supposed to be that cool. And then you drive something as exquisitely pugnacious and brilliantly assembled as the M5 and you suddenly don’t much care about cool anymore. You’re too busy lifting your jaw off your lap as you summon another gloriously violent burst of speed and power from that Bavarian battering ram of a motor.
The M5 I tested came with an assortment of driver-assist features, making it a thoroughly modern ride. But I barely used any of them (they all work fine, by the way). What’s the point? The speed and power are shock-and-awe, life-altering, consciousness-warping. Borderline addictive. All I wanted to do was get into the M5 and stab it and steer.
You essentially get three personalities with the M5. The alleged Comfort mode makes for relatively placid cruising, although there’s no shortage of residual stiffness in the suspension, making navigation over potholed and uneven pavement in the urban Northeast rather unfun.
Sport is what it should be, and a selector on the gearshift allows you to engage three degrees of intensity. The M5 will have plenty of controlled pop for most drivers with this aspect of the car’s ego on tap.
Sport Plus unleashes the demon — the large, angry demon, breathing fire and smashing boulders into dust. The car is flatly terrifying in this mode, all id, barely ruled by the electronic husk of the M5’s theoretically German Superego. Go here and you will have opened a portal to another dimension, one where the 0-60mph dash passes in 2.8 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 163 mph (most mortals with thank BMW for the limit).
If you want to know what it’s like to inhabit a realm of naked terror and singular bliss, then take the M5 to this place and hope you return to tell the tale. For what it’s worth, you can come back to reality and stop off at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a week’s worth of groceries, and even adjust the fancy interior ambient lighting along the way. Try that in a Ferrari 488 GTB.
In manual mode, the M5 serves up very punchy shifts. And with a redline at 7,200 rpm, this is one of those cars that you can park in third gear and surf endless waves of torque without stressing the V8. You won’t tap out until you’re well north of the legal speed limit.
The brakes are the best I’ve ever experienced on a production car, almost too good. They grab like the talons of some humongous warbird. In short, they take some practice to avoid stopping the M5 on less than half a dime.
The steering is sharp, although it lacks feel at times when you want it, such as when you hammer the throttle with the AWD disengaged and the M5 hunkers down in back as the rear tires grab and the front wheels rise. If you were on a track and the oversteer kicked in, the steering might have you searching a bit for the right amount of opposite wheelwork.
On regular roads, the bimmer uses raw power to conceal its bulk, forcing the M5 through curves — or more accurately, bludgeoning non-linear byways into submission. If you dive into a corner and feel some heft, you simply add throttle. That’s pretty much the solution to all driving dilemmas with the M5: more oomph.
The M5 effectively renders all criticism of BMW irrelevant, nonsensical, petty, and weak. The car is much more objectively terrifying that the 650-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V; you have to enter Corvette Z06 territory to feel similarly damp with fear. Exhilarations of similar type can be found in the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 with its bonkers V8 and 8,300 rpm redline, but the packaging is willfully crude by comparison. With the M5, you have what amounts to an executive sedan optimized for Hollywood chase scenes.
I struggle to contain and describe the frail fealty the M5 provokes in me. I’m not a horsepower guy, but such horsepower as the M5 effortlessly and astonishingly delivers makes you revere the concept. If you like a roaring, unholy exhaust note, the M5 will make you bow down before that cacophony.
If the worship of four-doors and euphoric thrust is what you seek, the 2018 BMW M5 has what you’re looking for. Is it worth $130,000? I feel bad for your soul if you have to ask.