Driving impressions by The Car Connection. Sam Moses contributed to this report.
The rear-wheel-drive M5 uses BMW's multi-tasking twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 making 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. The gearbox is either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. It zooms from zero to sixty 4.1 seconds.
The EPA gives the M5 a slim 14 miles per gallon City, 20 Highway, and 16 Combined with the 7-speed twin-clutch transmission, 1 more mpg with the manual. An all-wheel-drive M5 exists in Europe, so might find its way here.
The BMW 5 Series line gets five stars in crash-worthiness from the NHTSA, and a Good rating from IIHS in every test but small overlap frontal, where it gets Marginal. But one thing to always consider is how likely you are to get in a crash in the first place, with a car this responsive and with such solid electronic stability control.
The Executive package ($6000) comes with active bolsters, heated rear seats, LED headlamps, head-up display, and soft-close doors. A Driver Assistance Plus package adds blind-spot monitors and surround-view cameras. Stand-alone options include bigger wheels, carbon ceramic brakes ($9250), Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, rear seat entertainment, and night vision cameras.
A wide center console hides much of the electronic controls. Some gauges and displays are slightly angled toward the driver. The iDrive dial on the center console controls almost everything, including BMW's online suite of remote apps. A big 10.2-inch high-rez screen shows many things, including 3-D map, real-time traffic; audio and media playback with 20 GB for music files.
The M5 doesn't have as much room in the rear as some competitors. Two adults are okay, even though there's space for a third passenger, save that middle rear seat for those you don't like.
From behind the wheel, the M5 won't be mistaken for a lightweight, despite its quick acceleration of zero to sixty in 4.1 seconds (4.3 with the 6-speed manual gearbox). You feel its 4500 pounds. We got some seat time on the track, and even though it's the same length, width, and weight as the M6, it feels bigger and heavier. Both cars are 193 inches long and 74.4 inches wide.
Some good news is that when it's time to slow down, the massive brake rotors, 16.1 inches front and 15.6 inches rear, are up to the task.
The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is easier on the street and quicker on the track, but we like the 6-speed manual with automatic blipping during downshifts. It's our preference simply because we like to play, despite the fact that the throws are long. So we can't suggest that it's better, for any good reason.
The active rear differential electronically monitors traction and slide, something the regular 5 Series cars don't have. But you have to be really driving it hard, to exceed the limit of grip in this heavy car. But it's nice to know that it will save you from a sideways slide, if you do.