2009 BMW M5 Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 8, 2009

The stellar performance of the 2009 BMW M5 overshadows its idiosyncrasies and technologically overwrought feel.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new BMW M5 in order to give you an expert opinion. Then TheCarConnection.com's enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new BMW M5 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

Unlike the old spaghetti western that culminates in a Mexican standoff between the three antagonists, the 2009 BMW M5 encompasses each quality in a single package—good, bad, and ugly. The good of the 2009 M5 is its race-derived, 500-horsepower V-10 engine, making it BMW’s fastest four-door, with a 0-60 time of just 4.5 seconds. The M5 also corners as if it’s attached to the proverbial rails and brakes equally as hard as it accelerates.

The bad side of the 2009 M5 is the vehicle’s overabundance of technology. BMW's semi-manual SMG transmission is only for fans of a truly harsh shift experience. The no-cost six-speed manual is a far better choice. It's a gem, with crisp throws, precise gates, perfectly arranged pedals, and surprisingly smooth clutch engagement. The technology that commands the suspension, steering, and throttle inputs offers a bewildering 279 combinations through an MDrive menu that can be linked to the steering wheel's MDrive button, which might as well be a panic button for users who can't figure it out. And finally, BMW's frustrating iDrive controller for audio, navigation, and climate settings needs its own manual.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, TheCarConnection.com’s editors consider the M5 to be an über-expensive ugly duckling. The optional Madeira Walnut trim, a reddish-brown wood with horizontal graining, looks painted on with a coarse brush. There is brushed-aluminum trim for the discerning buyer, though. The 2009 BMW M5's styling is all business—it won’t be encased in a museum like a Jaguar E-Type. If you keep the color choices as conservative as the car, it works—for instance, in the new Carbon Black Metallic exterior.

Review continues below

With a price tag of more than $85,000 and a limited supply, the 2009 M5 will trouble very few folks with its bad and ugly sides. It's a shame more people won't have the chance to sample the good, as it's both a safe, secure sedan and a stunning performer, all the more fascinating due to its hugely obvious flaws.

8

2009 BMW M5

Styling

The 2009 BMW M5 is far from the most exciting-looking sport sedan on the road.

The M-specific styling touches are nice, but the 2009 BMW M5 isn't anything you haven't seen before.

Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate the BMW M5 looks similar to its brethren. ForbesAutos adds that the BMW M5 "does look different than the standard 5 Series, but not different enough for the average driver to immediately notice." Cars.com says that the M5 has a "unique front face to distinguish it from other 5 Series sedans." The M5 BMW is, according to Edmunds, a "high-performance variant of the midsize 5 Series performance sedan available in one trim only." Kelley Blue Book notes that "critics have been harsh on BMW's current styling," but they also comment "all 5 Series models get styling enhancements for 2009." Among those styling enhancements are "redesigned headlights, taillights, front air dam, rear bumper and rear diffuser," while "the M5 sports a deeper, more aggressive front air dam with larger center air intake and brake air inlets." ForbesAutos also reports that the 2009 BMW M5 features "deeper side sills, a decklid spoiler and four tail pipes large enough to spit tennis balls."

Regarding the cabin, the 2009 BMW M5 gets "special brushed aluminum trim" says MyRide.com, "but you can choose from two different wood tones if you want a warmer cabin atmosphere." Edmunds feels the interior "looks unchanged," though "a few key updates" have been made for the current model, including a "simple, modernistic dashboard" with an attempt at simpler controls for iDrive. Kelley Blue Book notices several changes right away from previous M5 BMWs, including the "power window switches relocated to the armrests" and the "leather-wrapped center console and passenger door handles."

10

2009 BMW M5

Performance

The 2009 BMW M5 comes with a massive V-10 engine, but power is far from the whole story, as the handling is superb.

BMW performance has always been about so much more than sheer power, and nowhere is this truer than on the 2009 M5. The new Bimmer has it all: muscle car power, sports sedan handling, and a plush ride.

Reviewers simply rave about the BMW M5's performance capabilities, and Edmunds calls the 2009 BMW M5 "an extremely balanced machine that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers as well as it does dilapidated highways." ForbesAutos says that the 2009 BMW M5 "corners like an open-wheel single-seater race car, with no apparent end to its grip," while Kelley Blue Book reports that the BMW M5 is the "most glued-to-the-road four-door on the market." The performance on the BMW M5 is highly customizable as well; Car and Driver points out that you can modify the "damper, steering, shift, power, and stability settings" to your liking.

Braking performance also draws compliments from a range of reviewers. Kelley Blue Book claims the "braking might leave you feeling as if it has hooked an aircraft carrier arresting cable." On most high-performance cars, such incredible handling would come at the expense of everyday comfort, but that is not the case on the 2009 BMW M5. "Thanks to its Electronic Damping Control," Edmunds says, the BMW M5 "is actually quite compliant, with the suspension swallowing all but the harshest bumps."

The engine, which is one of the most powerful on the road today, gets high marks in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. According to Edmunds, the M5 BMW "boasts a 5.0-liter V-10 that generates a maximum 500 hp at 7,750 rpm and 383 pound-feet of torque at 6,100 rpm." MyRide.com loves how "the V-10 gurgles and gently shakes like a 1950 International Harvester," noting how it "ominously" shows off its "tremendous power and latent energy." Cars.com reports that the V-10's power is enough to move the BMW M5 "from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds" and "120 mph in 15 seconds," both spectacular numbers for a four-door sedan. Kelley Blue Book is equally impressed, calling the 2009 BMW M5 "the fastest, most muscular" sedan on the market.

There are two transmissions available on the 2009 M5, a "conventional six-speed manual transmission" and a "seven-speed sequential manual transmission with steering-wheel paddles or a conventional six-speed manual gearbox,” notes Cars.com. According to Edmunds, the seven-speed sequential manual gearbox, or SMG, "includes 11 shift programs selected via MDrive, as well as a launch control mode that primes the M5 for aggressive acceleration.” Kelley Blue Book observes that the SMG "can shift automatically or manually with the console lever or steering wheel paddles," but "in normal driving, and with a skilled driver, it is actually slower and less smooth than the conventional manual transmission." Because of the occasional reluctance of the SMG, most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com recommend the traditional six-speed manual on the BMW M5, which Kelley Blue Book contends will offer "crisp throws, well-arranged pedals and smooth clutch engagement."

With either transmission, the EPA estimates that the BMW M5 will get 11 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the open highway. As a result, ConsumerGuide reviewers list fuel economy as one of the details they dislike about the M5 BMW, noting in addition that "all models require premium-grade gas." The 2009 BMW M5 is capable of giving you more power than you know what to do with, but that power comes at a high fuel cost.

8

2009 BMW M5

Comfort & Quality

In terms of comfort and quality, the 2009 M5 BMW shines—as well it should with a price tag north of $85,000

According to reviewers, the 2009 BMW M5 doesn't disappoint when it comes to its ability to seat five comfortably. Cars.com notes that "heated M Sport front seats with 16-way power adjustment for the driver" are standard, while the passenger seats are 14-way adjustable. MyRide.com reviewers add, "the spaciousness of the cabin makes for one of the most comfortable rides around." Edmunds agrees, saying, "the supportive seats and commodious backseat further serve to make this an easy car to live with every day."

Edmunds recommends that buyers stick "with the standard 16-way adjustable front seats" because the 20-way adjustable M multifunction seats, which are optional, are "equipped with active backrest bolsters that move inward to brace the driver (or passenger) against cornering loads," and as good as that sounds, the feature is "gimmicky" and makes for distraction at "critical moments." And ConsumerGuide reviewers remark that while headroom and legroom in the M5 BMW are good in the front, headroom is only adequate in the back, and legroom "can grow tight" when the front seats are pushed "far back and lowered."

The M5’s cargo room, which ConsumerGuide says is marginal, is one of the few complaints in this category. "The trunk isn't very wide or deep" and "interior storage is disappointingly meager,” comments ConsumerGuide. MyRide.com notes that the maximum cargo volume inside the BMW M5's trunk is 14 cubic feet, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Reviewers almost unanimously point to the impeccable build quality of the M5. Exterior noises are kept from intruding into the cabin. ConsumerGuide reviewers report, "wind rush is minimal at highway speeds." However, Edmunds raises one issue with sound on the BMW M5, citing "a tinny exhaust note" coming from the engine that they feel is inappropriate for a car as capable as the M5 BMW. Edmunds reviewers attest that "build quality and materials inside the M5 are outstanding," and Kelley Blue Book says that the "brushed-aluminum interior trim can be replaced by either of two no-cost optional woods, and its high-end Merino leather can be optioned up to perforated leather and to cover the entire dash."

Car and Driver adds that "leather covers nearly every part of the M5's lavish interior," and they proclaim the cabin is "a huge improvement over the regular 5-series interior and make[s] you feel as if you were in a four-door Ferrari." MyRide.com reviewers are also impressed by the "signature M Series logos and tri-color stitching on the seat backs and leather-wrapped steering wheel," all of which increase the luxurious ambiance.

6

2009 BMW M5

Safety

The 2009 BMW M5 possesses all the features to foster an impression of security, but not all the crash-test scores back that up.

According to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the BMW 5-Series has crash-test scores that simply aren’t competitive with those of top-drawer luxury sedans. The 2009 M5 hasn't been tested by either of the crash-test authorities, but the virtually identical 5-Series on which it's based has, and you can expect similar results.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 5-Series the highest possible rating, "good," for the IIHS's frontal offset impact test. But without the optional side-impact airbags installed, the BMW 5-Series only earned a "marginal" score, the second-worst score possible, in the IIHS side-impact test. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, the 5-Series scored quite well, with one notable exception. NHTSA awarded the BMW 5er a perfect five-star rating for side impact tests, as well as a five-star rating for passenger-side front impacts. Unfortunately, the 2009 BMW 5-Series, and accordingly the M5 BMW, earned only three out of a possible five stars for driver front-impact protection.

Regarding safety features, Cars.com reports that the BMW M5 has "side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and Dynamic Stability Control" as standard, as well as "traction control," according to Edmunds. Kelley Blue Book also notes the "sophisticated set of electronic stability, traction and brake controls" included on the M5 BMW. In terms of optional safety features, the BMW M5 offers two. Edmunds lists these M5 BMW safety add-ons as "rear seat side airbags and active head restraints," which move forward to help prevent whiplash in the event of a collision. Cars.com notes a "Park Distance Control" system comes standard to help with close parking maneuvers.

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2009 BMW M5

Features

With the 2009 BMW M5, all the high-end features are definitely impressive, but the technology will leave some people absolutely overwhelmed.

The BMW M5 doesn’t want for features, which is to be expected in a luxury car at this price.

Because there’s only a single trim level available on the 2009 M5, no variation exists among standard features. Kelley Blue Book catalogs several of these standard features, including "a DVD-based navigation system with real-time traffic information, special M instrumentation and sport steering wheel, heated front seats with adjustable backrest width, Xenon Adaptive Headlights and ultrasonic Park Distance Control." In addition, Cars.com reports that "a Logic7 premium sound system" comes standard on the M5 BMW.

If the list of standard features on the BMW M5 isn’t enough, BMW provides a decent selection of options. According to Edmunds, some of the "stand-alone options include 20-way multifunction seats with active backrest width" and "heated rear seats." Kelley Blue Book also reports "the M5 offers an enticing array of options" that include "Comfort Access keyless unlock and start, M Head-Up Display," and "heated steering wheel."

ForbesAutos voices frustration at the car's "blithering adjustability," calling the M5 BMW a "technologically overloaded sport sedan." One of the major drawbacks to all the adjustability on the 2009 BMW M5 is that it calls for a lot of buttons and controls, which MyRide.com notes number "nearly 50-some." ForbesAutos also laments the BMW iDrive system, which they feel resembles a "fearsome cave of menus, settings and choices."[Proofreader's note: This last part is repeated below, so I deleted it.]

Articles read by TheCarConnection.com generally give the 2009 BMW M5 positive reviews except for the iDrive and MDrive systems. The iDrive system in particular still gets a lot of flack from reviewers. It operates "climate control, entertainment, navigation [and] telephone," says MyRide.com, but according to ForbesAutos, you need to "spend a Saturday navigating the deep recess of the cave" of iDrive menus and instructions in order to operate it. For 2009, BMW includes a new Smartphone Integration option that improves phone reception and allows access to music stored on the mobile, all while charging the handset.

However, the BMW M5's MDrive system—not to be confused with the iDrive interface—is much better and "lets the driver select preferred performance and handling settings for instant recall later," attests Cars.com. However, Edmunds notes that with the MDrive system "BMW added up all these possible combinations and came up with 279," which many drivers might find intimidating.

Luxury European manufacturers seem to be battling for the title of most silicon-dependent vehicles, and the head-up display on the BMW M5 is one of these technological bragging points. The system receives a lot of positive press in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, with MyRide.com reporting that "the $1,000 system projects a color image onto a six- by three-inch field above the dash on the windshield, so you don't need to take your eyes off the road." They add "it can be programmed to show speed, navigation instructions, or cruise controls settings," and are impressed that "it's clear even in the brightest sunlight."

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8.2
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 8.0
Performance 10.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 6.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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