Let’s get the expected impressions out of the way so we can tackle the technology smorgasbord that separates this Teutonic road jet from other 5-Series Bimmers and everything else on the road. With apologies to Clint Eastwood, these include much good, some bad and an element of ugly.
The good: this fourth-generation M5 may be the fastest, most muscular, most precise, and glued-to-the-road four-door most of us will ever experience. It rockets from rest to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, corners like a front-engine race car and can brake so hard it can bounce your eyeballs off the windshield.
The bad: it appears aimed as much for techno-geeks as for serious drivers. The overly complex, user-unfriendly and often frustrating iDrive multifunction controller alone requires an evening of manual study to comprehend, after which owners will keep their manuals handy for on-the-fly reference. Add to that a mind-boggling plethora of driver-programmable powertrain and chassis settings that offer 279 combinations through an MDrive menu that can be linked to an MDrive button on the steering wheel.
Ugly, as always, is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of folks, ourselves included, have been non-fans of BMW’s current 5- and 7-Series styling. That said, it’s either growing on us or these updated ’08 5s are improved enough to look much better to our eyes, or both. But we did thoroughly dislike our test car’s optional Madeira Walnut trim, a reddish-brown wood with horizontal graining that looks painted on with a course brush. Your taste may differ, but we much prefer the standard brushed aluminum trim, or the other optional wood, Olive Ash burl.
Nothing quite like a 500-hp V-10 muscle motor stuffed into a mid-size sedan! This is the modern German big-bucks version of the mid-’60s