2018 BMW M5

7.8
2018 BMW M5

The Basics:

The 2018 BMW M5 sedan makes up for some of the sins of the previous generation while it commits a few of its own.

The 2018 BMW 5-Series expands the sedan's already-excellent lineup to include an efficient plug-in hybrid and an uber-quick V-8.

The new F90-generation M5 turns up the fun factor versus the outgoing F10 and provides more feedback, but it’s still heavy and it no longer offers a manual transmission. It adds all-wheel drive for the first time, but it’s rear-biased and BMW lets drivers turn it off.

The M5 combines track-ready dynamics with big power and on-road luxury. We rate the M5 an 8.0 out of 10 based on those strengths plus its good looks and plentiful features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

After it skipped the 2017 model year, the BMW M5 returns for 2018 with a completely new and stiffer structure that uses more aluminum, as well as a carbon-fiber roof, to reduce weight. BMW added much of that weight back in with anew M xDrive all-wheel-drive system that has three settings: 4WD, 4WD Sport, and 2WD. The system has a rear bias and 4WD Sport sends more power to the rear, while 2WD shuts off both the all-wheel drive and the stability control to turn the M5 into a drift monster for those who hate rear tires.

Onlookers can tell the M5 apart from standard-line 5-Series in a few key ways. The front end has larger air intakes for the cooling needs of a 600-horsepower V-8 on the track. The creased hood hints at the power underneath, and along the sides high-set signature M gills replace the 7-Series-inspired lower chrome trim pieces. At the rear, quad exhaust outlets jut out from a diffuser. Wider tires on 19- or 20-inch wheels give the car a planted stance.

Under the sculpted hood sits an updated version of BMW's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8. Output increases from 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque to 600 horses and 553 lb-ft of twist. An 8-speed automatic replaces both a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and a 6-speed manual (pour a little out for the loss of our homey).

The additional power and the traction of all-wheel drive conspire to rocket this 4,370-pound car from 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, almost a second quicker than the F10 M5.

Handling also improves versus the F10, with more feel and greater agility. The M5 doesn’t have to rely on torque vectoring or rear-wheel steering to rotate through corners. Its natural balance accomplishes that goal just fine, and the driver’s right foot can help steer the car with the rear wheels as much as the fronts.

Inside, standard 20-way sport seats support the driver and front passenger, while the spacious rear seats two, not three. Buyers have a choice of two types of wood, piano black, or an aluminum-carbon mix for the trim. A dark Alcantara headliner sets a sporty tone, while extended leather upholstery adds to the luxury. Performance features include an M gauge cluster, an M head-up display, and M1 and M2 buttons to remember specific tuning choices.

BMW’s iDrive system comes standard and it features a 10.2-inch screen and seven programmable buttons. Also standard are navigation, gesture control, automatic climate control, satellite radio, a Harmon Kardon surround-sound audio system, and a power trunklid.

An Executive package adds such niceties as soft-close doors, cooled and massaging front seats, four-zone automatic climate control, wireless cell phone charging, a wi-fi hotspot, a surround-view camera system, and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking.

The M5 hasn’t been crash tested, but it has a solid structure and it comes standard with six airbags, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning, and front and rear parking sensors. That’s a resume of a safe car.

Predictably, fuel economy suffers. The M5 returns 15 mpg city, 21 highway, and 17 mpg combined, according to the EPA, which is poor enough to be hit with a gas-guzzler tax.

The 2018 BMW M5 has handsome sedan lines, with a few notable differences from the M550i. We rate it a 8 for styling, adding points for its excellent exterior and above average interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The M5 doesn’t take a huge leap from the last-generation model, and it borrows liberally from the larger 7-Series, though it features many of its own details—more than any other 5-Series. We like the exterior design. It takes the basic good looks of the 5-Series and adds a sinister element.

Up front, BMW’s twin-kidney grilles are pronounced and outlined in chrome. Large air intakes sit menacingly at the front corners, with another larger intake between them that feeds the oil cooler.

For weight savings, BMW stamps the front fenders and hood in aluminum. The hood features two central and two outer creases that the base models lack, while the fenders have signature M gills up high instead of the 7-Series-inspired chrome trim pieces mounted low. Side skirts help ground the car in the profile view, and the roof is carbon fiber for the first time.

Quad exhaust pipes announce the car’s performance character from the rear.They jut out from a diffuser that channels air from under the car, while a rear spoiler helps push the rear end down at speed.

Inside, a mix of rich leather (with available contrasting seat inserts), cold metals, soft Alcantara, and tech features add visual interest to a high quality cabin. The infotainment screen is large at 10.2 inches and the whole center stack follows a wide layout that flows downward from that screen. The instrument cluster is an 8.8-inch LCD screen, and a head-up display comes standard. The cabin bristles with technology, so it can be distracting visually and from behind the wheel.

The 2018 BMW M5 has something for everyone. It boasts 600 horsepower under the hood and that makes it fast in a straight line, but it’s meant for track duty. Its all-wheel-drive system helps it handle the curves, and it can be turned off to let the M5 drift through corners. Turn the mode selector to Comfort and go easy on the throttle and the M5 becomes a comfortable luxury sedan. Add in strong brakes and an engaging feel from behind the wheel, and we rate the M5 a 10 for performance.(Read more about how we rate cars.)

The M5 has some advanced features, but it lacks some others. It relies instead on a balanced chassis to deliver an engaging and neutral handling character. Under the hood it features an upgraded twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 that now makes 600 hp from 5,700 to 6,600 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 to 5,700 rpm. Those figures represent significant jumps from the previous generation’s 560 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.

The lone transmission is an 8-speed automatic that replaces both a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic and a 6-speed manual. While we’re not happy the manual doesn’t return, the automatic cracks off shifts as quickly as the dual-clutch in the Sport modes and delivers relaxed, smooth shifts in Comfort mode.

The big news is the addition of M xDrive all-wheel drive, which offers three settings: 4WD, 4WD Sport, and 2WD. It has a natural rear bias and 4WD Sport sends even more power to the rear, while 2WD turns off the stability control and makes the M5 a rear-drive drift machine.

With the traction of all-wheel drive and the extra power of the V-8, the M5 can launch from 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, down from 4.1 seconds for the F10 generation.

The prodigious power comes on suddenly, and seems to emanate from a deep well that won’t go dry. With the optional M Driver’s package, the top speed is 189 mph versus 155 mph. The German V-8 sounds bawdy, too, at least when deep into the throttle in the Sport modes.

While the AWD system adds about 150 pounds, the new M5 is about 20 pounds lighter overall thanks in part to the carbon fiber roof and additional aluminum in the body. The structure is stiffer, too.

BMW outfits the M5 with adaptive dampers and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential that opens in turns and closes when exiting corners to help put the power to the pavement. Drivers can adjust the dampers, steering weight, throttle, transmission, and exhaust through Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes. Aside from those features and the AWD system, though, the M5’s handling characteristics are a result of the car’s basic balance and structure. BMW adds no torque vectoring, active roll bars, or rear-wheel steering.

Get the car on a track or twisty road and it provides feedback as it attacks corners. It turns in immediately, though the car’s still-hefty 4,370-pound curb weight means it will plow forward rather than rotate if you don’t get the speed under control when entering corners. Balance the front and rear ends, though, and the car will turn willingly. BMW leaves some play in the stability control to let the rear end kick 10-15 degrees out if you get into the throttle mid-corner. It will eventually bring it back in line, but this is far more play, and far more fun, than you can have in even the wonderful M2. Braking comes on strong with the standard iron brakes (15.5-inch front discs with 6-piston calipers, 15-inch rears) and stronger with the optional carbon-ceramics, which are even bigger up front at 15.7 inches.

When driving away from the track, set the mode selector to Comfort and the M5 will become a relaxed, comfortable, smooth-riding cruiser.

In short, despite its healthy length, width, and weight, the M5 drives smaller than its size and it tells drivers more about what’s happening at road level than the last model.

The 2018 BMW M5 builds upon the standard 5-Series with sport seats, sporty trim, and additional gauge readouts to fulfill its performance mission. We give it a 9 for comfort and quality, recognizing the 5-Series’ inherent comfort, space, and cargo capacity, as well as the additional support of the M seats. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The M5 comes standard with an extended leather upholstery and a dashboard covered in synthetic leather. BMW offers a full-leather package to gussy it up even more. All of the surfaces are either soft to the touch or made of a high-quality material. An aluminum carbon blend serves as the standard interior trim, though BMW also offers two types of wood and piano black. More quality materials set the stage for an exemplary cabin, including a dark Alcantara headliner, seat controls with rubber grips, and ceramic control knobs.

Front occupants sit on 20-way M sport seats that even adjust to accommodate the thighs and shoulders. A heated steering wheel and heated front seats come standard, and buyers can opt for rear seat heating and front seat cooling with massagers. All passengers enjoy exceptional space, and rear seat passengers are made even more comfortable than in other 5-Series models because the M5 comes only as a four-seater instead of five.

The trunk also offers a rather cavernous 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

BMW equips the M5 with some features you can’t get in the standard 5-Series. It has its own M-specific digital instrument display and head-up display, each showing performance information. M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel let drivers program specific tuning choices and have them readily accessible.

BMW outfits the M5 with plenty of standard safety features and makes more available. However, the M5 has not been crash tested and therefore we cannot give it a rating for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 BMW M5 comes standard with front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warnings, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and six airbags.

A Driving Assistance Plus package adds active lane control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and front and rear cross-traffic alerts. Also offered is night vision with pedestrian detection.

While the M5 hasn’t been crash tested, the IIHS has tested the 2018 BMW 5-Series, which has the same basic vehicle structure. That car earned the agency’s highest award, Top Safety Pick+, as it scored the highest score of “good” in every crash test, earned the best score of “good” for its headlights, and earned the top score of “Superior” for its front crash prevention system.

That means that even though we don’t give the M5 a safety score, its structure and safety equipment stacks up with the best.

Both a performance car and a luxury car, the BMW comes fully equipped with the features for both, though for a six-figure price. In addition to the standard equipment, BMW offers plenty of options to increase both the luxury and the performance. We give the M5 an 8 for features, adding points for its strong standard and optional feature sets, as well as its large infotainment screen. (Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

The main difference between the M5 and other 5-Series models is the performance equipment. Those features include the adaptive M-tuned suspension, M compound ventilated brakes (15.5-inch front rotors with 6-piston calipers, 15-inch rear rotors), the Active M differential, a carbon-fiber rear spoiler, and 275/40 front and 285/40 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer performance tires mounted on lightweight 19-inch wheels.

But the M5 is a luxury car, too, and it gets heated 20-way power-adjustable front sport seats, automatic climate control, navigation with real-time traffic, a head-up display, satellite radio, a Harmon Kardon surround sound audio system, Bluetooth, gesture control, and a power trunklid.

A set of carbon-ceramic brakes stands as the only performance option. An Executive package adds soft-close doors, rear sunshades, cooled and massaging front seats, rear heated seats, four-zone automatic climate control, wireless cell phone charging, a wi-fi hotspot, a surround-view camera system, and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. Also optional are a sunroof, Apple CarPlay, a Bowers and Wilkins surround-sound audio system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, night vision with pedestrian detection, and the Driving Assistance Plus package.

Want efficiency? Look to BMW’s i cars, not the M models. Still, with 600 horsepower on tap, the 2018 BMW M5 isn’t as hard on fuel as it could be, and we give it a 5 out of 10 for fuel economy.

(Read more abouthow we rate cars.)

The M5 comes with just one engine/transmission configuration, and the EPA rates it at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, and 17 mpg combined. That’s poor enough to subject it to a $1,000 gas-guzzler tax.

Go easy on the throttle and it won’t cost you too much, but engage those turbos and you’ll be filling the tank with high-test often.

Buying Tips:

If you’re going to shell out six figures, spend the extra $1,700 for the Driving Assistance Plus package to get the security of active lane control, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and front and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Other Choices:

  • 2018 Audi S6
  • 2018 Cadillac CTS-V
  • 2018 Lexus GS F
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Reason Why:

The M5 has spawned some serious competition from excellent luxury brands. The M5’s closest rival, the Mercedes-AMG E63 sedan, offers even more luxury and space, has stupendous power, and now delivers handling that it hasn’t in the past. The Cadillac CTS-V is raucous fun, but it trails the BMW in refinement. Audi’s S6, soon to be replaced, isn’t as much of a track star as the competition, but it has always been sophisticated and it may have made BMW turn to all-wheel drive. The Lexus GS F performs well on a track thanks to its torque vectoring rear end, and it offers plenty of luxury, too.

The Bottom Line:

The 2018 BMW M5 is equal parts performance monster and luxury cruiser.

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7.8
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