Mark Phelan reviews BMW's M5... and isn't pleased

Sure it's got great handling and massive amounts of horsepower, but when you've got a clunky 7-speed sequential manual gearbox and an overly-complicated i-Drive, you just paid too much for your $81,000 super sedan. So says Mark Phelan, who tested out the BMW and can't wait for the manual version to come out this fall.

While the i-Drive is tolerable (because it's largely avoidable), Phelan maintains that the SMG is not. Slow and jerky, the gearbox can be controlled by the driver tapping the stick up or down, or via 11 different electronic programs that enables the car shift to on its own. The only good thing about the getup is that drivers who can't drive stick get to experience something an awful lot like it, though Phelan argues that that probably wasn't what BMW was going for.

The interior appointments and exterior design are stellar, Phelan says, and giving the vehicle a traditional manual will likely put it at the top of Phelan's list.

In fact, Phelan's criticism of BMW's SMG gearbox and i-Drive aren't new, but a growing chorus of voices have expressed discontent with both. For support, look no further than reviewer Robert Farago of

[Sources: Detroit Free Press; BMW;]

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