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2018 BMW M5 Drivers' Notes Review | Switch hitter

All-wheel or rear-wheel drive — it's up to you

  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Engine
    4.4L Twin-Turbo V8
  • Power
    600 HP / 553 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    3.2 Seconds
  • Drivetrain
    All-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    4,089 LBS
  • Seating
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
The 2018 BMW M5 is the sixth-generation of one of the original super sedans. The F90 generation is the third one powered by a V8 and the second one using forced induction. The biggest difference between this new car and its predecessors is the move to all-wheel drive. Still, for those that want that classic rear-drive feel, the M5 does allow you to de-couple the front axle. It works well. Trust us.

Our model came in a striking shade of paint BMW has dubbed Mariana Bay Blue metallic. It was loaded with a number of options, including $8,500 carbon ceramic brakes, a $3,400 Bowers & Wilkins audio system, the $2,500 M Driver's Package and the $4,000 Executive package. The latter adds features like soft-close doors, four-zone climate control, a wifi hotspot and a 360 degree camera.

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The BMW M5 is blast to drive. It's powerful, looks imposing and has a classy interior. I'm a big fan of big sedans, and I was able to stretch out the M5 a little bit on a couple of expressway sprints. Acceleration is brisk, as I expected. The gears stay low, the revs build and then boom — I found myself merged into traffic. It's fun. The exhaust has a pleasing growl, though it's not uncouth. I played with the different driving settings, and ultimately left it in Sport for the steering, powertrain and chassis setups. It's a cool feature to have. I went into full manual mode using the red triggers mounted in the steering wheel, which is a nice way of doing things. Tapping through the gears is fun, and I think most M enthusiasts will enjoy how much they can customize the drive character of this car. The interior, done up in orange-brown leather with carbon-fiber accents and other black structural pieces, looks sharp. The dials are easy to read and the infotainment is better than average. It's not perfect, but it makes sense. Overall, this thing is a rocket ship of a sedan, and a solid continuation of the M5's decorated lineage.

Contributing Editor James Riswick: It's hard to talk about the 2018 BMW M5 and not obsess over its multitude of driver settings. Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings can be individually selected for throttle response, steering and suspension. The drivetrain can be set to 4WD, 4WD Sport and, when stability control is fully off (yet another setting), old-fashioned, tire-smoking 2WD. The exhaust can be regular or loud. The automatic transmission also has three settings, selected by a little toggle on top of the M5's latest take on a silly electronic shifter.

For starters, this amount of choice is excellent and far superior to blanket Comfort and Sport settings, or weeding through some "Individual" infotainment menu. Just press each element's individual buttons to set things as you want them, then hold down the red M1 or M2 steering wheel buttons to lock in your preset. Having two of them allows you to set things up for various driving scenarios — say, for milling about town or maximum attack on your favorite mountain road.

Atypically, however, I found myself driving with the steering in Sport+ all the time. Often, sport settings just equate to "heavy" and are token gestures for those who think sportiness requires you to crank the wheel like you're opening a rusty submarine hatch. In the M5, though, both Comfort and Sport steering are too gooey and nebulous. They're anesthetized. In Sport+ you can feel the car turn in and the front end react in real time to your inputs. That goes for high or slow speeds, and it's suddenly a joy to steer again. Plus, it's not some warm-aching pain at slower speeds. Personally, I think Porsche does it best by offering only one steering setting. BMW M should as well and it should be Sport+.

As for other modes, I left Comfort suspension engaged except during max attack and on perfect pavement. 4WD Sport still allowed me to kick the tail out into a corner and have some fun, but there's so much grip that you consciously have to be silly to do so. The exhaust stayed in loud mode at all times cause it's really not that loud. And the transmission paddles remained unused because Sport+ and transmission level 3 does such a bang-up job of downshifting as needed, that there really wasn't a need to take over (and no, I find little engaging or involving about pulling a little paddle).

All of this doesn't even mention the eleventy thousand ways in which the driver seat can adjust, (although the seats themselves are so bulky that my way-back, tall-guy position results in shockingly little legroom for an M5 that has ballooned in size since its E39 glory days). Really, the 2019 M5 can drive in any number of ways — it just depends on the buttons you press.

Manager, Production, Eddie Sabatini: I took the M5 home from work the other day. It's a 6 mile drive from the Autoblog office to my house and then another 6 miles for the return trip the next morning, so not really a chance to shake this car loose or explore the interior too much but those two short trips sure were comfortable. Walking to the car and seeing it in the parking lot is a pleasure. The Monte Carlo blue looks great, though it does border on a little too purple for my taste. I like it better than the Caseium blue F-Pace we recently had in the office. The interior felt monied but not soft with supportive but not intrusive sport seats. I think I could live with them day to day, unlike the seats in the Focus RS. Is it fair to make that comparison though? One is a giant sedan, the other a nimble hot-hatch. Oh well. The steering wheel is loaded with buttons. It boarders on cluttered but that seems to be the direction the industry is going. I didn't get a chance to test the M1 or M2 switches but damn do they look tempting just sitting there in all their red glory.

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