Thursday, March 1, 2007

BMW M5 : Four Doors to Insanity

Purists who loathe automation and prefer precise control will likely find BMW’s fastest, most powerful sedan, the M5, even more alluring for 2007: It now can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission in place of the still-standard sequential-manual gearbox.

The M5 is based on the already impressive midsize 5 Series sedan. It debuted for 2006 and continues into 2007 with only minor changes.

A tire-pressure monitor and soft-close doors become standard, while a six-disc CD changer is no longer included. A new Real Time Traffic Information feature is added to the standard navigation system. It warns of imminent or existing traffic congestion and suggests alternate routes. A four-year subscription to the service that provides this information is included. Also, the complimentary one-year subscription to BMW Assist, the company’s communications/safety system, has been extended to four years.

The heart and soul of the M5 is a brawny, 5.0-liter V10 that it shares with its two-door counterpart, the M6 (available as a coupe or convertible). A seven-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG), also found on the M6, remains standard — it’s essentially a manual whose clutch is engaged automatically (there's no clutch pedal). Gears are selected by tapping paddles behind the steering wheel, or by using the stubby shift lever on the center console. An "automatic" mode shifts gears for the driver, approximating a traditional automatic transmission, though it isn't as smooth in operation. The six-speed manual is a welcome no-cost option for 2007.

Despite the car’s hefty curb weight (4,012 pounds), BMW claims a 0-to-60-mph sprint of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. With poor fuel economy (12 mpg city/18 mpg highway), you’ll pay a $3,000 federal gas-guzzler tax with the standard SMG or $3,700 with the optional six-speed manual transmission.

The M5's performance and handling characteristics can be tailored to suit a wide range of driving styles and preferences. While in theory such customization is a boon to enthusiasts looking to squeeze as much performance out of the car as possible, the sheer complexity of systems required to achieve this can be daunting.

The engine can be set in three separate programs — P400, P500 and P500 Sport — with each one offering progressively more explosive performance. The SMG’s Drivelogic technology provides 11 different shift programs, while the suspension’s Electronic Damping Control offers three levels of shock-absorber firmness — Normal, Comfort and Sport.

The car’s Dynamic Stability Control system, which uses throttle and brake control to help minimize wheel spin and prevent a loss of control during extreme handling maneuvers, can be set to a more aggressive M Dynamic mode that allows a higher level of wheel slip. It can also be turned off altogether, which would allow the car to be coaxed into controlled skids around curves, called drifting.

In all, BMW says these systems combine for a dizzying total of 279 possible combinations of settings. Fortunately, the car’s M Drive function allows a motorist to store preferred settings for each of these systems into one program, which can be engaged by pressing the “M” button on the steering wheel.

Exterior styling differences on the M5 as compared with the standard 5 Series sedans are subtle and include a unique front-air dam that channels extra air to the engine and brakes; a special rear air-diffuser with a distinctively shaped rear trunklid, both of which improve aerodynamics; quad exhaust tips; front-fender side gills; sculpted rocker panels; and special side mirrors and wheels.

The interior is similar to the BMW 550i’s and has a choice of three leather treatments. BMW's iDrive system is standard. It combines all of the interior controls into one large knob on the center console that controls menus on a dash-mounted screen. Despite some redundant buttons and knobs for stereo and heating/ventilation systems, iDrive can prove difficult to master, which is the opposite of its intent.

As with the 550i, the M5’s cockpit is comfortable for front and rear passengers and includes a wealth of standard comfort and convenience features. A short list of options includes a head-up display ($1,000), keyless access/starting system ($1,000), heated rear seats ($350) and satellite radio ($595).
Did You Know...

• The M5 is built exclusively at BMW’s German Dingolfing Plant, the largest of the automaker’s production facilities, which is also home to the 5, 6 and 7 Series models.

• BMW first brought high-performance, M-branded vehicles into the U.S. in 1988 with the original M3, which was essentially a racing version of the 3 Series coupe that had been modestly tamed for street use. It was quick but intensely harsh, even by performance-car standards, and was sold only to a select few enthusiasts and weekend racers.

• The second-generation M3, released in 1995, was considerably more civilized and sophisticated and set the tone for high-performance M variants that would later be derived from the 5 Series sedan, the Z4 roadster and coupe and, eventually, the 6 Series coupe.

from :

No comments: