As a modestly sized automotive manufacturer slugging it out internationally with the industry giants, BMW has been the target of lots of idle , and sometimes well-informed , speculation.
The real question is how long BMW can sustain the magic of its product development, as well as maintain an independent status in the light of global consolidation that is sweeping many industries.
The questions about BMW’s future relate to both a disconcerting brain drain as top officials in the U.S. and Germany leave the company , some voluntarily, some less so , as well as deep financial losses stemming from its purchase of Rover in England.
Yes, we could obsess about the future. On the other hand, in the words of Irving Berlin’s classic show tune, “There may be trouble ahead, but let’s face the music and dance.”
For the 2000 model year, BMW has again delivered two new products that make auto enthusiasts want to dance , first the X5 sport-utility vehicle, and now the company has released in very limited numbers the third-edition of the M5 ultra performance sedan. The short game says that in terms of new products and rising sales in the U.S., BMW is on solid footing for now, so let’s just dance , or drive.
And driving is what the new BMW M5 is all about. It is the super high-performance automobile for all occasions and claims leadership of its small, but potent product category. The letter “M” in the sedan’s name signifies its roots in BMW’s Motorsport division, whose mission is to deliver racecar performance to consumer enthusiasts.
The M5 sets the bank account back about by about $72,000 when the gas guzzler is added to the base price, which is pretty inclusive of everything you will need or want in a performance sedan. Standard equipment includes side-impact air bags and BMW’s advanced stability-control technology. Amenities include a navigation system and a CD changer, as well as very comfortable 10-way electric seats.
With 400 horsepower on board, the M5 is an adrenaline junkie’s dream on wheels. The M5’s V-8 engine delivers a torrent of power. The M5 will rocket to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds , which is very, very fast. And you can easily hit 100 miles per hour in third gear with three notches left on the manual six-speed transmission.
In fact, the M5 is so powerful that in normal everyday driving I only remember actually putting the accelerator on the floor a half-dozen times of so. But step hard on the accelerator and you move forward very quickly. Given the civilized nature of the M5, sometimes the only way to discover that you are going exceedingly fast is to note that the cars in the rearview mirror seem to get very small, very quickly.
The M5 is quiet and comfortable, with only a bare hint of the volcano of power under the hood. In fact, the engine sounds more menacing outside the automobile than within, although you still will not experience the kind of throbbing baritone sound the emanates from the six-cylinder engine in BMW’s M-Coupe or M-Roadster. In fact, the lack of a lot of exhaust and mechanical noise can be somewhat deceptive.
And as for handling, all we need to say is that it hits new heights for a BMW Five-Series sedan, and that is saying a lot. The car features exceptional balance and delivers good feedback to the driver in positioning the car for entering a curve. In this context, partnering with the M5 is much like finding a great dance partner who seems to anticipate your every move and is never on the wrong foot. The M5 and a good driver become a seamless whole. And even a mediocre pilot will feel unexpected confidence behind the wheel.
And while everybody justifiably has been raving about the M5’s ability to accelerate and handle, its overall refinement and ride quality is just as impressive. This is one performance automobile in which the owner will find great long-term satisfaction, as opposed to the many road blasters where the adrenaline rush wears thin and annoyances such as bone-jarring ride quality begin to surface.
A road trip from the Bay Area to Los Angles over a long weekend proved the ultimate test of the M5’s versatility, as well as performance. Our jaunt down Interstate 5 , California’s answer to the Autobahn , proved the sedan was capable of answering any and all challenges. On the other hand, we arrived fresh and relaxed and at no time complained about fatigue due to an unforgiving ride or excessive wind or mechanical noise. Though the BMW has a relatively stiff ride, it doesn’t seem as harsh as the high-performance versions of the Volvo S70 sedan.
Price as tested: $72,070
Type: 5.0L V-8
Horsepower: 400 @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 369 ft. lbs. @ 3,800 rpm
Fuel economy, manual transmission:
City – 13 mpg
Highway – 21 mpg
Curb Weight: 4,024 lbs.