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2018 bmw M5

The BMW M5 is the fastest, most powerful 5 Series ever built. It's also the first - but, likely, not the last - M sedan equipped with the firm's xDrive all-wheel drive system.

Overview
The M5's heart beats to the tune of eight cylinders and two large turbochargers. The 4.4-liter V8, an evolution of the engine in the current car's predecessor, generates 600 horsepower between 5,700 and 6,600 rpm and 553 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 to 5,700 rpm. In other words, the horsepower picks up right where the torque drops off. Those figures translate to a zero-to-60-mph time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 156 mph. That's jaw-dropping for a 4,370-pound sedan.

BMW explains there isn't enough demand from buyers to justify spending money on developing a manual transmission for the M5. Buyers will need to settle for an eight-speed automatic that can be left in drive or shifted manually using steering wheel-mounted paddles. The first-ever automatic-only M5 is also the first iteration to get all-wheel drive. It's no standard all-wheel drive system, though.

BMW M designed the system to maximize driving dynamics. It only engages the front wheels when the rear wheels are unable to put all commanded torque to the pavement. An active differential helps avoid the need to engage the front wheels by locking the rear differential in some scenarios to help maximize power delivery across the rear wheels. BMW gives buyers the option to turn the all-wheel drive system off entirely and send 100% of the V8's power to the rear wheels regardless of how much grip they have to work with.

Spotter's Guide
As always, the M5 adopts a discreet look that hides the power lurking under the hood. Up front, it stands out from the 5 Series with a more muscular-looking bumper that incorporates three air dams. The wheel arches are wider than on the standard 5, the wheels are bigger, and the rear bumper gets an air diffuser flanked by four round exhaust tips. Squint and you'll notice BMW also added the smallest of spoilers to the trunk lid.

All-wheel drive adds weight so BMW partially offset the extra pounds by making the roof panel out of carbon fiber and adding a lightweight sport exhaust. 54.7 percent of the mass is on the front axle while 45.3 percent lies on the rear wheels.

The low-key design continues inside with sport seats for the front passengers, a M5-specific three-spoke steering wheel, plus a handful of red accents and M emblems. It's the sound and the speed that make the M5 what it is, not the look.

Don't let its performance credentials fool you; it's not a stripped-out race car. The list of standard features includes leather, a digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, and even gesture control technology for the high-resolution 10.2-inch infotainment screen.

Standard and Optional Features
The M5 comes with a adaptive suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights, automatic high beams, gloss black exterior trim, chromed exhaust tips, power-folding and heated side mirrors, 20-way power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery on the seats, SensaTec upholstery on the dashboard, Alcantara on the headliner, carbon fiber trim inside, a 16-speaker surround-sound system, dynamic cruise control, gesture control technology for the infotainment system, a head-up display, a digital instrument cluster, the aforementioned screen, navigation, keyless entry, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, parking sensors, ambient lighting, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, and a universal garage door opener.

BMW only offers two option packages named Driving Assistance Plus and Executive, respectively. The list of standalone options includes a rear seat entertainment system, Apple CarPlay compatibility (which comes standard on cars costing a quarter of the M5's price), carbon ceramic brakes, and night vision.

Occupant Safety
The BMW M5 comes with dual front, front side, and side curtain airbags in addition to stability and traction control systems. Electronic driving aids such as blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, collision warning, and adaptive cruise control are bundled into an option package.

Key Competitors
The BMW M5's main rival is the Mercedes-AMG E63. The two are similar on paper: both pack 600 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged V8 and both come exclusively with all-wheel drive. Buyers can also look at the Lexus GS F, which is more affordable but decidedly less driver-focused. If the four-door body style isn't a priority, keep in mind the M5's price tag places it in sports car territory.