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One of the new, sixth-generation BMW M5's neatest driveline tricks is the option to default the standard AWD system to operate in RWD-only mode. (BMW)

What we’re driving: 2018 BMW M5

I’d read the early reviews of the new sixth-generation (F90) M5’s towering accelerative abilities, but still was in no way prepared for the reality: the viciousness of this car’s performance assaults your senses just like an amusement-park thrill ride.

BMW claims a 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) time of 3.2 s and Motor Trend’s instruments said 3 s flat. Supercar-thrashing standing-start acceleration from a 4370-lb (1982-kg) luxury sedan is just one testimonial to the outrageousness that flows from the M5’s twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8. Just a firm shove on the accelerator with all the drivetrain settings amped to their max summons savage in-gear acceleration. You can burst from a 60-mph to 140 mph seemingly in the length of a football field—this car’s thrust is that intergalactic.

The engine’s numbers, 600 hp and 553 lb·ft (750 N·m), somehow don’t do justice to this engine’s towering ability, but there’s another dimension, too: the power peak comes at 5700-6600 rpm, an area of the tachometer that even V8s typically don’t like to visit more than briefly, much less provide their utmost time after time. Yet such is the refinement that you never feel this engine is in any way being stressed when asked to throw out medium-duty-diesel-grade torque.  

As with M5s before it, enthusiasts moan that there’s no available manual transmission, but the remarkable sensation of this engine pulling through the flawlessly matched ratios in the 8- speed automatic would be difficult to top. You can shift it yourself, of course, but that usually is pointless. And although BMW’s reverse-to-drive gear-selection process is improved, it’s still convoluted.

Apart from the brilliance of the M5’s V8, of the most intriguing of the driveline’s many tricks and nuances is the capability to selectively defeat the standard all-wheel-drive to direct drive only to the rear wheels. The car seems to do its best (and most confidence-inspiring) work with the AWD torque distribution set to “sport” mode, but for those who wish to make the M5 engage in overtly oversteer-ish capers, the option to lock in RWD is a righteous technology for a car of this magnitude.

Despite the M5’s two-ton-plus weight, its chassis is more lively and responsive than you’d expect. This latest-generation M5 continues with the double-wishbone front suspension of the    standard 5-Series models, which surely contributes, and the driveline’s ministrations of drive torque to favor the rear axle also might help to impart more nimble changes of direction. Although the power-assisted steering has three settings to purportedly enhance feedback and feel, none seem change the steering’s generally weighty but inert demeanor.

Two of the M5’s other cool trappings that must be mentioned: the weight-cutting and cg-lowering carbon-fiber roof panel and the optional carbon-ceramic brakes. There are precious few things for which I would unflinchingly pay $8500—but the carbon-fiber brake rotors (with six-piston front calipers) qualify. Returning to conventional braking after a week with the M5’s seductive carbon setup was almost as bad as returning to every other vehicle that doesn’t have the M5’s starship-class V8.
2018 BMW M5
Base price:         $102,600
As tested:           $129,795
Highs:                 Boisterous twin-turbo V8; otherworldly acceleration; luscious interior
Lows:                  Large in every sense, including price; numb(ish) steering; automatic only
Takeaway:         Breathtaking sport sedan                     
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