Let's get it out of the way right now. BMW AG's all-new '06 M5 is, pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar, the nastiest but most delicious vehicle on the globe.
For $81,895, you get a titanically tech-rich and tidily sized 5L DOHC V-10 that revs freely to 7,750 rpm to generate its 500 hp, bolting from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in a blurring 4.5 seconds, as well as five roomy seats, a grandly appointed interior and everyday driveability.
For all this, but particularly the new M5's blistering, insanely accessible performance, the competition should be very afraid.
This 5L V-10 has to be one of the industry's all-time gems. From the now-signature M-engine individual throttle for each cylinder to the VANOS variable valve timing system specially pressurized to speed response, the overwhelming design priority was to derive power from high rpm.
So explosive is the power that one need not ponder the V-10's relatively meager 383 lb.-ft. (519 Nm) torque output. Few road-going engines can so quickly swing the tach needle or propel a 4,012-lb. (1,821-kg) vehicle so effortlessly to silly speeds.
The other needle that moves rapidly belongs to the fuel gauge, unfortunately. The M5's 12 mpg (19.6 L/100 km) city/18 mpg (13 L/100 km) highway rating earns it a $3,700 gas-guzzler tax.
The engine's lightning throttle response can be adjusted with the exquisite MDrive system that allows the driver to coordinate the settings of the throttles, the SMG 7-speed sequential manual gearbox, the electronically controlled damping and the Dynamic Stability Control system.
BMW engineers say there are 279 possible combinations. Once the owner chooses a preferred setting for each individual variable, this combination is programmed for instant selection via the MDrive button on the steering wheel.
The 5-Series enjoys an aluminum-intensive front strut and rear 4-link suspension, and the M5 improves on it with a specific front subframe and specially selected tuning hardware.
The rear gets similar upgrades, and each corner is fitted with the electronic damping control system that provides three damping modes. Whatever mode is selected, the system continuously strives to adapt damping firmness to driving conditions. The M5 devours corners at speeds one is convinced defy physics.
Include the superbly tuned electronic stability control and giant, cross-drilled “compound” disc brakes, and you have one immensely sublime chassis.
The day we drive the M5 in the Hudson River valley, it is raining heavily at a temperature that at times produces sleet. Still, the M5 grips the tarmac in an unholy fashion, and full doses of the V-10's thrust when exiting corners do nothing more than wag the M5's tail as the DSC system precisely determines the amount of available grip and meters the V-10 output.
There is one chink in the M5's armor: the Sequential Manual Gearbox. The 7-speed SMG is the first of BMW's automated manual transmissions to be designed specifically as a clutchless manual. Although spectacular at times, the gearbox occasionally is jerky and reluctant.
But for the SMG's minor imperfections, the M5 is the world's best performance car. We'd sell our souls for one of the 2,000 M5s BMW plans to sell in the U.S. annually. Given the car's performance and personality, we'll wager there may be some soul-selling just to be one of those 2,000.
'06 BMW M5
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, 5-passenger 4-door sedan
Engine: 5L (4,999 cc) DOHC V-10, aluminum block/aluminum heads
Power (SAE net): 500 hp @ 7,750 rpm
Torque: 383 lb.-ft. (519 Nm) @ 6,100 rpm
Compression ratio: 12:1
Bore × stroke (mm): 92 × 75.2
Transmission: 7-speed automated manual
Wheelbase: 113.7 ins. (289 cm)
Overall length: 191.5 ins. (486 cm)
Overall width: 72.7 ins. (185 cm)
Overall height: 57.8 ins. (147 cm)
Curb weight: 4,012 lbs. (1,822 kg)
EPA mileage: city/highway (mpg): 12/18
Market competition: Audi S6; Cadillac STS-V; Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG