While the 3-Series may be the most popular—read: financially attainable—BMW, the brand’s heart and soul is in the 5-Series, a sedan that blends luxury and performance into one delightful package. At least it was until the last-generation 5-er seemed to lose a little bit of the passion that made it such a standout.
So it was with trepidation that auto scribes awaited the latest version of their midsize model, the 2019 BMW M5. Would it lack some of the crisp steering and handling of earlier models? Could any BMW really be an M if it swapped out the manual or double-clutch gearbox for. . . wait for it. . . an eight-speed automatic? What about the idea of punching power to all four wheels, rather than the back axle?
On a day’s drive through the badlands bordering California’s Salton Sea, it didn’t take long to discover our worries were for naught. The from-the-ground-up makeover is everything one could want: easy on the eyes, but unstinting on performance. The 2019 model now makes 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of tire-spinning torque from its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8—a full 40 hp and 53 lb-ft increase over the old Beemer.
As for that new eight-speed automatic? Sure, you don’t get the pleasure of rowing a manual, but it is incredibly quick and intuitive, seemingly always in the right gear. And those intent on trying to outsmart the computer control system can still tap the paddle-shifters. In fact, serious performance fans can select from five different drive modes, each ramping up the aggression factor while dialing back nanny systems like traction and electronic stability controls. And rather than hindering the fun, the all-wheel-drive system ensures all that power goes to the pavement. It also means that Snowbelt buyers can use the new M5 as their year-round daily driver.
With a starting price of $102,700—which quickly jumps to $120,000 the way you’re likely to configure it—the 2019 BMW M5 isn’t cheap. But put in perspective—a car that gets from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds and gives a good chase to many a supercar on the track, while still hauling five people and your groceries around town in style and comfort—it may be one of the year’s big bargains.