The next-generation BMW M5 is hardly a chip off the old block

BMW’s M5 was the perfect decoy. Aside from a few discreet styling cues, you’d never know that the family four-door could pace Ferraris and Porsches. The previous-generation M5 holstered a 400 horsepower V8 with the best bad-ass burble since Detroit muscle cars roamed the earth.

Alas, no more. Although the new $80,000 2007 M5 extends the car’s performance envelope deep into race-car territory, it’s become as subtle as hair plugs. The worst bit? Idle, the new M5′s 550 horsepower V10 engine evokes a diesel delivery van.

Beauty = 1 star

The M5′s complex curves throw down more bling than an MTV awards show. Although the M5′s hunkered stance, deep front fascia, quad pipes and fat rubber make it mucho macho, brand-loyal classicists are justifiably appalled.

Performance = 4 stars

The M5 is the most stupidly swift sedan (both in a straight line and around corners) that money can buy. Unfortunately, its 5.0-liter powerplant is a race-bred screamer that lacks sufficient low-down grunt for relaxed cruising. Of note: Munich’s mighty motor comes with the world’s worst gearbox, bar none, with a shifter that is over-complicated and jerky. Seriously, don’t even consider this car until the six-speed manual is available.

Comfort = 3 stars

As a modified daily driver, the M5 offers all the practicality and accommodation you’d expect from a top-spec BMW with an adjustable suspension. The fully loaded four-door comes slathered in soft, aromatic cowhide and boasts the kind of sports seats that only a long-distance driver with 500 horsepower underfoot could truly appreciate. However, the iDrive mouse-driven multimedia mishegos has been improved from completely unacceptable to endlessly annoying.

Status = 2 stars

People who don’t know M products simply

see another 5-Series. People who recognize BMW’s uber-sedan fall into two camps: Those who blindly worship the badge (and venerate the new M5′s staggering performance) and those who understand that this M5 is a deeply flawed effort that sacrificed subtlety and character for raw speed.

PC = 1 star

In the U.S., manufacturers who sell passenger vehicles must conform to federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards or pay large penalties. Since 1987, the Bavarians have paid Uncle Sam $355,371,751 in fines. To wit: The M5 gets 12 mpg in the city, 18 on the highway. Spirited drivers will see single-digit mpg flash on the car’s computer screen.

Total = 2 and a half stars

The previous-generation M5 was virtually perfect; BMW only needed to ditch its recirculating ball steering system for rack and pinion. Instead, designer Chris Bangle traded nouvelle cuisine for nouveau riche as the techies over-engined the beast and put its drivers in gearbox hell. This time, BMW lost the plot. The new M5 is best suited to adrenalin-crazed import tuner types who don’t know any better.

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