There may be little opportunity to push the likes of the new BMW M5 to its limits on Irish roads, but they do at least reveal how complete a car the new super saloon is. Few others can offer such a dual personality. Make no mistake though: this is a very serious performance machine.
Inside & Out: 5/5
The new M5 carries on where the old one left off, in that it's styled to be subtly aggressive. Park it next to a regular BMW 5 Series - even the M Sport model - and it's immediately apparent how much more muscular it is - even on the more modest 19-inch alloys fitted as standard (20-inch items are an option). In isolation, however, the M5 is remarkably restrained. A wide stance, M5 badging in the wing 'gills' and the characteristic quad-pipe exhaust are the most obvious cues - enhanced in the case of our test car by the Monte Carlo Blue paintwork.
Inside, the new BMW M5 is more luxurious than ever. Yet you're in no doubt that you're in the real deal thanks to bespoke instruments and a myriad of driving system options dotted around the stubby lever for the gearbox. That's supplemented by tactile gearchange paddles fitted to the back of the steering wheel.
Engine & Transmission: 5/5
There will be some that lament the passing of the high-revving V10 engine in the previous generation M5, but believe me: the twin-turbo V8 is nothing short of sensational. The data is impressive enough, with 10 per cent more power and 30 per cent more torque than before, but more importantly, the latter (680Nm) is available all the way from 1,500- to 5,750rpm, endowing the M5 with searing acceleration regardless of the gear you're in. It sounds fabulous too. We don't care if BMW 'pumps' the sound into the cabin either - it's an experience to savour.
Channelling all that power to the rear wheels is BMW's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It's not as smooth as a conventional automatic when crawling around town, but it's far more engaging when out on the open road - or track. As ever there are various modes of operation and three different gearchange speeds to choose from.
Ride & Handling: 5/5
Fans of cars like the BMW M5 don't expect limo-like comfort, but they may be surprised at how well the new car pulls it off. The adaptive damping system can be set in Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes and they live up to their titles. Naturally there's some firmness to proceedings, but it really is no less comfortable than any other 5 Series when in Comfort mode. And it's smooth to drive with the throttle map set in Efficiency.
Even in that guise it's engaging, but for the full M5 experience you need to switch the throttle map to Sport Plus. Do the same with the damping and steering and you're in no doubt that you're in control of a very special sports saloon. It's hugely fast and engaging, though speed limits on the road do rather get in the way of its abilities... The brakes stand up well to the abuse of a few laps on track and if you have the space and talent it can be drifted with ease - thanks in part to the sophisticated, electronically controlled limited slip differential.
Acknowledging the wide selection of driving modes and options, BMW fits two 'M' buttons to the new M5, so you can take your time to customise your two favourite groups of options and then have them all at the touch of a single button. You really do need to be au fait with the options to get the most out of the M5 - which we reckon adds to the experience.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4.5/5
We realise it's strange to say that a car costing nigh on €135,000 is good value for money, but given the M5's talents, it's the truth. If you measure value by how much equipment a car has then you'll not be disappointed either, as it includes supple Merino leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, a very fancy head up display, Bluetooth and USB, a sunroof, satnav with voice control and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Be prepared for high running costs though. The quoted combined consumption figure of 9.9 litres/100km is saucy enough, but we used nearly twice as much fuel as that on average...