What are you driving?
This latest generation of M5 is not only one of the most potent BMWs available, it's the first proper M car to get all-wheel drive. But before your inner purist gets in a huff, don't worry, you can still engage a rear-wheel-drive mode. That said, we're not sure how frequently you might want to do that as the M5 packs some serious heat. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine churns out an incredible 600hp and 750Nm of torque, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 323hp per tonne. All this in a large saloon car. No matter what way you measure it, the result is fast. For sheer speed, only the Porsche Panamera Turbo comes close, while the Audi RS 6 Avant is only available in estate form. The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ pips it on horsepower, though BMW does have the new M5 Competition to right that.
Name its best bits
There's one main V8-shaped reason that you're going to want the BMW M5. Its engine is hugely impressive, capable of delivering vast swathes of power with what seems like a mere nudge of the throttle pedal. In any of the lower gears, it rolls on power so rapidly that on most roads you probably won't need to keep the throttle fully open for anything more than a few seconds. But what gets you every time is the torque. It just never seems to let up, and it's highly addictive. It may be turbocharged, but at no stage did we encounter any perceptible lag from the engine. On paper, the sprint to 100km/h from rest is a claimed 3.4 seconds, yet it feels even faster.
But it doesn't have to be like that. The BMW's ability to amble around at low speeds is valid confirmation of its Jekyll and Hyde character. Our test car with its Marina Bay Blue paint and machine-faced 20-inch wheels certainly stands out, but a more conservative spec would see this ground-based missile fly under most people's radar.
In day-to-day use, it offers a firm, but comfortable ride, yet its refinement levels aren't compromised. The interior deserves a mention here as it is beautifully finished throughout. Some may find certain elements, like the M logos in the backs of the front seats that illuminate when you unlock the car a bit, well, tacky. We guess this is BMW's attempt to add some theatre to its car. Nevertheless, the cabin feels worth every cent of the car's cost, while the latest iDrive infotainment system remains one of the best to use.
One option we did welcome was the carbon ceramic brakes. These give the M5 extraordinary stopping power and proved more than being up to the task on track during the international launch. There is a decent amount of feel through the pedal and they seem at ease with city traffic, too. At €13,513, these were the most expensive option on the test car, so if you aren't a track day regular you may choose to pass on them.
For the majority of the time, you're almost glad that there's an all-wheel-drive system under you, especially in the winter months. It brings a level of reassurance, though you do still need to have a healthy level of respect for this much power under your right foot. The 4WD Sport mode gives it more of a rear bias. In the right situation toggling to 2WD mode can turn it into a tyre-shredding drifter if you provoke it, but you otherwise get a rear-wheel-drive car that lets you know just what it's doing.
Anything that bugs you?
The only thing that can make the M5 a frustrating experience is the lack of places in which you can adequately exploit its performance, which isn't a fault of the car itself. But it also isn't a small car by any stretch, so even getting it on a fast, flowing country road highlights the car's dimensions. Similarly, that potency means that you'll need a full-size grand prix circuit to stretch its legs properly. Not that it's as much of an issue for somebody spending the guts of €200,000 (with options) on a car, but stumping up the €2,350 each year will be an issue for some further down the line.
And why have you given it this rating?
Such is the performance of the BMW M5 that you frequently have to remind yourself that it is also a practical and spacious five-seat saloon. The addition of an all-wheel-drive transmission enhances the overall package rather than takes away from it, giving more owners the opportunity to use more of that prodigious power in the right situation.
What do the rest of the team think?
If you have a sense of the ridiculous then the fact that the M5 has around 100hp more under its bonnet than Alan Jones needed to win the 1980 F1 world title should tickle it a bit. Output of 600hp is a colossal amount of grunt to have in a relatively sensible, family-friendly saloon car, but the M5 manages it with such grace. Yes, it's rocket-ship fast, but with none of the ill-tempered snappiness of the old F10 model. It's not just the 4WD either - the whole chassis setup is more accessible, a little more benign. If only there was a Touring version...
Neil Briscoe - Editor-at-large