The BMW M5, revamped and relaunched in the States as a 2000 model, is one of those great husband-and-wife conversation pieces. As in, she hates it, he loves it.
Despite the fact that the $72,000 M5 comes with four doors and a roomy trunk, this is a high-performance car with surprisingly few limitations. Or so Paul claims. But what good is all that performance if you can’t drive the car in even mildly lousy weather, asks Anita.
She: One of the magazine writers, presumably a man, said the M5 made his “stomach quiver with anticipation.” It made mine quiver, too, but for all the wrong reasons. Our stock in trade is doing family-style test drives. No high-speed test track for this gal. So what do I do? I get in the M5 one morning to go work out with my girlfriend. While I’m in the gym, we get one of those fluky Michigan storms that leaves a thin coating of ice covered with some light snow. I get in the car to go home, and it won’t budge. The tires couldn’t get a purchase on that ice. It took me 15 harrowing minutes to rock it back and forth until I somehow managed to get it moving. So do you really think I want to give the M5 four stars after that experience? Would any woman?
He: I think the question here is would any man have taken 15 minutes to get his BMW moving? Or more importantly, would any man be caught working out with his girlfriend?
She: Well, we certainly know what the answer is in your case, Mr. Toffee-Covered Almond sneak.
He: Don’t go there. My dentist is already giving me grief. You know, I can’t say that I drove on much ice or snow, but those low-profile 18-inch performance tires were pretty impressive on dry pavement. And, considering how little sidewall there is, the ride quality was surprisingly good. I suspect the problem that you had could have been avoided by switching to snow tires.
She: I don’t have time to take my towels out of the dryer and I’m going to change my tires every winter. No, thanks. For $72,000, I should be able to never change my tires and never get stuck in the snow. Besides, I thought the car was ugly.
He: Sounds like you fit the profile of the ideal Hummer buyer, honey. Let’s look at things from a different angle. I’ve driven Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and, yes, even Vipers with similar acceleration and cornering capability, priced anywhere from $70,000 to $250,000. From that perspective, two things strike me about the M5. First, if you compare it with some of the other supercars on the road, it’s probably at the low end of the price spectrum. And that doesn’t take into account other features like safety, fuel economy and comfort. If you factor in the M5’s creature comforts – the fact that it comes with four doors, a huge trunk and nearly every conceivable luxury accessory – the $72,000 sticker starts to look like a bargain. And the simple fact is that Detroit doesn’t build a darn thing that can touch this car. Neither, for that matter, do the Jap anese.
She: It’s really interesting to see how the male mind justifies things. If you factor in four doors, a huge trunk, safety and comfort, that sounds like a minivan to me. And it won’t cost $72,000 either.
He: You’re not going to find an engine like this in a minivan, Mom. In the M5, BMW starts with its twin-cam V-8 and bores it out to nearly five liters. By the time the gearheads in the company’s high-performance M division have finished massaging it, the engine makes 400 horsepower. If you’re fast enough with the clutch pedal and six-speed manual gearbox, you should be able to gallop from zero to 60 in about five seconds flat.
She: I have to say that the built-in safety features on the M5 are impressive, although I’m still puzzled why the traction-control system couldn’t help get me off the ice patch. Besides that, you get four-wheel antilock disc brakes and dynamic stability control, which helps prevent fishtailing, and you can order up to eight air bags, i ding side bags for the rear passengers.
He: We never had the car on a race track, but even on the local roads, the suspension tuning is exceptional. It’s a delightful combination of firm damping and taut body control, with just enough compliance built into the heavy-duty springs and shocks to take the edge off any impact harshness. And the steering is simply razor-sharp. Sorry, dear, but I loved driving this car, any time, anywhere.
She: You’re making my stomach quiver again, Lienert.
2000 BMW M5
Anita’s rating: acceptable
Paul’s rating: world class
Likes: For performance buffs, perhaps the ultimate everyday car. Few of the space and comfort limitations of more-expensive exotics. Big-time horsepower. Awesome safety equipment, including optional rear-seat air bags. Considering its envelope-pushing performance, price actually seems reasonable (Paul).
Dislikes: A gas guzzler. Do I really have to change the tires to drive in ice and snow? (Anita) Come on, $72,000 for a sedan? Who are they kidding? (Anita).
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sport sedan
Price: Base, $69,400; as tested, $72,070 (inc. $570 destination charge and $2,100 gas guzzler tax)
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8; 400-hp; 369 lb-ft torque
EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city/21 mpg highway
12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $2,608 (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)
Where built: Dingolfing, Germany