2018 BMW M5

MIAMI — You’ve no doubt heard the term “sports sedan” used to describe regular family cars that have enhanced performance characteristics, but did you know that the genre dates as far back as the 1930s? I confess I didn’t until I did a “Google” search (Is there any other kind?) and found it was first used in the 1930s to describe “sports saloon” versions of British-made Rover cars.

In the 1960s, manufacturers began using the term to describe special versions of their products that allowed them to enter production cars into auto races.

In the U.S., the term first was applied to imports from companies like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz that rated performance high among their priorities while U.S. luxury manufacturers like Cadillac and Lincoln leaned toward comfort with their vehicles.

That has begun to evolve in recent years to include a number of other performance-oriented sedans (like Cadillac’s V series), and you also can find some vehicles that have had little done to them other than a few cosmetic touches that include an “S” logo on the rear trunk lid in an attempt to lure in buyers. (It isn’t working. Automotive News predicts a 60-year low for sedan sales this year.)

But if you want possibly the best example of what a “sports sedan” is today you need look no further than BMW’s M5, the current version of which is the fastest and most technologically advanced M-vehicle yet, according to BMW publicists.

All-new for 2018, the M5 earned recognition last spring from an international panel of judges as the World Performance Car Award at the New York International Auto Show, beating out two other finalists from the original field of 11 nominees, the Honda Civic Type R and the Lexus LC 500.

Under the hood of the sixth generation of the 2018 M5 is a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that propels its 4,370 pounds from zero-to-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds. It is rated at 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 553 pound-feet of torque in a range from 1800 to 5860 rpm and is capable of a sprinting from zero-to-124 mph in just 11.1 seconds with a top speed of 189 mph when equipped with the optional M Driver’s Package.

That enough performance for you?

The 2018 M5 is the first with BMW’s all-wheel-drive xDrive system, though power can be routed to the rear wheels only by changing driving modes.

It’s also the first without a manual gearbox, and BMW has made some puzzling changes to the path for the gear shifter for the 8-speed automatic.

It seems to be designed to accommodate manual shifts via the console lever, but that would seem to be a task more suited to the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. That and the usual complexities of the infotainment system are about the only complaints one might have with the M5.

Even with the emphasis on performance, the M5 comes in a stylish, sophisticated package that offers occupants comfortable seats and a quiet ride (how quiet depends on if you set the dual quad exhaust to let its throaty roar escape).

Set the suspension in Comfort mode and it smoothly sails along as a six-figure luxury vehicle should. You’ll get no complaints from riders.

Base MSRP for the 2018 BMW M5 is $102,600. That gets you adaptive LED headlights, signature M grille, M rear spoiler, adaptive M suspension, 20-way power M function front seats, Harmon Kardon surround sound system, iDrive 5.0 system with touchscreen and gesture control, and keyless entry.

Among other included no-charge items are active blind-spot detection and lane-departure warning, heated steering wheel, power trunk opener, and navigation.

Big-ticket option items like Aragon brown full-merino leather, carbon ceramic brakes, 20-inch M wheels, a Bowers & Wilkins Sound System, Executive Package (soft-close doors, rear sunshade, front ventilated seats, etc.) and the M Driver’s Package can run the total to nearly $130,000 — $129,795 to be exact including the $1,000 gas guzzler tax (EPA ratings are 15 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway) and the $995 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2018 BMW M5: This is a fun car to drive and doesn’t beat its passengers to death in its performance. The ability to adjust driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport-plus, etc.) lets you set the car to your own personal preferences. Seats are comfortable, and high-grade materials permeate the cabin, as expected for a luxury vehicle. The trunk is big (18.7 cubic feet).

What I didn’t like about the 2018 BMW M5: Techno features are fussy and require extra steps to perform the simplest of functions. BMW has dumbed down iDrive some since its introduction in 2001, but it still isn’t the most user-friendly of infotainment features. Apparently, android phones don’t connect through Bluetooth as Apple CarPlay is a $300 option. The manual transmission is no more, and the shifter for the automatic has a weird path that can put you in manual mode instead of automatic if you’re not careful. The button to push for Park is on the base of the shifter, not at the top as logic might suggest. Why?

Would I buy the 2018 BMW M5? The iDrive system is a turnoff, but the performance goes a long way in making up for that. So yes, if a six-figure MSRP doesn’t deter you, it’s a great performing car that offers room for backseat passengers.

— Paul Borden