What's it about?
Station wagons surely are designed to be functional rather than masculine, but some will definitely give even the odd sports coupe a run for its money.
Audi Avants are, style-wise, in a league of their own, and even BMW's own 3 Series Touring is appealing. Unfortunately, none of these are as masculine or as imposing as the BMW M5 Touring - at least until the Audi RS6 Avant arrives in South Africa.
And "masculine" is arguably also the correct adjective to use as this "station wagon's" athletic appearance, quad tailpipes and M5 badging signal cruel intentions.
An extension of the M5 model range, which fired all the petrolheads' cylinders when the sedan was launched in 2005 with a five-litre V10 engine, the Touring is a bit of an oddity in the local market in that it is the only 5 Series Touring offered here.
And it comes at a princely price tag of R1 050 000...
But bear in mind that the M5 has all the credentials of being an outstanding executive super car.
Like the sedan there's nothing subtle about the M5 Touring - it's a bruiser.
And all that cash affords its owners the pleasure of piloting a serious sports car, with a serious amount of space.
Yes, this really is a practical sports car, with space for five and all the luggage they would ever need to lug about. The load space extends from an already handy 500 litres to a voluminous 1 650 litres.
Upgrades over the "regular" 5 Series include attention to the suspension, steering and stability control systems while electronic damper control and a variable M differential lock also enhance the handling characteristics of this Touring.
Under the bonnet
Of course, for all the fun this "mom's taxi" allows, it's one of the first cars that has necessitated me reading the owner's manual before being able to hit the road in a long time.
The naturally aspirated high-revving V10 displaces 4 999 cm3 and its cylinders are arranged five-aside, banked at 90 degrees. Bore and stroke measurements are 92 and 75 mm, respectively.
Bi-Vanos variable valve timing allows for increased performance and a flatter torque curve. Each cylinder has its own throttle, with fully electronic throttle control specific to separate cylinder banks.
An aluminium bedplate is used to deal with particularly high engine loads - this V10 only red-lines at a mind-altering 8 250 r/min!
But for all its power - a yummy 373 kW and a neck-snapping amount of torque (520 Nm to be precise), the dismal seven-speed SMG (for sequential M-gearbox) contributes to a rather frustrating drive.
I experienced Peugeot 1007 Dualtronic-like woes when this otherwise magnificent machine was left digging its nose into the tarmac in the hunt for second and third gears, leaving irate VW Polo drivers tailing me to throw their hands up in agony. I would pay to hear what went through those minds after the drivers had taken a moment to consider the M5 logo emblazoned on the wagon's rump and its protruding quad tailpipes before storming past on the right.
However, if you're driving a station wagon that, with the right amount of knob-busting and button-tweaking, should be able to rocket you from 0 - 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, do you really care? If smoother gear changes mean that much to you - and it should - elect the manual option instead. This allows you to shift up or down via the paddles on the steering wheel. You could also bump the gearlever to get the same effect.
If you do, for some bizarre reason, decide to drive it more calmly, M5's powerplant is flexible in the lower rev ranges, providing enough grunt to haul in virtually any gear from as low as 2 000 r/min.
But don't think that this station wagon has any issues with being tossed about a few corners. On the contrary, it dives into the tightest corners with aplomb, rear 19-inchers scrabbling all the while for bite, while, depending on the nanny-tools employed, the instrument panel flashes like a happy Christmas tree.
Also, the Servotronic steering is light at town speeds but resolute when you turn on the speed. It's also lethally accurate and very responsive to driver inputs.
And while you are left to point it in the desired direction while doing the two-pedal step, you do get the distinct feeling that you're likely to run out of driving talent long before the M5 tires. It's a good thing those clampers - of the 374 mm floating variety up front and 370 mm at the rear - do such a superb and fade-free job of slowing the (practically) two-tonne monster down.
Feeling the M5 Touring come alive is scarily engrossing and feels much as I imagine an out-of-body experience would feel. Frankly, committing as many "misdemeanours" as the touring allows should be outlawed in a station wagon.
As a package, the Touring is great as it gives near-identical performance to the sedan, but with the advantage of extra carrying capacity.
Also, if an arresting appearance is more your thing, this M5 comes with a variety of genuine go-faster bits, including front and rear airdams, side intakes and enough shiny M detailing to leave most salivating. Looking good, after all, is half the job done.
The other half is experiencing first-hand what many know as the most powerful letter in the alphabet... Even a wayward transmission won't spoil that experience.
Adds a different dimension to the usual frumpy station wagon image
A hopelessly inadequate SMG 'box