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Powerful Stuff

The BMW 5 series perfectly meets every dentist’s need—in the operatory and on the highway—for the finest instruments and materials available.

By Dr. Adnan Ahmed

PERFORMING A ROOT CANAL on No. 15 with an MB3 canal? Not fun. Driving the new BMW 5 Series? The purest entertainment. Shuddering at the memory of having to retrieve that small root tip you pushed into the maxillary sinus while extracting No. 4? This sublime vehicle will make you forget (momentarily, anyway) all about it.

The ability to extricate you from one milieu and deposit you in an altogether more pleasant one is a longtime hallmark of Bavarian Motor Works. My first encounter with the marque was driving a manual- transmission E36 M3 on a crisp autumn day back in the 1990s; the cold, dense air made for ideal air intake and therefore maximum engine performance. I fell instantly in love—and decades later, the German automaker continues to provide (to coin a phrase) the ultimate driving experience, particularly in the 5 Series. The previous generation was the top- selling 5 model to date, so the new one has quite a bit to prove.

Does it succeed? Let’s start with the basics: 5 Series trim options are 530, 530e, 540, 550 and M5, with a variety of engine displacements, performance specs and features. They’re available in “xDrive,” BMW’s superior all-wheel-drive system, capable of delivering as much as 80 percent of the torque to the gripping axle. It’s indicative of this moment in automotive history that every 5 Series model has a twin-scroll turbo- charged engine, so you can’t get a naturally aspirated BMW anymore. Which means no more sonorous exhaust note. Which is sad. What’s next, electric-only BMWs?

The base price of the 530 is $52,650; it accelerates to $102,600 for the M5 without options. Like many other carmakers, BMW has perfected the art of the à la carte upsell; the most desirable add-ons (Head-Up wind- shield info display and M Sport steering, for example) are available only in certain packages. Horsepower starts at 248 with 258 pound-feet of torque, climbing to 600 hp and 553 lb.-ft in the M5.

Today’s vehicles are blisteringly fast—the supercars of the 1980s and ’90s went from zero to 60 in five or six seconds; the new BMW 550 gets there in 3.9—but ultimately all that performance and power is a nonfactor unless you have ready access to a track. It’s great to brag to your team that you now have 600 ponies at your disposal, but unless you practice in, say, Stuttgart and take the Autobahn to work, it doesn’t mean much. (The top speed is governed at 155 mph, though you can remove the limiter.)

The new 5 Series’ styling is a nice refresh, more an evolution than a thorough makeover (someone’s trying to mimic Porsche, evidently). The muscular exterior with its nice lower stance exudes the persona of a proper road-gobbler. Get in and toggle the controls, and you’ll know instantly that you’re getting top Teutonic quality—and here comes that longed-for amnesia again: Had a rough day getting that No. 17 full bony impaction out? Sitting in the 5 Series will reboot your state of mind in a hurry.

The fit and finish inside are excellent, chockablock with luxurious appointments such as porcelain controls and oleophobic (that is, oil-repellent) high-gloss surfaces. A 12.3-inch dynamic digital instrument cluster offers plenty of tech wizardry, as well as diversions when you’re behind the wheel—though I for one prefer not to read the news while driving. Opulent 20-way seats are available in quilted leather and offer superior positioning, something every dentist’s back will cherish. The head rest, too, is plush, reminiscent of the pillowy ones in the Mercedes S-Class.

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Is it glowering? Because it looks like it’s glowering.

BMW’s iDrive technology, meanwhile, is vastly enhanced, with a touch screen that lets you bypass toggling for certain functions. Gesture control is an option, too (though it won’t help you retract that ill- advised middle finger you flashed at those Hell’s Angels in a brief moment of pique). There’s better Bluetooth connectivity than in the car’s predecessor, too, along with seamless Apple CarPlay integration and a better voice-command system.

The aforementioned Head-Up display offers valuable intel: speed, speed limits, navigation info and entertainment details, all while you keep your eyes focused squarely on the road ahead. Want to test the acceleration? Your speed readout turns red when you pass the local limit.

Worked late and heading home (or out) after dark? The interior LED lighting along the sides and dash add wondrous ambience. Pick from an array of colors, BMW’s signature amber among them. The headlights, also LED, are nicer than the old xenons.

Set aside the fripperies, though. Drive and handling are what truly set BMW apart, and they’re superb here, a flawless blend of luxury and performance. Even in xDrive you can feel the system’s rear-wheel bias; the steering is intuitive, and the well- balanced chassis provides a supple ride regardless of the conditions outside. It’s the standard, after all—like using a nice electric handpiece for a crown preparation. It gives you control and power when you need them most.

GEAR HERE: This 5 Series might lack a clutch pedal, but you’ll go plenty fast.

The 5 Series has three driving modes: Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. The first offers subdued fuel efficiency. Comfort gives you a little greater throttle response. Me, I prefer Sport. When you activate it, the seat bolsters tighten, the exhaust note gets louder and throttle response is immediate. The steering gets stiffer and more precise. And an “M” badge appears on the front display screen, serving as a reminder that this car has the “M” motorsports DNA woven through to its very core. Step on the pedal and feel the puissance of a veritable Panzer brigade of German horses.

During the workday, dentists naturally want fine, high-quality instruments and materials to help us deliver great results. On the road it’s no different. Again, all the power brought to bear by the BMW 5 Series isn’t, strictly speaking, entirely necessary. But many of the best things in life aren’t. And how many of those things can transport you, literally and figuratively, as well as this one?

DR. ADNAN AHMED practices in Toledo, Ohio. This is his first piece for Incisal Edge.