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New BMW M5 - the whole story

Published Jun 16, 2011

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No sooner had we (and every other motoring website on the planet) published Wednesday's “leaked” pictures of the new M5 than the Blue Propeller Boykies fired back with the full media release - all 26 pages and 154 photographs of it!

“Leaked”, because we'll never know whether German motoring magazine Auto Zeitung published the official pictures ahead of time with or without BMW's connivance.

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Be that as it may, the 2012 M5 is worth making a fuss about; never mind that the Bavarian Motor Works is essentially an engine company, there's much more to this übersaloon than its new, twin-turbo v8.

The M5 bears a strong resemblance to its less muscle-bound 5 Series stablemates (too much so, say its detractors, calling it “boring” and “lacking imagination”) yet the performance-car nuances - some quite subtle - are there.

The front treatment is certainly anything but subtle, with gaping air intakes for the engine and brakes, in a deep spoiler below the signature kidney grille. But you won't notice, until you park an M5 next to an “ordinary” Five, that the wheel arches are slightly flared, the door sills a little more strongly defined.

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Unless you know what you're looking for, you won't see the M-car gills with their integrated indicator bars in the front wings, a styling cue borrowed from BMW's most beautiful car yet, the iconic 507.

Then again, you can't help noticing the special 19” M light-alloy double-spoked rims, the diffuser between the two pairs of tailpipes and the gurney-style rear spoiler on the boot lid.

It's Arnie in Armani, a car that doesn't need flamboyant styling because it has nothing to prove.

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The combination of sports-car dynamics and premium appointments continues inside with an M-specific instrument cluster in black-panel technology, a sweeping new, leather-covered centre console and sports seats, wrapped up in merino leather upholstery.

Special slimline, aluminium interior trim strips, a dark grey roof liner, electrically-operated steering-column adjustment, four-zone automatic air-con and ambient lighting contrast with a standard head-up display to remind you that performance cars don't have to be uncomfortable.

The M5 is also available with every driver assistance system and bit of electrotechery known to Munich, including adaptive xenon headlights, auto highbeam, night vision with pedestrian recognition, lane change warning, lane departure warning, surround view, speed limit warning, internet access, ports for smartphones and music players, real-time traffic information and apps for receiving web radio, and using Facebook and Twitter.

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Wanna get even more comfy? Ask for comfort access, multifunction seats, active seats, doors with soft close, hands-free tailgate opening or an electric glass sunroof.

But when you get right down to it the M5 really is about its engine, a high-revving (the rev-limiter only cuts in at 7200rpm) 4395cc V8 for which BMW quotes 412kW from 6000-7000rpm and 680Nm anywhere from 1500 to 5750rpm.

The V8 is 10 percent more powerful, with 30 percent more torque, than its five-litre V10 predecessor, but emits about 30 percent less CO2 and uses about 30 percent less fuel to do it.

Its dual turbochargers and catalyting converters are in the 90-degree V between the cylinder banks, reducing the length of the intake and exhaust plumbing and positioning the “cats” close to the exhaust ports so they reach their optimum operating temperature as soon as possible after the engine has started.

The cross-bank exhaust manifold ducts the hot gases evenly through four ducts, each of which is fed by one cylinder on each bank for the smoothest possible gas flow into the impellers, to reduce turbo lag and even out the pressure pulses - even at 1.5 bar of boost .

New solenoid fuel-injectors, between the valves and right to the spark plugs, spray petrol directly into the centre of the combustion chambers at 200 bar, using multiple injections to achieve an extremely precise mixture - and the cooling effect of the spray allows a 10:1 compression ratio - high for a turbocharged engine.

The engine has valvetronic variable intake-valve lift (which obviates the need for throttle butterflies and makes the intake airflow a lot smoother) and double-Vanos variable valve timing on both inlet and exhaust cams. Neither can boost peak power but the broaden the power band and dramatically sharpen response.

BMW quotes 0-100 in 4.4 sec, 0-200 in 13 seconds flat and an is electronically limited top speed of 250km/h (305km/h with optional drivers package) - on a car that weighs very nearly two tons ready to go, yet is rated at 9.9 litres/100km in the combined cycle and 232 g/km of CO2.

The M5's rear wheels are driven by a seven-speed double-clutch transmission; no clutch pedal is required for manual gearshift, and the driver can keep his foot on the accelerator during gear changes.

A special M gear selector switches between D and S mode, and engages reverse. It also functions as a sequential-shift gear lever - or the driver can change gear manually using the shift paddles on the steering wheel - right for upshifts, left for downshifts.

The Drivelogic rocker switch behind the shift lever on the centre console selects the driver's choice of three shift programmes - whether in auto or manual mode. D1 is selected automatically when the engine is started for the most efficient possible driving style. D2 supports laid-back cruising with gear changes carried out according to engine revs and load. And for maximum performance, D3 delays gearshifts util the engine reaches peak revs.

In manual mode, S1 provides comfortable and jolt-free gear changes. In S2 the shifts noticeably faster but can be distinctly jerky at high revs. S3 gives maximum drive and switches on the launch control function.

With the stability control system switched on, all the driver has to do is plant his or her foot in the corner and the system will accelerate as fast as conditions allow, just short of wheelspin, changing gear right on max power at 7000rpm.

The M differential has an electronically controlled, multi-plate, variable locking function that splits engine power between the right and left rear wheel for maximum traction, using all the car's sensors to the measure speed, slip and yaw rate.

Electronically controlled dampers are standard on the new M5; in “Comfort” mode the dampers respond adaptively to the condition of the road surface and the driver's style. “Sport” mode activates a noticeably stiffer set-up, while “Sport Plus” allows maximum lateral acceleration in dynamic driving situations.

A special development of BMW's love-it-or-hate-it Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering also allows three levels of assistance - “Comfort” for car parks and heavy traffic, “Sport” for open-road cruising and “Sport Plus” for spirited driving.

The dynamic stability system in the M5 uses the ABS sensors for cornering brake control, dynamic brake control, brake assist, fading compensation, brake drying function and hill hold.

The M5's brakes borrow their technology from Grand Prix motorcycles, with radially-mounted six-piston fixed callipers on vented discs, and the cars runs on 265/40 R19 tyres at the front and 295/40 R19 items at the rear. 20” forged light-alloy wheels are an option.

The BMW M5 will be released in South Africa in November 2011; prices, as always, when they get here.

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