Kyalami, Midrand - It’s the first M5 with all-wheel drive, the first with a carbon-fibre roof and as of today, with the official launch at the Kyalami circuit, it’s here in South Africa, priced at R1 762 807.
The sixth generation of BMW’s original ‘super saloon’ boasts an uprated 4.4-litre turbo V8 with new turbos, higher fuel-injection pressure and a more authoritative exhaust system, rated for 441kW between 5600 and 6700 revs, and 750Nm from 1800-5600rpm, driving all four wheels through a new eight-speed automatic transmission and an M-specific version of BMW’s xDrive that uses a central active M differential to split the drive between front and rear axles.
BMW says the rear-biased system only brings the front wheels into play when the rear wheels reach their limit of traction; you can, however, switch to Dynamic mode, which will let you shake the M5’s booty to a limited extent before stepping in to spoil the fun, or to two-wheel drive without dynamic stability control (recommended for track days only) at which point how out of shape you get is up to you.
What all-wheel does give you, however, is superior traction off the line - enough, says BMW, to get you to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds and and to 200 in 11.1s. Top speed, of course is limited to 250km/h - unless you opt for the extra-cost M Driver’s Package, which raises the bar to just over 300.
Jesse Adams drove the M5 at the world launch in Estoril Portugal late last year and enjoyed the new set-up:
“I drove the M5 in both modes on public roads and around the Estoril race track and my findings were as expected. 4WD Mode is faster, 2WD Mode is more fun. There is an earlier touch of understeer when pushed to the ragged limit in 4WD but the extra traction on corner exits more than makes up for it in lap times.
"But it must be said that anyone willing to explore this five metre-long sedan’s tail-happiness MUST have the driving skills to back it up. A tad too much pedal input at the wrong time, and it snaps like a coiled cobra toward the nearest hedgerow.”
At first glance the cockpit looks much like that of the standard 5 Series sedan - but the seats are specially-developed super supportive multi-adjustable buckets and the big digital display has been reconfigured to display drive modes, xDrive and Drivelogic settings, an adjustable speed warning and a shift light for when you’re using the transmission as a sequential ‘box.
There’s also a bright red start button and two red mode-control toggles marked M1 and M2, next to the shift paddles.
Even with all the extra weight of the all-wheel drive mechanism, the new M5 is about 60kg lighter than its predecessor, thanks to that composite roof, and an aluminium bonnet and front wings.
The one thing that isn’t lighter, however, is the price tag: local pricing for the new M5 starts at R1 762 807.