Munich - This is BMW’s all-new M5, and while the styling might be on the evolutionary side of the scale, there are some big changes beneath the skin.
Perhaps not so much under the bonnet, where you’ll find a reworked version of its predecessor’s V8, albeit dialled up to 441kW (from 412kW). Yet the big news is how that power gets delivered: The new M5 has made the switch to all-wheel drive, but purists will still be able to switch to rear-wheel drive.
The smart new M xDrive all-wheel-drive system aims to offer the best of all worlds: the traction safety net of 4WD on slippery roads, with the precision and agility of rear-wheel propulsion. BMW claims it’s the most “emotionally engaging” all-wheel drive system in the segment. It features a central transfer case with multi-plate clutch, for fully variable front-to-rear drive distribution, as well as an Active M Differential that can also fully vary drive between the rear wheels as required.
Although the M5 automatically defaults to 4WD with DSC stability control every time the vehicle is started, albeit still allowing a little oversteer, drivers will be able to toy with four other combinations for the two systems.
Dial in M Dynamic Mode, for instance, and the system sends even more power to the rear wheels to allow for “controlled drifts”. Switch off the DSC completely and you're left with three more options: 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD. The former provides a neutral balance for poor roads, while 4WD Sport is geared towards track days and then the rear-wheel-drive mode, as you'd well imagine, is for skilled drivers who want to party like it’s 1985.
The 4WD M5 is also much quicker off the mark, with zero to 100km/h taking just 3.4 seconds, according to BMW, whereas its predecessor took 4.3 secs. Top speed is an electronically limited 250km/h, but the optional M Driver’s Package allows it to blitz to 305km/h.
BMW has upgraded the familiar 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, which now produces 441kW between 5600 and 6700rpm, and 750Nm from 1800-5600rpm. That’s even more torque than the previous M5 Competition Edition, which was good for 441kW and 700Nm.
The V8 gets new turbochargers, improved cooling and lubrication as well as higher injection pressure and a new exhaust that’s said to offer an even more guttural soundtrack. The engine is mated to an eight-speed M Steptronic autobox with three modes and steering-mounted shift paddles.
Talking modes, drivers also get to choose between three settings for the reworked suspension system with Variable Damper Control, and for the M-tuned steering.
Despite its increased dimensions, the new M5 is 15kg lighter than its predecessor, due to numerous weight-saving measures, a lighter exhaust system and a standard carbon fibre-reinforced plastic roof.
Designwise, the new M5 has been beefed up in all the ways you’d expect, with larger air intakes, flared fenders, a larger diffuser and standard 19-inch wheels.
Inside, the new M5 gets with the digital programme as per its tamer 5 Series siblings, while adding plenty of M-specific goodies, such as a unique M-style analogue instrument cluster, improved Head-Up Display with ‘M View’ option and an M sports steering wheel with driver-configurable M Drive buttons that can store your drive settings.
And if the standard M seats in Merino leather are just too boring, you can order the division’s new racing-style ‘M multifunction’ seats with integrated headrests.
The new M5 is scheduled to land in South Africa during the first quarter of 2018 and pricing will be released closer to the time. The First Edition (below) will also be offered locally in limited numbers, and it’s set apart by Frozen Dark Red Metallic paintwork and a fully black grille, among other distinguishing features.