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Launch Story

7 Feb 2012

BMW Group Australia has launched its 2012 sales campaign with a bang this week by releasing its most powerful production car ever, the fifth-generation M5 super-sedan.

Fresh from reclaiming the Australian luxury market crown it relinquished to Mercedes-Benz for the first time in seven years in 2011, BMW will next week introduce the replacement for its volume-selling 3 Series sedan.

A pair of price-leading 5 Series variants – the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol 520i and 528i – also arrived this week, while the 5 Series ActiveHybrid will complete the current 5 Series line-up when it arrives as BMW’s first hybrid model here by midyear, beating electrified models from its German arch-rivals and possibly even the new GS450h from luxury hybrid leader Lexus.

Also due here this year are the first models from BMW’s new M Performance Automobiles stable, the tri-turbo diesel X5 and X6 M550d super-SUVs, plus the facelifted X6, redesigned M6 coupe and convertible and all-new 6 Series Grand Coupe, all in the third quarter.

Rounding out the year will be upgraded X1 and 7 Series models, the new 3 Series Touring and, possibly, the all-new 3 Series hybrid.

“We’re going to fly this year,” BMW Australia managing director Phil Horton told GoAuto at this week’s M5 launch.

“It will be our first full year of sales for the new 1 Series and X3, not to mention the new 3 Series, and we will have one of the youngest model ranges ever.”

BMW sold 17,508 vehicles in Australia last year (down 2.7 per cent), which was enough to outpace Mercedes-Benz with 16,591 sales excluding commercials (down 5.1 per cent) and fast-closing Audi with 14,551 – up 12.5 per cent.

“We will definitely see growth this year, and it would be nice if the market picks up too,” said Mr Horton.

Next year should see BMW release a new M3 sedan, the 3 Series coupe and convertible-replacing 4 Series, an all-new X4 and the M division’s first bona fide supercar.

BMW M’s global head of sales and marketing Brian Watts, who was also at the M5 launch, would not discuss the latter but indicated the next M3 would be turbocharged, lending weight to rumours it will ditch the current model’s 4.0-litre V8 in favour of an inline six fed by three turbochargers like the new M50d X models.

“We’re working on a number of (engine) concepts, but right now would be the best time to buy one of the last naturally aspirated V8s,” he said of the next M3.

Mr Watts also said it was a deliberate strategy for BMW M Performance Automobiles to launch with three new tri-turbo diesel models (Australia will not receive the all-wheel-drive M550d sedan), but confirmed petrol models would follow.

He said models under the M sub-brand would offer about 40 per cent more chassis and engine performance than their donor cars, but would not be fitted with M-exclusive equipment such as the M DCT transmission, active M differential and the programmable M Drive system.

For now, the M5 is the new performance king of BMW’s latest F10 5 Series range – launched here in mid-2010 – and is priced $12,000 lower than before at $230,000 plus on-road costs.

Combined with what is claimed to be $13,000 worth of extra standard equipment, BMW says the latest M5 represents some $25,000 of added value over the E60 model it replaces.

BMW Australia says it has received dozens of expressions of interest for the new M5, which has been a sell-out success in other markets, including the US, where there is a three- to four-month waiting list.

About 20,000 examples of the new M5 are expected to be produced over its lifecycle (about half of them again destined for North America), making it as successful as the most popular M5 ever – the E39 launched in 1998.

“This car is in another league, even compared to the E60,” said Mr Watts. “I’m confident the F10 (M5) will not only raise the bar but be one of the most successful M models ever.

“It is completely sold out in most markets. Demand outstrips supply. We expected high demand, but not this high.”

Mr Watts said that despite a kerb weight gain of about 100kg (to 1870kg DIN) and more performance, the new M5 returns 30 per cent better fuel consumption of just 9.9L/100km.

“Doesn’t mean it’s a bad car, but weight went up,” he said. “When we have a base model that increases in weight, the key is more engine performance. Although we went from V10 to V8, we were able to increase power by 10 per cent while reducing fuel consumption by 30 per cent.”

Fuel-saving technologies include the same idle-stop and regenerative braking systems as seen on other 5 Series models, while an 80-litre fuel tank (up 10 litres on the E60) provides a similar driving range to the 550i.

Based on the (N63-codenamed) 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that powers the 550i sedan, the M5 engine is effectively a higher-performance version of the (S63) V8 seen in the X5 and X6 M models.

Like them, it adds twin-scroll turbo technology to the 550i engine, but also gains Valvetronic valve control, a higher compression ratio (10.0:1, versus 9.3:1 for the X5/X6 M and 9.0:1 for the 550i) and greater boost pressure – 1.5 bar, compared to 1.3 bar for the X-M models and 0.8 bar for the 550i.

The result is no less than 412kW of peak power between 6000 and 7000rpm, making the twin-turbo V8 about 10 per cent or 39kW more powerful than the larger 5.0-litre V10 of the E60 M5, as well as the most powerful production BMW engine ever.

There is also maximum torque of some 680Nm (up 30 per cent) from just 1500rpm and all the way to 5750rpm (a peak torque band that is three times as wide as the old V10’s), a lofty 7200rpm rev limit, a specific power output of no less than 93.7kW/litre and a weight-to-power ratio of 4.5kg/kW.

As BMW describes it, the unique patented cylinder head design – which places both the inlet and exhaust manifolds and the pair of twin-scroll turbos within the Vee – eliminates turbo lag to make this the world’s most responsive turbo engine.

The 550i, which employs an eight-speed torque-converter automatic instead of the M5’s M3-sourced seven-speed M DCT dual-clutch transmission with launch control and ‘low-speed assistant’ (a manual will again be available in the US, but not Australia), sprints to 100km/h in a claimed five seconds and costs $179,900 plus ORCs.

For an extra $50,100, BMW’s first turbocharged M5 lowers the 0-100km/h sprint time to just 4.3 seconds, while top speed remains electronically limited to 250km/h, although Europe’s optional M Driver Package – which ups maximum velocity to 305km/h – is under consideration for Australia.

Unlike the M3 coupe, the M5 bodyshell is identical to the model upon which it is based, adding only more aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts, quad exhaust outlets and front quarter guard vents.

The M5’s 20-inch M alloy wheels, with 265/35 R20 tyres at the front and 295/30 R20s at the rear, hide massive 400mm compound disc brakes – the largest ever fitted to the M5 – with six-piston callipers up front.

Double wishbone front suspension components are made almost entirely from aluminium and are aided by an extra reinforcement plate, while ride height is 8mm lower, the engine is mounted 20mm lower than in the 550i and the electric motor-assisted active M differential is fitted.

Inside, unique M5 equipment includes multifunction M sports front seats, a three-spoke leather-clad M steering wheel with M shift paddles, an M-specific head-up display and bespoke M instruments, including a 330km/h speedo.

Also specific to the M5 is dynamic damper control and M servotronic steering, each of which offer three settings that can be pre-configured via not one but two M Drive buttons, which also alter engine and throttle pedal mapping, transmission response, electronic stability control sensitivity and head-up display configuration.

Standard M5 equipment comprises bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, full Merino leather trim, a rearview camera, heated/ventilated front seats, TV, voice control, Surround View, internet access, Bluetooth, Professional navigation and four-zone climate-control.

Options include night vision with pedestrian recognition, lane change warning and lane departure warning.

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