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Frankfurt show: BMW gets a grip on M5

Out of the bag: BMW’s new-generation M5 gets a multi-mode all-wheel-drive system that can be switched into rear-wheel drive by drivers nostalgic for a bit of tail action.

450kW-plus power puts first all-wheel-drive BMW M5 right there with Benz, Audi

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BMW logo17 May 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

BMW’S first pure-bred all-wheel-drive M car, the sixth-generation M5, appears set to pip its German rivals in the power department when it goes into production as BMW’s most powerful production car in November.

Due to be shown at the Frankfurt motor show in September and launched in Australia in March or April next year, the bahn-burning large sedan will get “450kW-plus” power and “over 700Nm” from the revised 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that generated 423kW and 700Nm in the superseded model.

European reports suggest the true M5 power will be 458kW, shading the upcoming Mercedes-AMG E63 S (450kW) and Audi RS6 Avant Performance (445kW) and pipping the 448kW V12 M760iL as Beemer’s most powerful beast.

However, it remains to be seen if the M5 can out-muscle the Benz and Audi rivals in torque, as the E63 S 4Matic – launched in Australia this week – generates a class-leading 850Nm, while the Audi delivers 750Nm, despite both having smaller 4.0-litre capacity engines.

As GoAuto reported from the Australian unveiling of the standard 5-Series last October, the new M5 will become the first of its breed to dispense with rear-wheel-drive in favour of xDrive AWD technology.

The move has been forced by the increase in power that BMW M engineers feared would be too much for rear wheels alone.

The powertrain engineers also have dispensed with the previous seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox for the same reason, installing a stronger conventional ZF-sourced eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission in its place to handle the extra grunt.

BMW claims the new Steptronic transmission with its manual mode can make faster gear shifts anyway, helping the new M5 to achieve the zero to 100km/h sprint in “under 3.5 seconds”, about one second faster than before, putting it in supercar territory.

That sprint time is also aided by a lighter kerb weight than before, despite the penalty of AWD running gear. This weight loss is mainly achieved by the addition of a carbon-fibre roof.

In adopting AWD traction for the latest model, BMW joins both Mercedes and Audi in going for all-four drive to tame the flame while also gaining acceleration.

The good news for M5 owners who loved their rear-drive layout is that the M5 powertrain is not only biased to the rear wheels, but they can have their cake and eat it too by being able to select a RWD mode that channels all power to the rear wheels.

xDrive modes include conventional 4WD with a neutral set up, and then, with electronic stability control turned off, a slightly racier 4WD Sport mode that channels more torque to the rear, and then 2WD which could be described as track drift mode.

As well, the driver can engage the so-called M Dynamic Mode with 4WD Sport, allowing greater wheel slip that BMW says is “telegraphed in good time, while the linear increase of sideslip angle makes it easily controllable”.

Part of that controllability is attributed to an improved active differential that controls torque split on the rear axle, pointing up to 100 per cent of torque to either wheel when needed.

BMW M chairman Frank van Meel said the core component of M xDrive was M-specific software that integrated longitudinal and lateral dynamics.

“The new drivetrain technology – making its debut on the new BMW M5 – therefore combines all of the agility and precision of standard rear-wheel drive with the supreme poise and traction of the all-wheel-drive system,” he said.

“As a result, the new BMW M5 can be piloted with the familiar blend of sportiness and unerring accuracy on both the race track and the open road – and in various weather conditions, too.”

Like the previous model, the new M5 has two configurable M Drive modes – M1 and M2 – that the driver can set up and have available at the press of a button.

As well, the driver settings include comfort, sport and sport individual options for suspension, steering and throttle response sharpness.

Pricing and Australian specification details will be released closer to launch.

The previous M5 was priced at $230,615, while the most expensive current model in the all-new 5 Series range is the 540i, at $136,900 plus on-road costs.

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