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BMW Aus rules out spicy 5 Series

Left out: Left-hand-drive-only production means the sporty all-paw M550i xDrive is not coming to Australia.

Missing BMW 5 Series models forfeit competing with A6 and E-Class

BMW logo3 Mar 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

BMW Australia has been forced to abandon its hope of offering a 5 Series performance variant to rival the Audi S6 and Mercedes-AMG E43, following a global decision to build the potent M550i xDrive in left-hand-drive only.

Although its rear-wheel-drive successor arrived in Australia as the 550i, the model grade was overhauled for the G30 generation as an M Performance model, joining the M140i, M240i, X5 M50d and X6 M50d that also continued to be offered here.

With 340kW/650Nm from its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, the M550i xDrive delivers a 4.0-second 0-100km/h sprint time that wipes three-tenths from the outgoing 412kW/680Nm M5 Pure.

The eight-speed auto-equipped model would have been the first all-wheel drive 5 Series to be offered locally, and primed to challenge the $170,716 S6 (with 331kW/550Nm) and $159,900 E43 AMG (295kW/520Nm).

When the M550i xDrive was revealed in October last year, BMW Australia general manager of communications Lenore Fletcher confirmed interest in the model grade for the local market.

“We are a performance market and we would love to see that vehicle in Australia, the engine, the configuration, the all-wheel drive, I think it looks sensational,” she said at the time.

However, speaking at the national media launch of the new 5 Series in Adelaide, South Australia, this week, BMW Australia head of product planning Shawn Ticehurst confirmed that the model grade was no longer available to our market.

“It’s only left-hand drive,” he revealed.

“But we’ll keep looking at that stuff, obviously we have it coming up now in the M760Li xDrive and we know it will come up in the future on other cars so we’ll start to look at it a bit more, but it has to make sense because we’re not a country with snow.

“It has to offer a performance benefit to really make sense, but we will start to look at it for some top-end models. I would anticipate seeing some coming in the coming years, but not in the near future.”

It leaves the 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12-engined M760Li as the first all-wheel-drive sedan to make it to our shores, the 448kW/800Nm flagship of which claims a 3.7-second 0-100km/h and wears a $419,900 sticker to match.

While BMW has confirmed the next M5 will utilise an all-wheel-drive system, it will leave a chasm in the new 5 Series range until its expected 2018 release.

Mr Ticehurst said that while the $136,900 540i range topper could challenge the GS F and E43, he conceded that it was not an M Performance model and was more closely aligned to the luxury-oriented Mercedes-Benz E400.

“I guess the logical rival to Mercedes-Benz would be the E400 but I think our car offers a performance benefit and a level of luxury as well that would appeal to those higher end (GS F, S6) cars,” he said.

“I think if you look at the spec in our car, it’s phenomenally strong, we’ve put a real focus on making the 540i such a well-equipped car.”

BMW will next challenge Mercedes-Benz in the niche plug-in hybrid electric vehicle segment (PHEV) when the 530e arrives mid-year as the first expansion of the all-new 5 Series range, followed by the Touring in the fourth quarter.

While Audi and Benz have ditched plans to offer a wagon version of the A6 and E-Class locally beyond the offroad-oriented Allroad and All Terrain versions, Mr Ticehurst said the 5 Series Touring garnered a small but loyal fanbase and was warranted in the range.

However, he ruled out offering a high-riding, all-wheel-drive-equipped 5 Series to challenge those competitors.

“We don’t have any product available at the moment,” he said.

“The focus is on things like X5 and X6 and they’re doing really well for us. In the short term I don’t see that coming, we’ll have our traditional 5 Series Touring and then X5 for other people.”

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