Great mo­ments in M

BMW’s go-fast divi­sion is poised to un­cork its next gen­er­a­tion su­per sedan, writes John Carey

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

GREAT­NESS some­times skips a gen­er­a­tion. The cur­rent BMW M5, though it is de­scended from a line of great high-per­for­mance sedans, lacks the born-to-rule au­thor­ity of its awe­some an­ces­tors.

Now BMW’s M Divi­sion is pre­par­ing a suc­ces­sor it be­lieves can re­store the big Bavar­ian’s re­gal rep­u­ta­tion. This new M5, due late this year, will not be like any of the pre­vi­ous five mod­els to wear the badge.

So dif­fer­ent, in fact, that BMW’s M Divi­sion be­lieves the world needs a lit­tle time to get its col­lec­tive head around what they’ve done. Un­like ev­ery M5 be­fore it, this will be an all­wheel drive car … and, like ev­ery M5 in his­tory so far, it will be a rear-drive car.

To ex­plain how the new M5 works, BMW took a se­lect group of me­dia in­side its high­se­cu­rity Mi­ra­mas test­ing ground in the south of France to drive pre­cious pro­to­types.

“When we started with the car, about four years ago, there was a dis­cus­sion,” re­calls Dirk Hacker.

M Divi­sion’s en­gi­neer­ing chief says rear-drive, four­wheel drive and do­ing both ver­sions were all con­sid­ered. Ob­vi­ous op­tions but, he says, there was one more.

“This is the other idea, the new idea,” Häcker says as he points at a cam­ou­flaged car nearby. “The new idea I think is a very spe­cial one.”

It’s also sim­ple. Ba­si­cally, it’s M Divi­sion’s ver­sion of the BMW xDrive tech used in all­wheel-drive mod­els such as the X5 SUV. Nat­u­rally enough it’s called M xDrive.

The M5 op­er­ates in all- wheel drive un­til the driver re­quests rear-drive only, which dis­con­nects drive to the front axle. This isn’t go­ing to hap­pen by ac­ci­dent …

The de­fault start-up mode for the new M5 is 4WD en­gaged and DSC (BMW’s la­bel for elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol) on. With a short press of the DSC but­ton in the cen­tre con­sole, the car switches to M Dy­namic Mode and 4WD Sport, a set-up that sends more power to the rear than the nor­mal 4WD.

It takes a long and de­lib­er­ate press on the DSC but­ton to switch it off. Once in this mode, the car’s con­trol dis­play al­lows the driver to choose from 4WD, 4WD Sport or 2WD.

The last should only be se­lected by skilled driv­ers. In this mode, it’s very easy to get the rear end of the M5 slid­ing and smok­ing.

With a ge­nius like BMW works driver Timo Glock be­hind the wheel, this big sedan can be made to waltz around Mi­ra­mas go­ing side­ways al­most all the time. He makes it look easy but it ain’t …

The car is a lit­tle quicker and much eas­ier to man­age in 4WD Sport and DSC Off. This mode was de­signed, with the aid of ex­pert driv­ers, for speed and fun on dry race­tracks.

And the car is great fun to whip around both the dry and wet cir­cuits at Mi­ra­mas. From the driver’s seat, it’s clear that ex­pert Ger­man en­gi­neers have taken great care to make the en­gine, gear­box, all-wheel drive, steer­ing and sus­pen­sion work well to­gether.

The vi­tal soft­ware that or­ches­trates the way the me­chan­i­cal parts in­ter­act is har­mo­niously heav­enly. This car may be fierce but it’s user­friendly.

Ex­actly how much power the new M5 will have is some­thing the M Divi­sion men won’t tell. Its en­gine is an up­dated ver­sion of the twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 in the cur­rent car.

“We have about 600 horse­pow­ers (450kW) and about 700 Newton me­tres,” is all en­gi­neer­ing chief Hacker is pre­pared to di­vulge. It will rip from stand­still to 100km/h in un­der 3.5 sec­onds, he prom­ises.

Pro­duc­tion of the new M5 won’t be­gin un­til Novem­ber, so there’s still time for some fine­tun­ing work. But the tar­get num­bers men­tioned by Hacker make it ob­vi­ous what the M5 is be­ing bred to beat.

It’s the new Mercedes-AMG E63, an­other quick and loud $250,000 su­per sedan from Ger­many with a 450kW twin­turbo V8 and all-wheel drive.

The M Divi­sion team seems qui­etly con­fi­dent of vic­tory when the in­evitable com­par­isons take place. And rightly so.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.