Leaner, faster, 4WD M5

Sixth- gen su­per­sa­loon with ground­break­ing all- wheeldrive finally shows its face


BMW HAS RE­LEASED ITS FIRST of­fi­cial images of its all-new M5, along with con­firmed spec­i­fi­ca­tion de­tails, ahead of the car’s de­but at the Frank­furt mo­tor show. Des­ig­nated F90 and based on the lat­est G30 5-se­ries, the sixth gen­er­a­tion of the M5 goes on sale next year, priced from £89,640.

As we al­ready know, and in­deed have sam­pled for our­selves on track ( evo 236), the F90 is the first M5 to fea­ture all-wheel drive. How­ever, in much the same way as the Mercedes-amg E63 S, it can also be switched to purely rear-wheel drive, via the idrive in­ter­face. BMW is call­ing the sys­tem M xdrive, and it es­sen­tially offers three modes. In the stan­dard set­ting, the M5 is

The 0-62mph time of 3.4sec oblit­er­ates the old M5’s 4.3sec. Thank the trac­tion ad­van­tages of 4WD

at its most all-wheel driven, al­beit with the front axle only com­ing into play when the rear tyres lose grip. The next stage is M Dy­namic mode, which puts the driv­e­train into ‘4WD Sport’. In this set­ting the elec­tron­ics al­low more slip from the rear axle be­fore send­ing drive to the front.

Finally, there’s ‘2WD’, only avail­able with all trac­tion and sta­bil­ity sys­tems switched off. BMW says it is de­signed ‘for track use by ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers’. With 592bhp and, per­haps more per­ti­nently, 553lb ft of torque, ‘2WD’ mode and a wet round­about could cer­tainly prove in­ter­est­ing…

BMW M has yet to con­firm an of­fi­cial kerb weight, but en­gi­neers have told us that the new car should be slightly lighter than the out­go­ing F10M model – and that’s de­spite the ad­di­tional 60kg-orso of four-wheel-drive hard­ware. Top: a key change for the F90 is the switch from a dual-clutch gear­box to a torque-con­verter auto with man­ual over­ride via pad­dles or the gear se­lec­tor. Above: ex­te­rior de­tail­ing, in­clud­ing wing vents, re­vealed for the first time. Above right: cock­pit is packed with lat­est tech, as you’d ex­pect with a £90k price tag

The M depart­ment has adapted technology used in the M760i, util­is­ing that car’s trans­fer case with its elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled clutch, along with the Ac­tive M Dif­fer­en­tial from be­tween the rear wheels of the M3/M4. The cen­tre diff can range from 100 per cent open (es­sen­tially rear-wheel drive) to a 50:50 split, and is said to be all but seam­less in its op­er­a­tion.

The new M5 is pow­ered by the same twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 as be­fore, al­though as you’d ex­pect it has been given a thor­ough up­date. With re­vised tur­bos, in­creased di­rect-in­jec­tion fuel pres­sure to 350bar and im­proved lu­bri­ca­tion and cool­ing sys­tems – the for­mer in­clud­ing a vari­able pump de­signed for ‘race­track ap­pli­ca­tions’ – the new engine com­fort­ably ex­ceeds the 552bhp and 501lb ft of the old car and the 567bhp of the pre­vi­ous Com­pe­ti­tion Pack­age model.

A sig­nif­i­cant change to the M5’s driv­e­train is the switch from a twin-clutch M DCT gear­box to an eight-speed ‘M Step­tronic with Driv­el­ogic’ torque con­verter. Its op­er­a­tion is gov­erned, as with other as­pects of the M5’s be­hav­iour, by modes – there are three, along with Ef­fi­cient, Sport and Sport+ for the engine – and gears can be changed man­u­ally via pad­dles on the steer­ing wheel or with the gear se­lec­tor. BMW M en­gi­neers claim there is no loss of per­for­mance with the Step­tronic ’box but an im­prove­ment in the sort of ev­ery­day com­fort rel­e­vant to most M5 buy­ers. Cer­tainly, the per­for­mance claims are suit­ably bal­lis­tic: 0- 62mph in 3.4sec and 0-124mph in 11.1. That 0- 62 time oblit­er­ates the old car’s 4.3sec. Thank the trac­tion ad­van­tages of four-wheel drive for that. Top speed is lim­ited to 155mph.

So how does the new M5 com­pare with its most for­mi­da­ble ri­val, the E63 AMG S? At £88,490 the car from Af­fal­ter­bach slightly un­der­cuts its Mu­nich ri­val. It also offers a lit­tle more power and con­sid­er­ably more torque from its twin-turbo 4-litre V8 (603bhp and 627lb ft). How­ever, the BMW should be around 100kg lighter, thanks largely to its alu­minium bon­net and front wings and its car­bon­fi­bre roof. Car­bon-ce­ramic brakes are also an op­tion, sav­ing a fur­ther 23kg, though given the M depart­ment’s re­cent im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of its stan­dard-fit brak­ing sys­tems, the reg­u­lar six­pot calipers and iron discs should be more than up to the job.

Nat­u­rally, the chas­sis has been thor­oughly up­graded, too, with stronger, stiffer sus­pen­sion as­sem­blies and firmer, be­spoke springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. There are Com­fort, Sport and Sport+ set­tings for both the dampers and the steer­ing, but, along with the modes for the engine and the three-stage con­trol of the gear­box, these can all be saved as pre­ferred set­tings us­ing the M1 and M2 but­tons on the steer­ing wheel. The wheels are bi­colour cast-al­loy 20in items, with 275/35 tyres on the front axle and 285/30s at the rear.

First road drives of the fin­ished ar­ti­cle should take place around Novem­ber, at which point we’ll know whether the F90 cap­tures the spirit of some of the beloved M5s of yore. Per­haps only in the years to come will we be able to judge whether the F90 is sim­ply an­other step on a re­lent­less de­vel­op­ment quest for more power and ac­cel­er­a­tion, or whether it marks the tip­ping point for the near-twoton, 600bhp su­per-sa­loon.

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