BMW started a revolution with the 1984 M5, but keeping the hyper-sedan crown is harder than ever. AMG has turned the Mercedes E-Class into a touring car in civilian clothes, and the Audi RS6 has a certain all-wheel drive allure. With almost 600 hp from a twin-turbo engine and all-wheel drive, the G10 M5 represents a significant break with BMW M tradition – but is the world ready for it?
The decision to slot xDrive into the G10 M5 was the result of a rapidly-escalating power war among AMG, Audi RS and BMW M. The original E21 M5 was a revelation with 210 kW (288 hp), and the 298-kW (400-hp) E39 M5 was more powerful than a Ferrari 360 on arrival in 1998. Fast forward to 2017, and the outgoing 560-hp (412-kW) model looks underpowered compared to its rivals. Putting that sort of grunt to the road through two driven wheels simply isn't practical, so BMW has fitted xDrive.
To make sure the G10 M5 has the firepower to keep pace with the competition, BMW has fitted a heavily-revised version of the twin-turbocharged V8 from the outgoing car. There are new turbochargers, higher fuel injection pressure and more efficient charge-air cooling, all of which help free up 40 hp (29 kW) more power for 600 hp (441 kW). More importantly, the maximum torque of 750 Nm (553 lb-ft) is on tap between 1,800 and 5,600 rpm for fearsome in-gear performance.
Acceleration figures are, predictably, lightning quick. The car hits 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.4 seconds, continues to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 11.1 seconds and slams into the 250 km/h (155 mph) limiter shortly afterwards. Buyers desperate for autobahn bragging rights can pay to have the limiter removed, which raises top speed to 305 km/h (189 mph). For comparison, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S hits 100 km/h (62 mph) in the same 3.4 seconds.
The engine is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It can mooch, slurring shifts and blending into the background when the driver wants to cruise, or slam the next gear home when the urge to act like a DTM racer strikes. No manual gearbox will be offered.
Like the gearbox, the xDrive all-wheel drive system can be customized depending on the driver's mood. With four-wheel drive activated and stability control switched on, the system will allow for a little bit of rear-wheel slip on the way out of corners, but outright traction is the number one aim. Swapping into M Dynamic Mode allows a bit more sideways action without completely removing the safety net, while wannabe-drifters can lock the car in two-wheel drive and turn stability control off for no-holds barred fun.
Along with the sophisticated four-wheel drive system, the new M5 has been reinforced with stiffening elements in the front and rear, and runs with a unique suspension tune. Drivers are able to toggle through Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes for the dampers and steering, too.
When you combine the drivetrain, steering, suspension and driver assists, there are a lot of things to customize on the new M5. Rather than forcing owners to memorize their ideal settings, two separate configurations can be saved on the red M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel. M cars have had this capability for a while now, but the G10 M5 is the first to have the mode-buttons so prominently displayed.
Along with the new, bright red M buttons, there are a few little touches to remind drivers they're in a seriously quick sedan. The driver and passenger sit in heavily bolstered seats, and the heads-up display includes M-specific readouts for when you're hammering along. The fact you've got 600 hp under your right foot should also do a good job of reminding passengers that this isn't a regular 5 Series.
The changes are more noticeable on the outside, where BMW has given the car a healthy steroid injection. Gaping intakes feed air to the twin-turbo powerplant up front, and the jutting front splitter looks properly mean – although we'd argue the new rear diffuser and quad exhaust pipes are more important changes, given that's the angle most people will see of the car. The brakes – with steel discs standard and carbon ceramics optional – are hidden behind unique 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, but 20-inch units are also available.
Pricing for the M5 will start at €117,900 (US$139,200). A special Launch Edition car, finished in Matte Red, will be offered for an extra €19,500 (US$23,000) and deliveries are set to start in April. But gamers will be able to try the car out virtually in November when Need for Speed Payback is released.