x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

BMW's M Division produces a speed machine to rival Mercedes' AMG range

The Bavarian sports saloon is chasing more power and more torque with its latest M5.

The new BMW Concept M5 has Mercedes's AMG range in its sights.
The new BMW Concept M5 has Mercedes's AMG range in its sights.

It might officially be a show car, but BMW's Concept M5 proves the iconic Bavarian sports saloon is chasing more power, more torque, more handling prowess and an end to the much-hated, temperamental SMGII gearbox.

Powered by a twin-turbo, 4.4L V8 engine with direct fuel injection, the go-faster BMW M Division will be the first force-fed engine in the M5's 27-year history.

The class-defining super saloon had been placed directly in the sights of arch-rival Mercedes-Benz AMG, which will this year fit a twin-turbo 5.5L V8 to its own icon, the E63.

Like every M Division car ever made, the new M5 will be limited to 250kph, even though its engine is strong enough to hurl it beyond 300kph. M Division's development engineers have suggested the car will hit 100kph in just 4.5 seconds - around 0.2 seconds faster than its predecessor and neatly equalling its main rival from AMG.

The new M5, code-named the F10, made its world debut at the Shanghai Motor Show and the production versions will be visually unchanged, barring unlikely and outrageously negative feedback.

M Division began testing its version of BMW's new 5 Series long before the standard versions ever hit the market and full-production versions will be shown in September's Frankfurt Motor Show before arriving in the UAE between October and November.

Pricing has not been announced by BMW, though with more power and more technology in the engine and gearbox, it is expected to be the most expensive M5 in a history that dates back to 1984.

Its two turbos are expected to boost the 4395cc V8's performance to 560hp and a crunching 690Nm of torque. While it is essentially the same S63 engine as M Division uses in its much-heavier X5 M and X6 M, the M5's engineers have fiddled with the exhaust and the air intake systems to deliver a more M5-like throttle response.

While the old M5's high-revving, highly strung V10 engine performed at its best only when being attacked, the new engine has 53hp more power and 170Nm more torque at lower revs, while it's also a handy 158hp stronger than the best of the standard 5-Series range - the 550i.

Not only is the engine stronger, but it will be more efficient as well, with M Division claiming the 90-degree V8 will use 25 per cent less fuel than the old V10. Like most modern BMWs, it will use start-stop to switch off the engine at traffic lights, it will recover energy under braking to boost the electrical system and has an alternator that automatically turns off under hard acceleration.

While the outgoing SMGII gearbox worked well when the driver was attacking the corners with maximum enthusiasm, it was widely criticised for overheating on repeated full-throttle standing starts and for its jerky behaviour at low speed.

In spite of more than a decade of defending the electro-actuated gearbox, M Division has ditched it from the M5 in favour of a jointly developed Getrag double-clutch gearbox. This seven-speed unit can be driven in both manual and automatic modes and should be far smoother at light-throttle city speeds than its predecessor, while maintaining the division's traditions by driving only the rear wheels. That said, sources suggest the BMW hotshop is also working on a four-wheel drive version to counter the all-paw strength of Audi and AMG's all-paw options in the snow states of North America.

This new gearbox will mate up to a further-developed version of the electronically regulated M Division differential that BMW claims offers far greater traction and far greater driveability once the limits of adhesion have been breached. It will help that the new M5 will carry over the old car's ability to let the driver adjust the traction, stability and brake-force functions to suit the situation.

It won't be the last time we see the combination of the twin-turbo V8, double-clutch gearbox and M Division differential, either, because the division will basically drop the same driveline inside its next generations of the M6 coupé and convertible in about 12 months. It will also provide motivation for the M Division version of the swoopier, four-door Gran Coupé. Largely a more-aggressive, more-polarising body shape dropped on to the 5-Series chassis, the Gran Coupé will provide BMW an answer to Benz's surprise hit CLS and CLS63 AMG models.

While the M5 is clearly based on the BMW 5 Series and the new model carries over that model's 80mm increase it its wheelbase to 2,970mm, M Division changes an enormous number of parts throughout the car in the interest of higher performance.

It has yet to be confirmed by BMW, but insiders have insisted the M5 will switch, finally, to an electronic steering system that simultaneously saves fuel, brings infinite adjustability and allows the steering to be included in the car's crash-avoidance systems.

A MacPherson strut front suspension has underpinned the M5 for more than 25 years, but the new M5 switches to an all-alloy double-wishbone set-up, similar to the one on Maserati's Quattroporte, while a much-modified version of the standard car's multi-link rear suspension holds up the M5's tail. There will also be a variable-damping system that can be set to soft, hard or a fully variable automatic set-up.

M Division insists its styling changes over the 5 Series are few, which stands the aerodynamics of the donor car in good stead.

BMW opened an all-new wind tunnel last year in central Munich, which it used to prove the very slight tweaks to the M5's aero package. The front bumper is larger and deeper, with its three aggressive air ducts designed to feed the front brakes and the centrally mounted air intercooler for the turbochargers.

The front wheelarches are slightly wider to accommodate its wider track and larger 20-inch wheels, while the boot sprouts a small lip spoiler to keep the tail on the ground at high speed. As with all M5s since the name plate switched from six to eight cylinders at its second generation, the new M5 will boast two pairs of fat exhaust pipes, in round chrome.

It's significantly larger than the old M5, too, with 45mm and 15mm increases in length and width respectively, though the roof is 5mm lower. With aluminium and even carbon fibre scattered through the bodyshell to save weight, it still weighs close to the old M5's 1,830kg mass.