At long last, we have a solid stream of information about the next BMW M5. Based on the all-new G30 5 Series and succeeding the F10 M5, this 2018 model has now been confirmed by the Munich automaker to use all-wheel drive - branded as M xDrive.
It’s the first fully developed car from their M Division to feature all-wheel over rear-wheel drive. As had been speculated for some time now, BMW’s can no longer ignore the real-world advantages offered by such a layout.
xDrive has been an optional extra on many different cars in their line-up, and not just the SUVs. In certain markets, its arguably the most selected optional extra or variant choice made by the majority of customers at the high end.
The new M5, seen here in all but the thinnest layers of camouflage, further explores the duality of roles that these kinds of cars play to an owner. By adding all-wheel drive into the mix, it allows BMW to engineer a car that can more adeptly balance performance and exhilaration as well as everyday usability and poise.
In order to achieve two seemingly polar goals, BMW created M xDrive, a combination of systems that amount to selective all-wheel drive, torque vectoring, and differential wizardly. As in a normal all-wheel setup, drive can be portioned out to either the rear axle or front. In the new M5, as in many other sports-oriented implementations, that can be further split between individual wheels.
It has a predominantly rear-drive biased, naturally, with the front wheels only instructed to lend assistance should the rears deplete their tractive force. That’s presumably done in a manner that doesn’t lead to loss of front end precision, especially when powering out of a tight corner. To ensure this is properly managed, a ‘Central Intelligence Unit’, or CIU, is installed.
Essentially, it’s the car’s M ‘brain’, analysing data feeds from the cars engine control unit, all-wheel drive system, stability control, adaptive dampers, and transmission control unit. It’s given the authority to override the standard settings of each to suit the different lateral, longitudinal, and yaw dynamic requirements.
As we understand it, M xDrive is always on by default, programmed to offer maximum grip for optimum everyday stability. However, with the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) turned off, the driver can choose between normal all-wheel drive, 4WD Sport, or choose to decouple the front axle entirely in 2WD mode.
Power, as was previously suspected, is derived from an updated version of the 4.4-litre bi-turbo V8 that was used in the F10 M5. Its internals have been improved to enabled a higher power output and more free-revving nature, but BMW has not disclosed the exact numbers. The smart money pegs it at a nudge over 447kW and further north of 700Nm, however.
Thanks to its lighter CLAR-based architecture and a carbon roof, this new M5 should be at least more inherently lithe on the limit, tipping the scale at less than its predecessor 1,945kg (kerb) in spite of the all-wheel drive components. That, in tandem with its newfound grip, mean that standing launches should be far more brutal. Expect a sub-3.5-second 0-100km/h sprint time to be within the headlining figures thrown about once the car is fully unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
Another significant change disclosed in this morning’s reveal is the omission of the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission in favour of an 8-Speed M Steptronic automatic transmission. It’s a traditional torque converter now, though it’s hard to say whether it’s the exact same ZF-8HP used across the rest of the non-M BMW range.
To cap off, there’s not all that much we can discern from the pictures that add much to the mental portrait of the upcoming F90 M5. The car does have the right stance and obligatory quad tailpipes, and we have already been treated to the already impressive M550 variants of the G30 5 Series, replete with more a aggressive exterior treatment. It’s possible that the M5 will, somewhat disappointingly, not stray too far from that template.