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HomeFEATUREDBMW M5 xDRIVE: PERFORMANCE WITHOUT A SENSE OF HUMOUR

BMW M5 xDRIVE: PERFORMANCE WITHOUT A SENSE OF HUMOUR

BMW chose a special destination for the local launch of a special new car, the
F90 M5 xDrive, at the Kyalami International Race Track recently. BERNIE HELLBERG sampled the new sedan during a dedicated track session.

Where its iconic M5 sedan is concerned, BMW doesn’t do anything by half measures. Hence, the new M5 recently shown to the assembled local media at Kyalami race track whacked it out of the park in just about every respect.

It is an all-new version of the world’s most notable sports sedan, so it is obviously new in every respect, and then some.

Although more powerful and lighter than ever, and significantly more refined than previous M5s, the F90 is still powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, and comes as a first to South Africa, with all-wheel-drive on-board too.
Yes, that’s right, BMW SA has for the first time made xDrive available to local buyers, at virtually the same time that Mercedes-Benz has discontinued all-wheel ability in their top-tier sports sedans.

As you likely would guess, having all-wheel traction on a vehicle as large and powerful as the M5, any M5, would have a significant effect on the car’s ability to perform. And you’d be right. But more of that a tad later.

Power is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic (for the first time there will be no manual option) and distributed by the three-mode all-wheel-drive system. The three levels of which, encompass a full all-wheel setting, partial all-wheel-drive, and rear-wheel-drive only with the traction control off.

INSIDE THE CABIN

In case you needed reminding, the M5 offers uncompromising equipment levels – coming in hot with leather upholstery and M seats for the driver and front passenger as standard. M multifunction seats can be ordered as an option, as can all assistance systems normally available for the standard 5 Series sedan.

The M5 interior is full-on luxurious up there with the best of them, even though it straddles a very fine line between elegance and flash. Being a premium sedan, but also a track machine, it needs to echo its sporty intent clearly in the cabin. It does this with an M5-specific square gear lever and steering-mounted M1 and M2 switches.

OWN THE M5 DRIVE

Track time at Kyalami was limited to just a few laps, all under the supervision of BMW minders. For safety reasons, you see. And if this were the tail-happy E60 M5 from two generations ago, maybe I’d be thanking my lucky stars for those minders being there.

Yet, the new M5 is an entirely different beast than even its closest (in technical spec, at least) F10 brother. It’s more powerful, yes, by a 29 kW margin, but at the same time, it is one of the easiest cars I have driven around the Kyalami circuit.

Sure, kick it down, and it will kick back with swift reprisal, but in full nanny mode, even at a decent tilt, the M5 remained sure-footed and composed.

Power delivery is linear and beautifully progressive through the rev range. And, while some may criticise the M5 for delivering its power in a much too tame way, it’s hard to get a proper grasp of it during such a short drive, so I will reserve judgment until a real-world road test can be done. For now, I will let the stats do the talking, and they say that the new M5 with its 441 kW and 750 Nm of torque is plenty powerful enough.

Shifting from the new torque converter automatic gearbox is significantly smoother than the outgoing car’s dual-clutch system, its 750 Nm of torque flowing markedly smoother through to the wheels, whether all four or just two.

The new BMW M5 comes with M compound brakes fitted as standard. Being significantly lighter than conventional cast iron brakes, the former has the distinct benefit of reducing unsprung mass. At the front, the braking force is applied to perforated, inner-vented brake discs by blue-painted six-piston fixed callipers featuring the M logo. Deceleration at the rear is provided by single-piston floating calliper brakes, also in blue, with an integrated parking brake. M carbon-ceramic brakes are also available as an option on the new BMW M5.

LAST WORD

It is unmistakable that the new M5 has stolen some of the thunder, and lighting, of its predecessors, instead bringing this powerhouse firmly into ease-of-use mode, where many, if not most, of the M5’s rivals already exist.
It is the inevitable compromise that most manufacturers will reach at some point or another, as cars become increasingly more powerful, while progressively more user-friendly to accommodate varying tastes, abilities, and laws of a globalised marketplace.

The BMW M5 is on sale now at the base price of R1,762,806, while five units of a limited First Edition model were made available for local buyers at R2,024,006, but these have all since been spoken for.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © BMW SOUTH AFRICA

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