2018 BMW M5: 600 Horsepower, All-Wheel Drive, and 189 MPH!

Date: March 19, 2018 Categories: Uncategorized

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In 1979, Americans watched a total solar eclipse pass over the continental United States. Eight years later, another phenomenon crossed our paths: the first BMW M5. It was rare, it was heroic, and most of all, it was a four-door sedan that, at the height of the horsepower-robbing 1980s, could outgun Corvettes and Ferraris. For 2018, the G30-based M5 is once again a rolling NASA space station of computers and sensors propelled by a force-fed V-8. That should sound impressive, except that two-ton luxury sedans that accelerate to 60 mph as hard as a McLaren F1 are now normal, everyday occurrences. If it seems as if the latest M5 won’t warp space-time anymore, well, blame the Dodge Charger Hellcat and the Porsche Panamera Turbo.

Still Dumbfoundingly Fast
Unlike the regular 5-series, the 2018 M5 is more of a revolution than its sheetmetal suggests. It’s the first M5 with all-wheel drive and without an option for a manual transmission. BMW’s M xDrive is rear biased and funnels torque through an electronically controlled limited-slip differential similar to those on the X5 M and X6 M SUVs. In the M5, though, the system can disconnect the front axle for true rear-wheel-drive hooliganism that, from our brief experience in a prototype, makes this 4350-pound (our estimate) lug feel like an E90 M3. Even in regular mode, the all-wheel-drive setup will allow the rears to slip slightly for douchebag-safe maneuvers on public streets. In 4WD Sport with the stability control set to M Dynamic, slip angles widen, and more torque routes to the active (but non-torque-vectoring) rear differential. For those times when you really want to burn through the last 1/32 of tread, the M5’s stability control is fully defeatable in rear-wheel-drive mode.

All that tire smoke comes courtesy of the familiar S63 twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, fortified with 24.0 psi of boost and increased capacity of the direct-injection system. More efficient intercoolers, a revised oil pump, and a new exhaust manifold spring the twin-scroll turbos into immediate action. The net result is 600 horsepower (identical to the final special editions of the F10 M5) and 553 lb-ft of torque (up 37 lb-ft), a peak that is maintained from 1800 rpm to the power peak at 5700 rpm (550 revs sooner than the 30 Jahre M5). Those ratings might have been shocking a decade earlier but now are the minimum the M5 needs against the 605-hp Audi RS7, the 603-hp Mercedes-AMG E63, the 550-hp Porsche Panamera Turbo, the 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V, and the 707-hp Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. But with an estimated zero-to-60-mph time of 3.2 seconds and a claimed 189-mph top speed with the optional M Driver’s package, the new M5 will positively shear the doors off the accountant’s 530i, shred the comptroller’s 540i, and melt the lawyer’s M550i. Corporate America has never been fiercer.

One Car, Thousands of Ways to Move It
Gone is the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission shared with the M3, M4, and M6. In its place is a conventional eight-speed automatic that locks its torque converter immediately after launch. It offers three shift maps on top of a Sport mode and a Manual mode with wheel-mounted paddles. The exhaust uses a new Helmholtz resonator that lightens the entire system by 11 pounds, although we’d invoke the ghost of that German physicist on M’s acoustic engineers, who continue to pump digital noise into the cabin. Only now, a button for M Sound Control allows occupants to fine-tune the fakery.

Speaking of buttons, it wouldn’t be an M5 without 2187 ways to set the steering, suspension, stability control, shift modes, gearshift mapping, throttle, and all-wheel drive. It’s gotten so out of hand that BMW converted the preset buttons into bright red thumb tabs above the steering-wheel spokes, as if to remind you to keep changing them. At the rate of one different combination per day, it’d take an M5 driver six years to try them all, at which point it would be time to restart the process in an all-new M5.

The M5’s front track is an inch wider than the M550i’s. Slight modifications to the rear suspension, including new wheel bearings and a steel X-brace, increase stiffness and response. According to BMW, firmer anti-roll bars and stronger toe-control links help improve steering accuracy. Mildly staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber (275/40ZR-19 in front, 285/40ZR-19 in the rear) is standard, and 20-inchers in the same widths are optional. Standard two-piece brake rotors—aluminum hat and iron friction surface—are lighter than conventional discs, with six-piston calipers biting down on 15.6-inch front rotors and single-piston units applied to the rear 15.0-inchers. Gold-colored brake calipers are a status symbol among BMW drivers, since these indicate the presence of the optional carbon-ceramic rotors (0.2 inch larger in diameter up front), which drop 51 pounds of unsprung mass.

First and Frozen
When the M5 arrives next spring, 50 buyers can choose an M5 First Edition (out of 400 units worldwide) in Frozen Dark Red Metallic, which pairs difficult-to-maintain matte paint with black gloss kidney grilles, exhaust tips, 20-inch wheels, and window trim. Inside, white leather with red contrast stitching is used throughout the interior. All M5s sport a carbon-fiber roof, quad exhaust tips, and the usual aggressive chin spoilers and air intakes. Inside, the telltale signs that this is no ordinary fully optioned 5-series are the red start button and the illuminated M logos on the seats. Starting prices will likely creep closer to $100,000, the current norm among the highest-powered German artillery.

Even if the 2018 M5 won’t totally smoke a 707-hp Jeep Grand Cherokee, savor this moment of wretchedly excessive gas-powered cars and appreciate them for the celestial blessings they are.