Creating the sixth-gen BMW M5 involved more than the usual formula of adding extra horsepower and tweaking the exterior. The brand has endowed the high performance executive car with something very special this time around: M xDrive. The special setup retains sharp rear-wheel characteristics while providing loads of grip when needed, a welcome benefit on the streets of “Raincouver,” in a manner never quite done before.
“The core component of M xDrive is a central intelligence unit with M-specific software delivering integrated control of longitudinal and lateral dynamics. The new drivetrain technology — making its debut on the new BMW M5 — therefore combines all of the agility and precision of standard rear-wheel drive with the supreme poise and traction of the all-wheel-drive system,” said Frank van Meel, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW M GmbH in a news release.
“As a result, the new BMW M5 can be piloted with the familiar blend of sportiness and unerring accuracy on both the race track and the open road. And in various weather conditions, too.”
Five AWD modes are available to from, depending on whether Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is active. By default, 4WD with DSC is on, which still allows a certain amount of slippage to the back wheels, but will send power up front as needed for situations such as accelerating out of a corner. For tail-happy fun, though, drivers will want to switch over to M Dynamic Mode. The rear is permitted to slip even further, capable of carrying out a controlled drift in the right environment.
M xDrive is made possible via a pairing of specific software and two mechanical components: the transfer case and the Active M Differential. The former is responsible for distributing power front to rear, the latter then balancing out forces between the two rear wheels.
A refined version of BMW’s 4.4-litre bi-turbo V8 propels the M5 and features upgraded turbochargers, better cooling and a new, lighter exhaust system. Is 600 horsepower in a big four-door necessary? Probably not, but it’s certainly a hoot behind the wheel.
An efficient eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with paddle shifters is mated to the engine, geared to yield improved fuel economy. There’s no smoke and mirrors here, folks. Although a bit higher than the advertised 10.5 L/100 km in combined city and highway conditions, I was averaging 12.8.
Although a sports sedan, being in the M5 is a mostly quiet experience unlike siblings the M2, M3 and M4. A bit of noise is heard upon start up and when a performance mode is turned on. The interior is plush and comfortable, but the thick-spoke leather steering wheel and contrast M-colour stitching remind occupants of the vehicle’s racing heritage. The wheel also has a pair of bright red M1/M2 buttons attached, designed to each store different customizable user preferences for motor, gearbox, suspension, M xDrive, DSC and head-up display modes.
Prices start at $113,000.