It's tough to think of a more desirable sport sedan than the BMW M5. Not that this fast Bavarian doesn't face formidable competition from the likes the Mercedes-AMG E 63 and Audi S6, but the M5 has cultivated a reputation that makes it fantasy fodder for car nuts who envision themselves testing their skills on the Nurburgring and then scooting down the autobahn to get home in time to take the family out for dinner.
The M5 is all-new for 2018, coming about a year after BMW redesigned the rest of the 5 Series lineup. On the surface, the changes are not massive. This is still a sleek and styling four-door sedan that challenges the world's most impressive sports cars in terms of outright performance. But the fact that BMW is still investing in the M5 is notable given the industry's continuing shift toward SUVs and crossovers; it seems a simple matter of time before BMW's hottest four-door is one of its M-badged SUV models.
But under the surface, we see that BMW is indeed still putting resources into updating this venerable speedy saloon. The biggest change is the M5's adoption of standard AWD, as the rest of the 5 Series range has done. Sure, RWD means better steering feel at the car's handling limits, but four-wheel traction makes any car better suited to year-round use, especially in northern countries where winter is a way of life as much as a meteorological phenomenon. Maybe this was inevitable, given BMW Canada says that as of this car's launch, 93 per cent of its brand-wide sales are AWD vehicles.
Purists take heart: the new M5 also has a stability control system that will divert all power to the rear wheels for when the only solution to any problem is to roast the rear tires right off the car.
And that kind of lurid activity isn't a challenge for the M5's 4.4L turbocharged V8, which pumps out a nice, even 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque -- additions of 40 hp and 37 lb-ft compared to the outgoing M5. Sadly, there's no more manual transmission, but with the new eight-speed automatic (it replaces the old car's six-speed manual and seven-speen dual clutch automatic) in its sportiest drive mode BMW says the M5 will do 0-100 km/h in as little as 3.4 seconds. Top speed is in excess of 300 km/h in track drive mode, which disables a speed limiter that otherwise cuts off the fun at 250 km/h.
BMW says that performance comes partly thanks to a weight-saving exercise that sees the car gain a carbon fibre reinforced plastic roof and a lightweight exhaust system. Meanwhile, the optional carbon ceramic brakes reduce unsprung weight by 23 kg, which makes it easier for the suspension to keep the wheels planted on the pavement.
As always, BMW makes it easy to augment the M5's appointments -- and starting price -- with a variety of extras. Among the paint selections are four special shades that command $1,450, and a full Merino leather interior adds as much as $5,900 to the bottom line. Those ceramic brakes are a $9,500 add and a Bowers and Wilkins sound system is worth $4,900.
At the time of this writing, BMW hadn't submitted its fuel consumption estimates to Natural Resources Canada, but we'd expect that the new transmission will yield a small reduction compared to the old seven-speed auto's 17.3/11.5 L/100 km (city/highway) estimates.