First Look: Next-gen BMW M5

“I’ve never taken the corners like that before.”

by on Aug.17, 2011

BMW's new M5 will make an impressive 560 horsepower out of its new V8.

BMW offered a quick peek at the next-generation M5 sedan, a rocket on wheels that it plans to bring to market next year.

While journalists weren’t given a chance to drive the prototype briefly revealed during a presentation at the Laguna Seca Raceway, near Monterey, California, BMW officials offered up some critical information on what M-fans can expect.

It has not yet been determined whether the new muscle car will be designated a 2012 or 2013, but model-years aside, it will feature a new 4.4-liter V-8 using dual twin-scroll turbos designed to both eliminate initial turbo lag and maximize performance once those boosters “spool up.”

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That translates into 560 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, the next-generation BMW M5 expected to launch from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds.  Notably, while horsepower will be up 10% and torque increased 20% from the prior-generation BMW M5, the upcoming model is expected to deliver as much as a 30% improvement in fuel economy due to the introduction of a variety of advanced technologies.

The next-gen M5 next to a 1988 version, the first M5 sold in the U.S.

The direct-injection V-8 will be the first model sold by the formidable M sub-brand to make use of BMW’s Valvetronic technology.  This electronically optimized system rapidly adjusts both intake and exhaust valves to maximize performance and mileage while also minimizing emissions.

Meanwhile, BMW will introduce a new Active Differential on the new M5 which will be capable of shifting torque, as needed, between left and right rear wheels to ensure maximum traction, both at launch and under aggressive driving maneuvers.

A look at the uncovered 4.4-liter V8 used in the next-gen M5 reveals, among other things, its dual twin-scroll turbos and electronic controls.

That reflects a significant shift in strategy, suggested Brian Watts, the global marketing manager for the M brand.  “Two years ago, we would’ve focused on straight line acceleration.  Now we no longer limit it to one single factor,” but aim to maximize handling, braking and other aspects of performance.

Like all other BMW M models, the new M5 has been undergoing extensive testing on the grueling German Nurburgring, unofficially setting several new lap records, company officials hint.  “I’ve never taken the corners like that before,” said Watts, who had a few days driving time at the track earlier this month.

One of the side ports on the new M5.A few details have not yet been finalized, such as whether BMW will offer a manual gearbox option for the new M5.  It’s slated to debut with a 7-speed DCT, or dual-clutch manumatic gearbox.

The launch of the next-generation M car will be critical for BMW, Watts and other BMW officials acknowledged.  The maker – which has long boasted of building the “ultimate driving machines” – has seen German competitors such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi, as well as Cadillac and Lexus, ramp up their own performance bona fides in recent years.

“We have to stay at the pinnacle,” said Watts, if the performance brand is to remain “the most powerful letter in the world.”

BMW's new raging bull revs up following a preview at the Laguna Seca Raceway.

In decades past, BMW used that letter to designate a relatively small portfolio of performance products, and often an M model would be offered in very limited numbers for the briefest of times.  That, in fact, is the case with the limited-edition 1-Series M, only 800 of which will be sold through the end of 2011.

But the M name has become much more common, on the whole, applying to a mix of sedan, coupe and even crossover products, such as the current X6M.

And, as today confirms in a separate report, a diesel-powered BMW supercar will be introduced early next year, though it may carry the unusual designation of 550dXM, referring to both its diesel and all-wheel system.  (For more on this breakthrough model, Click Here.)

During a preview of the new M5, Watts was asked whether the M brand is a write-off for BMW, many competitors expecting to lose money on their performance models in exchange for the added publicity and bragging rights.

“We make money (on the sub-brand),” the marketing exec stressed, adding that, “the money we make goes back into R&D.”

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