We knew it was coming, and we've waited with bated breath for the 2012 BMW M5. With the Concept M5 set to make its public debut at the Shanghai auto show later this month, we have a clear look at BMW's next performance sedan.
The heart of any BMW M5 is its powerful engine, and the soul is its rear-wheel drive. While BMW has yet to release any output figures, the engine should at least match the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the X5M and X6M that produces 555 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. BMW says the new blown eight-cylinder will have a higher output than the 500-hp, naturally aspirated, 5.0-liter V-10 that we enjoyed in the 2010 M5. To increase efficiency 25 percent over the V-10, which was rated at a mere 11/17 mpg, the 2012 model will use an automatic start-stop function in combination with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to help save fuel. Drivers less interested in fuel economy will be happy to know BMW still uses M Drivelogic to tailor the DCT's performance to an individual driver's taste.
While the powerplant may attract a lot of attention, those in the know realize BMW's suspension is what makes taking an M to the track or a favorite back road so rewarding. Riding lower than a typical 5 Series, the M5's suspension tuning will take advantage of decades of racing knowledge and countless development hours spent lapping the Nuerburgring. For 2012, the M5 uses an Active M differential to split power between the rear wheels, which improves handling by allowing the outer wheel to spin faster in a turn. Putting the power to the pavement are lightweight 20-inch, five-spoke, forged alloy wheels wrapped in 265/35 ZR20 Michelin tires. BMW assures us the M5 has large enough brakes to lap the 'Ring right from the showroom.
Differentiating the M5 from lesser 5 Series variants is subtle, yet aggressive bodywork that hints at increased performance. Larger front air intakes cool the more powerful engine while implying the M5 packs a little more punch than a lowly 550i. The profile is accented by the black 20-inch wheels and signature M side gills on the front fenders. At the rear, the trunk gains a subtle lip spoiler and signature M quad-tailpipes protrude from an aggressive rear diffuser; both the spoiler and the diffuser aid in downforce at high speeds. The exterior modifications are slight, keeping with the BMW M tradition. The 2012 M5 is both a performance car and a luxury sedan, and its design conveys both purposes.
Pricing has yet to be released, but when it debuted, the last-generation M5's price started at $82,590 with the $695 destination charge, almost $24,000 over the base price of a 550i. Currently the most expensive 5 Series is the 550i xDrive, which starts at $63,375, including an $875 destination fee. We expect the pricing tiers to stay similar to that of the last 5 Series lineup, so the 2012 BMW M5 could come dangerously close to the $90,000 mark without a single option.
Some enthusiasts will bemoan BMW's decision to abandon its tradition of high-revving naturally aspirated engines and reliance on more complicated electronics, but the 2012 M5 promises to be a technological marvel. Can technology make this M5 as much fun to drive as its predecessors? We'll let you know as soon as we have a shot at the wheel.