2018 BMW M5: Muscle born from technology – STLtoday.com
These days, automotive muscle is techy and global.
The classic age of American muscle came just after the mid-point of the last century — late 1960s to early-’70s. Then the 1973 Arab oil embargo, among other factors, led to the downsizing and emasculation of heretofore fire-breathing brutes.
But, thanks to technology, a 21st-century renaissance of muscle is upon us, enabled by variable valve timing, artificial aspiration from turbos and superchargers, multi-gear transmissions, light-weight components, cylinder deactivation for socially acceptable consumption with retained fast-and-furious capability and much more.
Power isn’t dependent anymore on cubic inches and fuel consumption and awesome sedan muscle isn’t the sole purview of we Yanks. Today, the streets are crowded with such luminaries as the 550-hp Porsche Panamera Turbo, the 603-hp Mercedes E63, the 605-hp Audi RS7, the 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V and the 707-hp Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.
Among the early adopters of techno-muscle, of course, was the BMW M5, a high-performance iteration of the Bimmer 5-series that bowed in 1984 in its native Germany and arrived stateside three years later.
Arriving here early next year will be M5′s sixth generation, bringing with it something of a revolution.
The 2018 edition, for example, is the first M5 with all-wheel drive, the first with no manual transmission option and the first to shed curb weight with a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic roof to complement its, otherwise, aluminum-intensive construction.
Power is courtesy of the familiar 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 that makes 600 hp and 553 lb.-ft. of torque, twist available at a low 1,800 rpm. All that power is sent to all four wheels — unless the driver has other ideas — via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
With all performance parameters dialed in, this car will greet 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, BMW says.
Intriguingly, M5′s xDrive all-wheel-drive hardware, which is unsurprisingly rear-biased, is — surprisingly — convertible to exclusively rear-drive motivation at the driver’s discretion.
When the engine is started, the car defaults to all-wheel drive with all safety nets, like Dynamic Stability Control, engaged. However, the driver can vary the handling characteristics of the M5 by enabling various driving-dynamics modes, including a rear-drive mode sans DSC. At that point, this techy ride is, for the moment, a traditional rear-drive Bimmer.
In fact, with the combination of reconfigurable AWD, the Active M Differential, M Dynamic mode, the Sport mode, Drivelogic transmission settings (with three modes) and other wizardry, this M5 is said to offer — wait for it — more than 2,000 different ways to configure to personal taste steering, suspension, active safety nets, transmission shift characteristics, throttle response and all- or rear-wheel motivation.
It’s a brave new world.
Look for this technological revolution — and, since styling is only subtly altered, look closely — next spring. No pricing yet, but we’d be unsurprised by a window sticker within shouting distance of six figures.
Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor to the Post-Dispatch and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine’s online Web Bonus. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.