BMW has unleashed its fastest, most potent car ever in the form of the BMW M5.
To be priced at around $250,000 when it arrives around March, 2018, the sixth generation of one of BMW's most iconic nameplates employs an upgraded 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8.
For the first time it will drive through all four wheels, an indication that the executive express that's as at home on German autobahns as it is on a race track was getting too powerful to just drive the rear wheels.
The M5 is a sizeable large sedan with lashings of space and comfort, but it also has a heap of oomph to ensure it accelerates like a sports car.
The V8 engine, a development of the same engine in the outgoing model – now with new turbochargers - makes 441kW and 750Nm.
The dash to 100km/h takes just 3.4 seconds – exactly the same time claimed by the rival Mercedes-AMG E63.
With the 250km/h electronic speed limiter removed the M5 is claimed to top 305km/h.
While it's blisteringly fast, it's actually slower than the model it replaces; engineers have clearly decided few people will miss the additional pace, either on the road or track.
While M5s have traditionally relished a blast along an autobahn, they've also always been developed and tuned with the race track in mind – and it's no different with this sixth-generation car.
As well as BMW in-house test tracks, engineers lapped the infamous Nurburgring track in Germany countless time with the view to improving the M5's dynamics and pace.
One of the development drivers was former F1 star Timo Glock, who says the M5 "goes beyond the precise, agile drive that we've come to expect – it also serves up a noticeable boost in traction and controllability, both in everyday situations and at the dynamic limit".
Although based on the 5-Series, the M5 gets many unique changes to its body and design as part of its go-fast mantra.
Larger, more aggressive bumpers provide better airflow and cooling, for example.
Like the smaller M3/M4 the M5 now comes with a carbon fibre roof, indicative of an intensive focus to reduce weight.
It also gets unique front guards and bonnet, each made from aluminium to reduce weight.
Despite the intense focus on reducing kilos the M5 is no featherweight; it is, after all, a large sedan with lashings of luxury gear and a big engine powering all four wheels.
All up there's 1855kg – almost 1.9 tonnes – making it heavier than a Holden Commodore.
Purebred driving pleasure
While the M5 has all the hardware to drive all four wheels, it's unique among performance cars in having a two-wheel drive mode.
Selectable in the main infotainment screen, the two-wheel drive mode diverts all drive to the rear wheels, for what BMW describes as "the ultimate driving experience" and something that "allows accomplished drivers to enjoy a purebred form of driving pleasure".
Which could be code for "much more fun for people who like doing burnouts or sliding sideways".
More power to the rear
Even with its regular four-wheel drive mode enabled, the M5 sends most of its power to the rear wheels, only bringing the fronts into play when traction is lost out back.
It's all about maintaining the balance, poise and feel of a rear-wheel drive car but having the additional traction and pace afforded by powering all four wheels.
Where the AWD system promises to provide the best biggest benefits is on loose or low-grip surfaces, such as gravel, wet roads and in snow.
The BMW M5 will go into the mix of cars vying to be the fastest with four doors.
Key rivals include the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and Audi RS6, as well as the Porsche Panamera.
While it doesn't have the race track nous of its V8 rivals, the all-electric Tesla Model S P100D Performance also provides initial acceleration to challenge the M5.
The homegrown HSV GTSR W1 is another giving the German thoroughbreds a high-powered run from Down Under, its 474kW Chevrolet supercharged V8 outgunning them all.
However, all W1s are sold out, meaning buyers instead have to go for the regular HSV GTSR.
For those who want pace and space there is unprecedented choice of impressive options, with the M5 currently the newest of the bunch.
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