It's been 20 years since the E28 BMW M5 sparked a new generation of super saloons. When the fourth incarnation of the M5 goes into production in 2006, will it be able to trump the Audi RS6 and Mercedes E55 AMG and reclaim its throne?

It's been 20 years since the E28 BMW M5 sparked a new generation of super saloons. When the fourth incarnation of the M5 goes into production in 2006, will it be able to trump the Audi RS6 and Mercedes E55 AMG and reclaim its throne?


The E28 BMW M5, powered by a development of the 3,5-litre 24-valve straight six engine used in the M1, M635i and 745i, was launched at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1985. Between October 1984 to June 1988, BMW produced 2100 E28 M5s. The Munich manufacturer followed up the original with an E34 version in the early 90s and the last incarnation, the E39, was powered by a 294 kW five-litre V10 engine. The M5 has been a fixture on the South South African market throughout its history.


But by the time the E39 M5 went out of production last year, it had been outmuscled by forced-induction rivals from AMG and Audi Sport. The 5,5-litre V8-powered E55 AMG and 4,2-litre V8-powered RS6, develops 350 kW and 331 kW respectively, but BMW will hit back with a 372 kW five-litre V10 in the new M5 (a concept of which was shown at Geneva in March). The engine will "produce 500 N.m of torque concentrated in the first half of the rev range", a BMW source was quoted as saying by .


BMW's new V10 will have 90-degree architecture, aluminium construction and four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing (double Vanos), individual throttle butterflies and an in-house-developed engine management system. In other words, BMW engineers will rely on revs to achieve the 25 per cent increase in power over the E39 M5. Rumour has it that the new engine will rev close to 8 500 r/min in production trim.


The car has a projected zero to 100 km/h time around 4,7 seconds. Like all M cars, top speed is limited to 250 km/h, although sources say an ungoverned M5 could reach about 300 km/h.


A new seven-speed version of BMW's sequential manual gearbox (SMG) operated via twin paddles fixed to the steering wheel or a stubby, chromed-topped gear lever. Drivers will be able to choose from 11 different programs - five automatic and six manual modes - to alter the gear-change characteristics.


The M5's power will be transmitted via an uprated version of BMW's limited-slip M differential. The diff measures the difference in wheel rotations left to right and apportions power depending on traction levels. It works in conjunction with a fourth-generation version of BMW's DSC + T system.


The new super saloon from Munich borrows components taken from the flagship 7 Series, including parts of its rear axle and brakes. Dry-sump lubrication allows BMW to set the engine aftward and closer to the ground and achieve a 50/50 weight distribution.

The entire load-bearing structure forward of the A-pillars is made from a mix of aluminium and lightweight high-tensile steel.


The car will employ the new 5 Series' Active Steering system and run on lightweight 10-spoke alloys shod with 225/40ZR front and 285/35ZR rear Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.


And will the M5's looks win over the public? "It's got real presence on the road," M division development boss Gerhard Richter said. "When we were out testing with final prototypes on public roads it was instantly spotted as being more than a normal 5 Series."


M division's chief designer Ulf Weidhase has lent some unique touches to the M5... The car has five sports chromed gills behind its front wheel arches and four chromed tailpipes poking out in pairs from each side at the rear.


There is a deep air dam with three cooling ducts, flared wheel arches, chunkier side sills and a complex rear bumper with a central diffuser designed to draw hot air away from the differential.


The production version of the new M5 is scheduled to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September.