The new BMW M5 drew numerous glances of admiration at Auto Africa on Monday. Not only is it powered by BMW’s most powerful production engine, but the 378 kW beast is also a study in understated sophistication.

The new BMW M5 drew numerous glances of admiration at Auto Africa on Monday. Not only is it powered by BMW’s most powerful production engine, but the 378 kW beast is also a study in understated sophistication.


The M5 dynasty began at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1985, when 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. Between October 1984 and June 1988, BMW produced 2 100 E28 M5s. The E34 version followed in the early 90s and the last incarnation, the E39, was powered by a 294 kW V8. 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 develop 350 kW and 331 kW respectively, but BMW has hit back with a 378 kW V10 in the new M5 (a concept of which was shown at Geneva in March).


The new M5 is distinguishable from its 5 Series siblings by its modified front and rear aprons and side sills. For the first time on an M5, the front wings now incorporate an air duct, which helps keep the engine bay cool, and a new door mirror design.


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 back 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 employs 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.


CARtoday.com reported recently that BMW had unveiled the most powerful production engine in its history. Revving to 8 250 r/min, the F1-inspired 40-valve V10 produces 25 per cent more power than the previous M5 engine. BMW M GmbH claims the engine, which consists of two five-cylinder banks arranged at an angle of 90-degrees, produces peak power of 378 kW and a maximum torque of 520 N.m.


The M5 will go on sale in South Africa in the second quarter of 2005 (prices have yet to be confirmed). It is claimed to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 4,7 seconds and to 200 km/h in 15 seconds before reaching an electronically limited top speed of 250 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 can choose from 11 different programs - five automatic and six manual modes - to alter the gear-change characteristics and preferred SMG, electronic damper control and DSC modes and, if specified, the rate of support the Active Seat Control side bolsters offer, via the iDrive controller.


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 function of the head-up display is also altered when the MDrive button is activated. The default setting sees speed, navigation instructions, check control messages and cruise control settings projected onto the windscreen in the driver's line of sight.


However, if MDrive is activated, gives rev and vehicle speed readings that both flash at the driver when the next gear needs to be selected.


Stopping power comes courtesy of cross-drilled ventilated discs and twin-piston callipers. The M5 decelerates from 100 km/h to zero in 36 metres, and from 200 km/h to zero in 140 metres.