Whenever a new version of the BMW M5 comes out, it's an occasion. A bit like a new James Bond film. For one of Munich's finest to wear that extra M badge, it has to be powerful, supremely talented on all sorts of roads, and have enough gadgetry to look as if it came from, well, a Bond film.
The standard 5 Series sedan has been a hit with buyers and dealers, and anticipation for the M version has been building since it launched in 2010. And now, at the Frankfurt Auto Show, the 2012 BMW M5 makes its world premiere. But it isn't business as usual.
While previous iterations have always used naturally-aspirated engines (without turbochargers or superchargers), this one straps a couple of turbos to its 4.4-liter V8 so it can fly down the road with 552 horsepower and 501 pound-feet of torque. For purists, this is like Agent 007 no longer being played by a toupée-wearing Scotsman, but a blond Englishman. Which might be no bad thing.
It doesn't just mean more power than its predecessor's 5.0-liter V10 (52 extra horses), it also means better fuel economy - 30 percent better, according to BMW. But sprinting from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and then hitting a top speed of 190 mph is also pretty impressive.
As befits a sports sedan, much of the technology is for the driver's delight. Suspension settings, throttle responses, and how much leeway the traction control and electronic stability control programs will allow before kicking in - all of these functions and more can be customized, and usually selected with some buttons on the steering wheel.
Just behind wheel are paddle shifters for the seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. A quick explanation: this kind of system uses one clutch for even-numbered gears and another for odd-numbered gears. It can "pre-engage" the next ratio (lower or higher), cutting down the time it takes to shift. Changing gears can be done by the driver (using the paddles) or it can sort things out by itself. It doesn't need a clutch pedal, so drivers who only use automatics will have no problem. But it's a heck of a lot of fun to use when it's installed in a fast car. Like an M5, for example.
The fun begins for US car buyers next spring; pricing will be announced nearer the time. So... when is the next Bond film coming out?
See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.
|COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.|