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BMW unleashes radical new M5

Words: Glen Waddington; pictures: BMW

Back in 2018 (issue 180, to be precise) Octane tested all six generations of the iconic BMW M5 sports saloon back to back. And now Version 7 is here – 40 years almost to the day since the original E28 version was launched.

It’s fair to say it has evolved continually during that time, beginning life with a comparatively modest yet glorious straight-six that lasted the first two generations, becoming possibly the most rounded sports saloon of all time in V8-powered E39 mode, going bonkers with the E60 V10, then upsetting the M purists first by going twin-turbo and then four-wheel-drive.

And here we have the first hybrid generation. Yup, it’s heavy, around 2.4 tonnes thanks to an 18.6kWh battery pack mounted under the floor, but it’s also massively endowed with power and torque. There’s a 194bhp electric motor housed within the eight-speed automatic gearbox, plus a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 up-front that punches out 523bhp. Add that pairing together and you get a colossal 717bhp, not to mention 737lb ft of torque. In metric terms, the latter makes for a suspiciously rounded 1000Nm.

One more figure to ponder: £110,000, and it will surely be easy to add to that starting price, thanks to BMW’s usual generous options list, from which you can pluck ceramic brakes and a carbon pack, which includes the roof panel and deletes the standard-fit sunroof. Together they shave 54kg from the scales. Hmm. Think instead of less unsprung mass and a lower centre of gravity. Or straightforward boasting.

Plant the throttle and that combo of petrol-fire and electrons will fling you from a standing start to 62mph in 3.5sec, actually a tad slower than the briskest of the outgoing generation (the F90 Competition did it in 3.3). Thank the greater inertia for that; the old car danced about 150kg under the two-tonne limbo bar, so the added flab here is considerable. It maxes out at 155mph, but as usual that’s limited and more like 190mph is available if you tick the right option box.

Power again goes to all four wheels, in a variety of available torque splits that includes rear-drive only; the rear wheels steer too, and not only on the throttle. But unlike any M5 before, you can power this one from a plug and get about 40 miles on a charge without troubling the V8. Not that it’s really that kind of car, but hey, great to have naughty /and/ nice. And if you fancy scaring your labrador, a Touring version is set to follow in a couple of months.

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