New BMW M5 revealed: meet M’s heavyweight plug-in hybrid | CAR Magazine

New BMW M5 revealed: meet M’s heavyweight plug-in hybrid

Published: 25 June 2024 Updated: 25 June 2024

► BMW’s new G90 M5 super-saloon has arrived
► Big, brutish and rather heavy – with 717bhp
► On sale now for £110k in the UK

It had to happen. No, really: M division felt it had no other option. The new G90 M5 simply had to be a hybrid. When work began on the car a full six years ago, as soon as the then-controversial all-wheel-drive F90 was unveiled (the wailing lasted only as long as it took us to drive the thing), M’s senior team surveyed the uncertain global outlook and decided it simply couldn’t risk another engine-only M5.

‘Electrification remains an issue,’ says CEO Frank van Meel. ‘Maybe it slows down a little but it will not go away, and the countries are all different. They’re not consistent, and they’re not consistent in their direction. You have to be flexible, and with the M5 now we are flexible in every direction. We don’t lose where we came from and, at the same time, we can be ready for changes. Without electrification we ran the risk that we would not be allowed to sell the car in certain markets.’

The result is an all-new, bigger, heavier, faster and more powerful M5 of significant complexity. It sits on the same platform as the new-gen 5-series and i5, obviously (and gains rear-wheel steering, among other things, by doing so) – a platform in which M had a good deal of input at the gestation phase, bracing it for the additional power it’d end up putting through it.

There’s a V8 up front, again, though it’s a different engine to the F90’s, being the S58 unit that arrived with the X5 M/X6 M. The gearbox houses an electric motor (drawing from an 18.6kWh battery, weighing around 220kg, under the floor), and the V8 and e-motor can work independently, driving through the transmission and xDrive all-wheel drive (in electric-only mode this is a 195bhp EV with 206lb ft, an 87mph top end and an official range of 43 miles) for a bombastic turn of straight-line speed: 0-62mph in 3.5sec and 189.5mph from a system capable of 717bhp and 738lb ft (it could cook up more torque but that’d break the gearbox).

You’ll notice that, visually, this M5 is more exuberant than its predecessors, with bulging arches over beefier track widths (increased 75mm at the front over the 5-series; 48mm at the rear). They’re testament to M’s work in mitigating the extra weight the hybrid powertrain has thrown its way. And there is, sadly, quite a bit of additional weight. This is a 2435kg M5 (2375kg if you spend big on the right lightweight options, including the carbon roof and ceramic brakes). Dirk Hacker, M’s head of development and van Meel’s right-hand man, breaks the circa 465kg increase (the F90 M5 Comp weighed in at 1979kg) down as 220kg for the battery and 50kg for the motor, noting that the rest can be blamed on more metal (this M5 is a larger car in every dimension) and a higher level of standard equipment.

‘The biggest challenge was the grip on the front axle – we didn’t want to lose that precision and agility,’ explains van Meel. ‘So, we have a wider track, and not just for optical reasons. This is what we needed to get back into the sweet spot, and we managed it quite well I think.’

The interior, familiar yet enhanced here with some M-specific flourishes, not to mention its trademark steering wheel, is roomy and suitably well-appointed. M’s carbon buckets aren’t an option, understandably, though they’d be handy to help counter the nagging sense that you sit a little high (in terms of hip height there’s a small but real difference: 523mm in the F90 versus 564mm here). The 5’s vast touchscreen houses the myriad set-up options, including those of the hybrid system, but you need only brave their granular detail once before grouping them and assigning them to the M1 or M2 button.

UK M5s will get the M Drive Professional pack as standard, including a neat M division answer to digital distraction: M Track Mode. It turns off the multimedia screen, the driving assists and, should you have Radio 4 on at the time, the shipping forecast, so you can focus on the job at hand. The bundle also includes the M Lap timer, Boost mode and Dynamic Plus (two additional hybrid modes: Dynamic, for sustained fast road running or 20-minute track slots, and hot-lap-ready Dynamic Plus).

Prompt Boost mode with a long pull on the left gearshift paddle, ideally at lower speeds for optimum fireworks. The e-motor will briefly work against the V8, allowing it to build boost pressure for no increase in speed, before letting fly with everything both motors can give.

Can anyone recall asking for a bigger, heavier, more powerful M5? No, us neither. But at least we have another M5, and its electric-only range – not to mention its monstrous turn of speed and impressive dynamics – will likely make it a compelling, road-focused all-rounder, particularly in big-booted Touring guise. The saloon is on sale now, priced from £110,500, with first deliveries in November. 

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three