SANTA MONICA, California — So now that the 2011 BMW 5 Series is out in the open, it's time to move on to the really good stuff. We're referring to the next BMW M5, of course, you know the one we spotted on the Nürburgring late last year?
Now that we know the final shape of the standard model it's not too hard to fill out the details on the Motorsport-tuned M5. Unlike the M3, the M5 is always a bit more subtle. A deeper front air dam, extended side skirting and four pipes out back are the obvious cues along with lightweight wheels and a quarter-panel badging.
The big inlets up front are needed to feed the twin-turbo power plant that will reside under the hood. We received confirmation on that one from a BMW executive last year, so the only real question at this point is the final output. The 4.4-liter V8 will be the same motor used in the current X5/X6M models, so the M5 is guaranteed at least 555 horsepower. And the chances of BMW leaving it at that are slim, so something more in the range of 570-590 horses is a good bet.
Various rumors have also indicated that BMW is considering some type of electric assist for this M5 e.g. a production KERS system of sorts. That may have changed in the last year or so now that BMW is no longer participating in Formula 1. We asked our sources inside BMW anyway and they didn't have much to say. So either it's not going to happen or it hasn't been fully approved at this point.
One thing that is for certain is the use of BMW's M Double Clutch Transmission (DCT) in place of the current SMG setup. It could gain a gear over the M3's seven-speed setup, but either way it will be a huge upgrade over the single-clutch SMG.
Given that the standard 2011 BMW 5 Series is scheduled for its debut at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show, don't expect to see the 2012 M5 until either late this year or early in 2011.
Inside Line says: Horsepower still sells cars like the M5, but improved fuel-efficiency is necessary if BMW wants to keep it in the lineup. Look for big changes in both areas. — Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor