BMW adds all-wheel-drive and subtracts weight to make new and bigger M5 more driveable when the going gets tough
Monster sedan BMW M5 an easier drive The bonnet and side panels of the BMW M5 are made of aluminium, while its roof is made of carbon-fibre. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

There are two good reasons BMW has decided to equip its latest M5 with all-wheel-drive.

One, it helps the monster sedan clock a century sprint of below four seconds - a supercar benchmark. And two, non-pro drivers can now enjoy the beast without breaking into a cold sweat.

With 750Nm of delirium-inducing torque pouring out from its 4.4-litre bi-turbo V8 at 1,800rpm, the new M5 is not a car to be trifled with. But the immense output - translating to 600hp at 5,600rpm - now goes to four instead of two wheels, allowing the car to achieve better traction from the word go. A 3.5-second 0-to-100kmh dash for a rear-wheel-drive would have been very difficult to achieve.

If the car is specified with M Driver's Package, it will peak at a suitably lofty 305kmh, instead of the regulated 250kmh in the "standard" M5.

Impressive credentials aside, the M5 has never been an easy car to drive enthusiastically because of its size, weight and mad power. All-wheel-drive mitigates the challenges associated with this heady cocktail.

After all, you are talking about a car which is bigger than the regular 5-series sedan, measuring nearly 5m tip to tip, with a wheelbase of almost 3m and tipping the scales at just under 2 tonnes.

Yet, it is reasonably civilised at the wheel, with a hint of unwieldiness to be expected of its stature, but nothing that diminishes its sizeable comfort zone if you choose to drive more aggressively.

In Sport Plus mode, it is still relatively easy to pilot, even if you are keenly aware of limits which are ill-advised outside of a race track. For everyday use, it is thrilling enough to get your pulse up, but will not give you palpitations.

Besides all-wheel-drive, the car's adaptive suspension helps in this respect, shielding the driver from all but the most extreme dynamic conditions. It sets up a surprisingly cushy ride despite the 20-inch low-profile wheels. Sport Plus dials up the firmness noticeably, but is not hugely detrimental to comfort.

Variable ratio steering also helps to keep a tight rein on the massive M. Like the suspension, it dishes out a good measure of comfort to go with its acute responsivenss.

You wonder if rear-wheel steer would have made the car crisper around the corners, but that would have added weight, something BMW has kept a lid on (a car as big as the M5 could easily have breached two tonnes).

Its bonnet and side panels are made of aluminium, while its roof is made of carbon-fibre.

Inside, the M5 is super luxurious and sporty at the same time, with merino leather cladding its seats and nappa leather lining its cockpit. As before, it stores two drive combinations, where a pre-mix of steering, damping and throttle characteristics can be recalled instantly.

But this time, two small red tabs on the steering column facilitate this - far more dramatic than the discreet buttons on the steering boss.

The feature is great because it allows you to explore the M5's wide performance envelope whenever an opportunity arises.

The sportier modes project a rev counter on the head-up display. It would have been niftier if they set up the M seats - with adjustable hip bolsters - for a sportier drive too.

As pampering as the new M5 is, it has not forgotten the hardcore purist. Its rear-biased 4WD can be made even more rear-biased by selecting the 4WD Sport mode.

And if you like, you can, at the touch of another virtual button, turn the car into a pure rear-wheel-drive - with no traction aids. With this, things can go very right, or very wrong.