For the first time ever, BMW’s M5 will get all-wheel drive

BMW M5 camouflaged

It’s finally happening. The BMW M5 has always had an enthusiast-friendly rear-wheel drive setup, but the vast power of the current version, and BMW’s need to one-up itself, have led many to believe that the Bavarian automaker would adopt all-wheel drive.

That will indeed be the case with the next-generation M5, BMW confirmed. The new model is shaping up to be a very different car from the classic M5 models, but will it be better?

The good news for enthusiasts is that the new M5’s xDrive all-wheel drive system will allow the car to behave like a rear-wheel drive vehicle most of the time, so there should be plenty of room for well-balanced handling and sideways silliness. The system sends power primarily to the rear wheels, only bringing the fronts in under certain conditions.

Even in the default all-wheel drive mode with stability control on, BMW says the system will allow some rear-wheel slip to mimic the handling characteristics of rear-wheel drive. The stability control can also be deactivated completely, and “4WD Sport” and “M Dynamic” modes offer livelier handling. Drivers can even decouple the front axle completely, similar to the Mercedes-AMG E63’s “Drift Mode.”

This complex all-wheel drive system will be managing the power from a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, similar to the engine used in the outgoing-generation M5. BMW said the new version “outperforms its predecessor in terms of power output and torque,” but wouldn’t provide actual numbers.  The outgoing M5 makes 560 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque, but BMW pushed output to 600 hp and 516 lb-ft. for special-edition models.

The V8 will be harnessed to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Don’t expect a manual option, as sales of stick-shift BMW M cars have tanked. Instead of letting drivers shift their own gears, BMW will try to keep them engaged with an elaborate display and control setup encompassing a traditional gauge cluster, head-up display, and two “M Drive” buttons on the steering wheel that control vehicle settings.

Given that BMW is already teasing it, the next-generation M5 will likely appear sometime in the coming months. Given that the new M550i xDrive already outperforms the outgoing M5 in some respects, the next-gen model will need to make a great leap in performance. We’re eager to see what BMW comes up with.