Yet Mercedes-Benz AMG and Audi’s RS-building quattro division have shown that all-wheel drive is pretty darn effective when harnessing massive amounts of horsepower, and it appears BMW M has been paying attention.
The next BMW M5 could ditch its rear-wheel drive for all-wheel drive, according to a new report from Autocar.
BMW already uses all-wheel drive for the X5 M and X6 M SUVs, but M boss Frank van Meel told the magazine that more future M models will get it, and that the M5 and related M6 are the most likely candidates.
However, van Meel said those models would use rear-biased systems, which would presumably send most of the power to the back wheels unless extra traction is needed.
“The philosophy will remain rear-wheel drive, even if there is all-wheel drive,” he said.
Audi has used all-wheel drive for its performance cars since the original Coupe quattro, but more recently Mercedes’ AMG division adopted it for the E63 AMG – the M5’s main rival.
That’s largely down to drivability. The horsepower war among the German triumvirate (and their American and Japanese competitors) doesn’t show any signs of stopping, but as rear-wheel drive cars get more powerful, they get harder to control.
That might be all right in a purpose-built sports car, but cars like the M5 are supposed to retain everyday usability. No banker is going to buy one if they can’t get out of their driveway without going sideways.
M purists probably won’t like this, but considering that BMW has already broken many of the division’s self-established taboos – including the use of turbochargers and building M-badged SUVs – that ship has already sailed.
The real question is whether BMW can make an all-wheel drive M5 as lively and engaging as previous versions, or whether the next model will add another layer of teched-out isolation that might improve performance at the expense of subjective appeal.