The BMW M5, in all its six generations, has been widely regarded as the stuff of legend. But as the automotive landscape changed around it, the M5 was forced to modernize as well—and as with any M car, we’ve passed a number of “last” models: the E34, the last handbuilt M5; the E39, the last manual-only M5; the E60, the last naturally-aspirated M5; and the F10, which was to be (although we didn’t know it at the time) the last rear-wheel-drive M5.
A couple weeks ago, BMW of North America invited the media to attend a two-day press-drive event at the the Thermal Club outside of Palm Springs, California. Thermal is also home to BMW Performance Center West, and there isn’t a better proving ground than that to test a wide range of BMW’s latest models—including the new 2018 M5.
When the M5’s switch to all-wheel-drive was announced, the BMW world (and its many forums and Facebook pages) went into heated debate mode. Would AWD tarnish the famous M5 balance? Or would BMW leave the freedom of control up to the driver, the 600-horsepower V8, and the two rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires?
While hundreds of articles can tell you how the all-wheel-drive system (dubbed “M xDrive”) reinvents the M5 on paper (like its Car & Driver-tested 2.8-second 0-60 time), we wanted to give you some assurance that the M5 would be not just a numbers machine, but a driver’s car through and through—and here to deliver that reassurance is Bill Auberlen, a 400-race BMW factory driver and now BMW M Brand Ambassador.—David Rose