Still skeptical of M cars coming with xDrive? Consider a recent take from Forbes in which contributor Rob Reed, who happens to own a 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, opines that the F90 M5 Competition is perhaps the better alternative. What makes the M5 so great, according to the article, is its ability to transform itself—at the mere push of a programmable choice of buttons—from the conventional looking executive sedan with which it shares a basic form, to the fire-breathing thoroughbred with all-weather performance beneath. In BMW marketing speak, the M5 and M5 competition are world class athletes wearing business suits—press one of the distinct red M buttons on the steering wheel, and say goodbye to the rear Michelins.
We’re not deriding the 911 by any means, and it doesn’t seem like the Forbes article is either. Rather, with price points that naturally invite the cross-shopping comparison, and with the M5 now able to tackle all climates thanks to xDrive, the juxtaposition is now more relevant than ever. Ignoring important factors like inflation and resale value, the 911 has only become more expensive over the years, and today, a decently well equipped 992-generation Carrera 4S is comparable in price with an M5 Competition.
What about the driving experience; Surely the nimble 911 remains superior to the large M5, which eclipses the rear-engined coupe in every dimension? It depends on who you ask, and according to Forbes, other performance competitors from BMW and even Mercedes-AMG now offer stiff competition against the marque that has long been associated with the gold standard of the highly subjective metric. According to Forbes contributor Rob Reed, we owe this democratization of performance to technology, “Thanks to seemingly unlimited horsepower and a bevy of performance technologies, everything from a station wagon to a hatchback to this redefinition of the four-door sedan offers an experience that was once exclusive to top sports cars.”
We think Reed makes a good point. It wasn’t long ago when, technology as it applied to the automotive world, was still in its infancy, and more often served to aggravate than alleviate. That era is over now, and the latest generations of vehicles from manufacturers the world over are a testament to how things have changed. Navigation system screens can now be touched, or simply waved at for interaction, and it no longer takes what used to feel like hours for the GPS map to zoom in or out. Voice commands are now understood more often than ever before, and in the latest development, cars have gained personalities similar to hose on our phones.
The same thing has been happening beneath the layers of sheet metal, rubber, plastic, and other materials that make up a modern automobile. Yes, engines are now more efficient and powerful than ever, while transmissions are smarter and faster than the best driver, but it also applies to the multitude of sensors and control systems that branch out across a vehicle like nerves in the human body.
A decade and a half ago, when cars like the E60 M5 were just hitting the market, having to press a button to unlock the V10 engine’s full 500 horsepower was a process that was lamented and decried. The F10 M5 was another step in the right direction, but the incredible power and torque developed by its M TwinPower Turbo V8 is simply too much for exclusive rear-wheel motivation in all but the most select and special circumstances. Today, a few generations down the line, people are singing the praises of the F90 M5, thanks to xDrive that is allowing it to compete with some of the fastest cars on the market, and electronics that facilitate full embracing of the multi faceted personality cars like it can offer.
One can’t ignore the practicality and every day usability aspect of the M5 over the 911, either. The 911 isn’t an impractical car by any means, offering rear rear seats and decent storage capacity, but in comparison to the M5’s full-size rear seating and trunk, the two definitely apply to different markets, and people at different stages of life. Even with all of the aforementioned in mind, we’ve still just barely scratched the surface of the proposition for an executive sedan with all-weather performance and more than 600 horsepower at the price of a mid-range 911.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.]