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When the current BMW 5-series was launched a year ago, the natural question from most enthusiasts was, “So when is the M5 coming?” The obvious answer — later. Well, later is now. At the Shangai Motor Show in China this week, BMW will pull the wraps off the M5 Concept, and since we all know how loosely BMW uses the term concept, we know we’re pretty much looking at the production version, which should bow at the Frankfurt Show in September of this year.
The concept version of the new M5 follows the formula of past models — powerful engine, subtly aggressive but functional bodywork enhancements, upgraded chassis components, and serious wheels. We expect very little to change between this car and the one that will arrive in dealers as a 2012 model.
Power for the M5 Concept comes from a twin-turbo V8. Though details haven’t been released at this point, the 4.4-liter engine that currently powers the X5M/X6M is rated at 550 horsepower. BMW claims the concept car uses an entirely new, high-revving engine with optimized internal efficiencies. Given that description, it’s reasonable to expect at least 550 horses from the new M5, though speculation is that perhaps as much as 600 horsepower could make its way into the sedan. That power will be fed to a seven-speed M-DCT gearbox with auto-start-stop functionality. It remains to be seen whether BMW will once agin offer American buyers a pure manual transmission option, as it did with the last generation of M5, but we suspect there may not be a manual gearbox capable of handling the new engine’s output. Beyond that, the combination of the V8 and DCT result in a substantial reduction in fuel consumption and emissions, at least 25% according to BMW.
The chassis benefits from a specially tuned version of the 5-series’ dynamic chassis control system, optimized for performance on the Nürburgring. An electronically-locking active differential ensures power gets to the ground, regardless of traction. Wheels and tires are massive — 265/30ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sports all the way around. The M-specific lightweight wheels cover some serious large, multi-piston brakes as well, though no specs were released on those.
Aero work is the highlight of the visual changes. A new front bumper integrates three large scoops. The center scoop feeds air to the massive cooling system, while the two side ducts supply cooling air to the intercoolers and the front brakes. The bottom surfaces of the apron are optimized for airflow around and under the car, and the kidney grilles have been blacked out for a more aggressive appearance. Wider front fenders incorporate the familiar M gills, which have evolved slightly for this application. The rear bumper houses two pairs of exhaust tips and uses a diffuser-style lower surface to manage airflow. A tastefully small but functional spoiler has been applied to the edge of the trunk lid to add downforce at higher speeds.
No interior details were shown or even hinted at, but we suspect there will some serious multi-contour sport seats standard, and plenty of black Alcantara on the steering wheel, dashboard and headliner.