Prototype Drive: BMW’s M5 storms onto the scene with hybrid power

BMW’s sledgehammer M5 has always won over enthusiasts, but could hybridisation jeopardise that? Jack Evans drives an early example to find out.

The new M5 will arrive in the UK later this year
BMW M5 The new M5 will arrive in the UK later this year (UWE FISCHER)

What is it?

A Touring version of the M5 will also be available shortly.
A Touring version of the M5 will also be available shortly. (UWE FISCHER)

You can think of the M5 as one of BMW’s battlecruisers. Throughout the years this heavyweight saloon – and sometimes estate – has sat at the top of the ‘M Car’ tree, delivering big performance in a package that could be used every day. Needless to say, it has always been a hit – particularly among enthusiasts – and it has been propped up by some iconic engines too.

For this latest generation of M5, things are taking a big shift towards hybridisation. For sure, the large V8 that has become synonymous with the M5 remains but it’s now hooked up to a spider’s web of batteries, motors and electronics. Ahead of its full reveal later this year, we’ve been driving a prototype version of the M5 to see what has changed.

What’s new?

The M5 can manage up to 42 miles on electric power alone.
The M5 can manage up to 42 miles on electric power alone. (UWE FISCHER)

Formed around the M5’s intricate underpinnings is a rather traditional saloon car body. The big news is that for this latest generation of M5 the iconic ‘Touring’ – BMW-speak for estate – will return, blending the spaciousness of a true ‘wagon’ with loads of performance that you’d expect from an M car.

The new M5 will also hit the road with quite a chunky price when it arrives in the UK at the start of November, with prices commencing from £110,500. However, with near-super levels of performance, it’s a price tag which seems to be justified by the M5’s underpinnings and level of upgrades over the standard 5 Series.

What’s under the bonnet?

The new M5 is all-wheel-drive as standard
The new M5 is all-wheel-drive as standard (UWE FISCHER)

As touched upon, the heart of the new BMW 5 Series is the 4.4-litre V8 that’ll be recognisable in capacity to those familiar with the previous-generation car. However now, it’s hooked up to a full hybrid system which boosts power up to a remarkable 727bhp and an incredible 1,000Nm of torque. They’re figures which would’ve been something to talk about in exotic supercars, let alone a saloon car that’ll seat five comfortably.

BMW claims 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds – helped no end by the M5’s all-wheel-drive system – yet you should still be able to travel 42 miles on electric power alone at speeds of up to 87mph. BMW also says that you could get up to 27.7mpg combined while CO2 emissions sit between 37 and 39g/km. However, drive the M5 in a more spirited fashion and that fuel consumption will likely increase considerably.

What’s it like to drive?

The new M5 combines petrol and hybrid power
The new M5 combines petrol and hybrid power (UWE FISCHER)

We got a series of spirited laps around the superb Salzburgring which feels carved into the mountains of western Austria. Setting off from the pit lane under electric power is quite an odd sensation in a BMW performance car, but it’s very quickly disrupted by the distance burble of the V8 engine as it chimes into play. Performance, as you might expect, is savage; the M5 fires along the straights with venom, yet it’s all remarkably easy to control and manage.

In fact, you could say that the M5’s refinement means you feel a little bit separate from the performance overall. The exhaust note isn’t that aggressive, either, so even though you’re travelling at some serious speeds, it doesn’t feel that untoward. As with the previous M5 you’re able to switch between the level of four-wheel-drive assistance you want, which gives you a great ability to change the character of the car on the fly. It’s all very level through the bends, though the car’s weight – a chunky 2.5 tonnes – is noticeable when you’re trying to get it stopped.

How does it look?

BMW has just unveiled the new M5 to the world – we drove camouflage pre-production versions – and, as you might expect, it’s a significantly more aggressive take on the look of the latest 5 Series. The front end is big and imposing with light-fringed front grilles, while side skirt extensions and and sculpted front apron add to the car’s presence.

There’s also an M5 logo embossed on the famous Hofmeister kink on the side, yet as on the previous M5 the wheel arches are somewhat flat in comparison to the approach taken throughout the rest of the car.

What’s it like inside?

A long wheelbase means more space inside
A long wheelbase means more space inside (UWE FISCHER)

The M5 models that we got to drive were fully camouflaged inside, giving very little indication as to what the cabin would look like as a result. However, new images show that it follows on from previous M5 models. That means more aggressive interior features such as large bucket seats and higher-quality materials. BMW has also equipped the M5 with plenty of shortcut buttons to help you get through to the main controls of the vehicle, allowing you to tweak the chassis, steering and braking systems – among others – via some specific buttons.

One thing that we’re glad has been kept in place is the ‘M’ buttons on the steering wheel. Sitting either side of the main wheel boss, these red buttons allow you to instantly change the car’s dynamic settings into ones that you’ve pre-selected. It means you don’t need to go delving through the screen to access them and this is handy when you’re on the move – and extremely handy when you’re on circuit.

What’s the spec like?

Quad exhaust pipes sit at the rear of the car
Quad exhaust pipes sit at the rear of the car (UWE FISCHER)

As mentioned, the new BMW M5 will cost £110,500 when it goes on sale on June 26. As well as the extensive mechanical upgrades working underneath, the M5 will get a suite of standard features to help justify its starting price. Full leather upholstery, for example, is included from the off – as you’d expect it to be – alongside four-zone air conditioning, heated front seats and a panoramic glass sunroof.

The main infotainment system centres around BMW’s latest curved display and Operating System 8.5, which brings all of the major functions and settings into one place, including climate control functions and seat heating. Of course, should you want them then there are many optional extras to choose from, including active seat ventilation and a variety of M Performance lightweight parts such as light-alloy wheels and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic exterior components.


The new M5 is already shaping up to be an impressive thing indeed. You might think that electrification would water down the experience, but that doesn’t seem to be the case from our initial findings here. It’s still got sledgehammer performance, but the added background of a decent electric-only range seems to add to the M5’s repertoire overall.

While we’ll have to reserve final judgment until we’re able to test the M5 out on the road, this short track experience shows that it’s a car which moves the game forward for fast performance saloons.