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Battle of the super-saloons: how BMW’s new M5 is squaring up against the might of Mercedes-AMG

By Paul Connolly

It’s the ultimate battle of the high-end performance saloons: BMW’s new M5 is in a head to head with the Mercedes AMG E 63S.

The sixth generation of its BMW’s venerable performance saloon, based on the 5 Series model, has now had several months to establish its mettle in this specialist but critical niche.

But by last year, the blazing-hot new Mercedes AMG E 63S had put a significant dent in the M5’s three-decade dominance of this super-charged segment.

But with the new model, BMW has made a statement of intent that it is regaining the edge in a battle of two brilliant cars.

To the uninitiated, BMW M is the production subsidiary of BMW and effectively means “BMW Motorsport”.

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(The higher-production cars in the M sub-brand shouldn’t be confused with BMW “M Sport”, which is just a sporty trim on ordinary BMW models.)

So, what’s new with the latest M5? Well, for a start it’s all-wheel drive, there’s a new 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 engine, a new chassis, and new eight-speed automatic transmission.

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The stats are impressive: 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, 592bhp, 750Nm of torque and an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph.

BMW boasts that the M5 started the high-performance segment, and it’s hard not to disagree.

The first M5 was manufactured (hand-built, reportedly) in 1985 on a BMW 535i chassis. The second generation followed in 1988.

Fast forward 30 years to the sixth-generation car, on sale now. BMW says that, as well as the new engine, it’s the new M-specific, all-wheel drive system known as M xDrive that makes the 2018 new model car really special.

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M xDrive features a central control module and a variety of different dynamic modes that can be selected.

When first started, the car is in four-wheel-drive mode with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) switched on. But it comes with various driving dynamics modes, up to a track-friendly pure rear-wheel drive without DSC.

The manufacturer is at pains to point out that the pure rear-wheel-drive (two-wheel drive) mode is designed for track use by experienced drivers and is “dedicated entirely to pure driving pleasure without restrictive control systems”.

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This will be because having all that power directed only to the rear wheels will likely make the car – to use an American vernacular – buck like a bronco in inexperienced hands.

All this magic will cost you from £89,645. It’s on sale now.

The Mercedes-AMG E 63S, meanwhile, debuted a year before the M5, and immediately set down a very serious challenge to BMW’s dominance.

AMG – Mercedes’ performance wing – has transformed the flagship of the Mercedes E-Class fleet into a serious premium production car, the most powerful E-Class variant in history.

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It boasts a 4.0-litre twin turbo engine that pumps out 604 bhp (just 8 more than the Beemer) and an impressive 850Nm of torque (that’s a stonking 100 more than the M5).

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All this grunt will get you from 0-62 in 3.4 seconds, and, if you buy a special Drivers Package, some extra tuning will raise the top speed from 155mph to 186mph.

Transmission comes in the form of a nine-speed AMG Speedshift auto gearbox.

Like the M5, the AMG 63S now opts for four-wheel drive (the UK version being rather slower with this feature than other countries for some unknown reason), using the latest 4MATIC+ system.

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Drift mode allows you to turn the car back into a rear-wheel drive machine should you want to do that. This mode forces you to use manual transmission via steering wheel paddles.

The Mercedes E 63S will set you back circa £90k, about the same as the price of the BMW.

So has Mercedes-AMG finally put an end to BMW’s total dominance in this niche? Or has BMW done enough to see off the rising challenge? 2019’s sales figures should settle the argument once and for all.

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