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2013 BMW M5 Overview
The ill-disposed amongst us will always find a reason to grumble. It’s true. Even with more power and increased efficiency packaged with better delivery, people will still lament in the name of what once was. With the new M5, those improvements come via the M TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter V8—branded internally as the S63 TU—and enthusiasts are already pining for the familiar whine of the high-revving V10.
Yes, the V8 won’t spool to the atmospheric heights of the old V10. Don’t be fooled by its 7,200-rpm redline, either, as peak hp arrives at 6,000 and starts a graceful exit shortly thereafter. But the V10 was missing something the V8 delivers in excess on big, flat platters: torque. With the V10, one had to wait until after 6,000 rpm for its 380 lb-ft of torque to make themselves known. Here you’ll get 502 lb-ft showing up at just 1,500 rpm and sticking around until just before peak hp at 5,750 rpm—a difference akin to that between a fastball and a cannonball.
And in keeping with the cannonball imagery, the M5 has gained a bit of weight despite the liberal use of aluminum in chassis and suspension alike. Expect about 90 extra pounds over the common 5 Series, but we doubt you’ll notice the difference as you’re coasting across the 4,200-rpm torque table toward the 560 horses waiting for you at 6,000 rpm. Besides, here you’ll enjoy actual hydraulic steering rather than the electro-boost found in the rest of the 5 Series stable. What’s more, BMW has made sure there’s a 6-speed manual as a no-cost option. Yes, it’s slower than the new 7-speed dual-clutch, but process is just as important as performance.
That said, the steering and manual transmission are about the only things not digital on this executive express, and for those expecting the delivery typical of the old V10, that’s a good thing. BMW assures there’s no lag involved with this setup, and at 1,500 rpm the full 500 lb-ft of torque arrive nearly off-idle. According to testers, it’s enough to take the uninitiated by surprise and have you facing the wrong direction in a hurry, were it not for the nest of digital nannies included. Seven buttons surround the gearshift in automatic and manual flavors alike, waiting to augment settings for the traction and stability control systems, throttle, suspension, steering, transmission character and the parking assist and camera systems. It’s enough to make you forget you got in the car to actually drive rather than play pit assistant, but it’s merely another set of skills to adopt and make your own. Old men say cars used to take skill to drive. Now they take skill just to turn on.
Once you figure out the correct combination, 60 mph is just 3.7 seconds away from a standing start, and if the code can be cracked, the M5 will stretch its legs out to 190 mph, all while comforting you with optional heated/ventilated seats, dual-zone automatic climate controls front and back, power sunshades, a night-vision camera, head-up display and a DVD system with dual rear screens. Engine noise is pumped in through the stereo to help you enjoy the acoustic arrangement despite the prodigious insulation, and if you want to make sure it sounds the best it can, you can even opt for a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen system—available only in the M5.
I suppose that’s indicative of the overall character of the M5, this need to isolate and recreate. All the electronic aids add up to a dramatic recreation of real life, a sort of life-lite designed to give the essential experience with so much less of the danger. Thankfully BMW has figured out a damned good compromise and remembered to keep things analog in all the important places. It’s definitely different than the last M5, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.