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Test Drive: 2013 BMW M5

 

Fast n' loud.

Great name for a TV show about cars, not so great a description of the 2013 BMW M5.

Oh, it’s plenty speedy, thanks to a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 good for least 560 hp.

I say “at least” because that’s a worst case scenario, according to BMW.

Independent dynamometer tests have shown that on a good day the M5 can actually crank out in excess of 620 hp.

That’d make it pretty much the most powerful luxury sports sedan ever, but the lowball number is nothing to scoff at.

Thing is, from the sound of it, you’d never know.

The M5’s engine and exhaust are so refined that it might as well be a stealth vehicle.

That was likely the point, but in a car with the sort of racing cred that comes the BMW badge, it can be disappointing.

Compared to the thunder blown out of the pipes of a Mercedes-Benz AMG product, the M5 is a mute swan.

BMW did try to address this issue, however, by pumping sampled engine noise through the speakers to increase the volume.

The effect, as far as I can tell, is to add a muffled whine to the background that sounds like the world’s smallest supercharger, or perhaps a dustbuster stuffed in the glove box.

I’m not really sure, as there is no way to disable it without ripping out a fuse, and that’s really no way to disable something.

But, for better or worse, even this backing track isn’t all that loud.

If you’re going to augment the excitement, at least turn it up to 11!

And include an off switch.

Perhaps fast n' fraudulent is a better characterization of the M5.

It continues to all of the performance upgrades the M division adds to the car to make you look like a better driver.

Take the computer-controlled limited slip rear differential and stability control system.

Leave all the electronic nannies engaged and you can literally enter a turn, floor the throttle and just sit there waiting for the exit while the car smoothly manages your speed and line.

It’s not the fastest way through a curve, but if you can crash the M5 in this setting I’d be impressed.

Switch it to M Dynamic mode, and the M5 still performs seemingly magical feats of physics, letting you hang the tail out just enough to get it pointed in the right direction, but not so much that you’ll go into a flat spin.

Don’t worry, human. Saved it!

Then there’s the transmission.

The M5 comes standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters, of course, but can also be had with an old-fashioned six-speed manual.

That makes it one of two super sedans I can think of that you can still buy with as stick, the other one being the Cadillac CTS-V.

But while the clutch engages abruptly, making stop and go driving a head-bobbing challenge, it too can take care of some of the work for you.

Like the Nissan 370Z and upcoming Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the M5 has an automatic throttle blipping feature to smooth out gear changes on downshifts.

Just press the clutch, select your gear and the engine matches revs perfectly.

Not so old-fashioned, after all.

This may seem like a crutch that removes some of the point out of driving a stick, but helps alleviate issues raised by perhaps the only true shortcoming the car has: she’s a big one.

Normally it’s not a concern, but ride this 4300-plus pound filly hard on the track for a while and there’s just so much the brakes can take.

While the stoppers never give in, the pedal gets long after a while, messing up its relationship to the otherwise perfectly placed accelerator, and making heel-toe downshifts difficult.

Something you no longer have to worry about, thanks to science.

Granted, this isn’t a car you’ll buy to take to the track often, but if you don’t take it there at least once you’ve wasted your $90,425.

Don’t do that.

In another surprisingly old-school nod for such a high-tech car, BMW swaps in a hydraulically-assisted power steering system in place of the more fuel-efficient, but less direct-feeling electric unit found on other 5-series models.

The only other automaker that does that sort of thing is Ferrari.

On the road, there’s almost too much feedback through the steering wheel, which jiggles with every nook and cranny the low-profile tires encounter.

In the middle of a cresting curve at 100 mph, there’s never enough.

In true BMW fashion, the M5 has a near perfect weight distribution, and is far more neutral in the turns than anything this big has a right to be.

Even if you encounter a little understeer along the way, you just have to throw a few more horses on the fire to bring the rear around.

Once you do, hold on.

On the long back straight at the Monticello Motor Club, I nipped the M5’s electronically restricted 155 mph limit, which can be unlocked to 190 mph outside of the U.S.

In the slightly lighter, 556 hp Cadillac CTS-V the best I’ve managed there is 145 mph.

In the much lighter 662 hp Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500? 160 mph.

That 560 hp rating is definitely suspect, no wonder the M5 keeps so quiet.

I won’t be filing a complaint.

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2013 BMW M5

Base Price: $90,425

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door rear-wheel-drive sedan

Engine: 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8

Power: 560 hp, 500 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

MPG: 17 city/22 hwy