Great Car for a One-Track Mind
The new BMW M5 sedan is ridiculously fast. Illustrates WHEELS-BMW (category l) by Warren Brown, special to The Washington Post, Moved Friday, April 12, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Daniel Kraus/ka.plewka)
BMW’s marketers brag that their company’s new M5 sports sedan was “developed on the racetrack for everyday use.” They are being cheeky.
Everyday streets are not racetracks. When not blocked by repair work, many are compromised by traffic congestion. Strict speed limits apply in either case.
It all means the BMW M5 sedan, completely reworked for 2013, is wonderfully out of sync with everyday driving.
The car is ridiculously fast. Equipped with its standard twin-turbocharged, 4.4-liter, aluminum V-8 gasoline engine (560 horsepower, 500 pound-feet of torque), it moves from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds. That’s with its standard-for-2013 seven-speed, automated manual dual-clutch transmission.
Think of that transmission as a totally integrated automatic/manual gearbox that does not require left-foot activation of a floor-mounted clutch. You can manually shift, either via rubber-backed paddle shifters mounted left and right beneath the steering wheel, or by using a hand lever mounted in the floor-level center console.
For M-Class aficionados who prefer traditional manual transmissions, an optional six-speed manual is available at no extra cost. It moves from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds. There is nothing “everyday” about that.
Nor is the new M5 sedan’s price “everyday.” It starts at $90,200, up $300 from its base sticker of $89,900 earlier this year. Add $7,400 for two of the most popularly chosen options (Executive and Driver Assistance packages) and you are looking at a price of $97,600. And we haven’t yet tacked on $1,300 for the optional 20-inch diameter M-Class light alloy sports wheels, or the $895 assembly plant-to-dealership transportation charge, or the $1,300 for the federal gas-guzzler tax.
The latter penalty is attached despite BMW’s laudable efforts to be a green player with its new M5. The car’s predecessor came with a normally aspirated (no turbochargers or superchargers to force more air into combustion chambers), 5-liter V-10 engine developing 500 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It swilled premium gasoline.
BMW’s engineers and marketers say the smaller twin-turbocharged V-8 in the new M5 is 30 percent more fuel efficient, albeit substantially more powerful than the V-10 it replaced.
But the continued attachment of a federal gas-guzzler tax means it still gets less than 22.5 miles per gallon in combined city-highway fuel consumption. In the real world, it translated to this: $65 to pump three-fourths of a tank of required premium gasoline into the new M5’s 21.1-gallon tank after a 300-mile round-trip through Virginia.
I say none of this as a complaint. The new M5 is what it is. But it’s definitely not an everyday automobile. Nor was it ever intended to be.
It is for an affluent subset of motorists who have the money and time to enjoy the car the way it was meant to be driven — on a track. The new M5 sedan’s “family” attributes — its four doors, easy ingress and egress, comfortable rear seats, reasonably capacious trunk — constitute political and market compromise, bordering on deliberate pretense.
The simple truth is that most of the people who buy this car would rather not play chauffeur to passengers of any kind.
They don’t want hear the cries of “slow down!” when the M5 rockets to 60 miles per hour and beyond.
They don’t want to hear “that’s a curve!” when the M5 takes a curve with the ease and confidence of moving along a straightaway.
M5 owner/drivers are a breed apart.
They’d rather be alone with their M5, preferably on a racetrack, for which it was designed.