First Drive: 2013 BMW M5 at Laguna Seca Raceway

by Bernie McGroarty on August 29, 2012, 1:50 pm
BMW M5

Last week, I was lucky enough to be at the launch of the 2013 BMW M5 in Monterey. I got to spend some good quality alone time with the car while in California. From some hot laps at Laguna Seca, to some letís just say spirited, touring of the streets outside Salinas, the M5 really showed what it is capable of.

BMW M5

At first look, the 2013 BMW M5 is one sleek sedan. But look closer and you begin to notice the characteristic that make this sedan different, that make it an M. The front air dam has 3 large openings, to aid in cooling, but also look menacing; side gill vents with the M5 badge; M rear diffuser; and signature M quad exhaust pipes. Cap all that off with a flashy set of 20Ē (optional, stock wheels are 19Ē) forged light alloys covering some large 6 piston front calipers in blue. Not overly done, but just enough to let you know it means business.

BMW M5

The interior speaks luxury, but still has a sporty feel. Once you settle in to the M Multi-contour seat, you feel like part of the car. The M steering wheel has a great feel and look. All controls are within comfortable reach, with the M buttons on the wheel and M Dynamic controls framing the shift knob. Itís quite the cockpit.

BMW M5

At the heart of this beast lies a 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 that kicks out a tire melting 560hp and 500ft/lbs of torque. The car I drove was paired with the M-DCT 7-speed transmission, making for super fast and precise gear changes. For those who crave a manual gearbox, a 6 speed is also available. Time to hit the streets. I headed out on the local roads and instantly hit some slower traffic. Well, I guess this would be the perfect time to assess what the M5 would be like under normal driving conditions (traffic!). The M5 is quite comfortable. Pavement changes are handled nicely and the ride is smooth. Steering felt a little soft, but for an easy drive, it was ok. I wouldnít mind my commute in this car. That was comfort mode across the board. There are 3 settings for each M Dynamic control: comfort, sport and sport plus. This is where you can really alter the personality of the M5 and also the expressions on you face. A passing zone was in the distance, so I chose to go all in on sport plus. A quick drop of the throttle and Iím sent hurling toward the horizon. The acceleration pushes me hard back in the seat as I grab a couple gears from the M DCT, which happen lightening fast. Throttle response is crisp and the shifts are wicked fast. With all that torque coming in at a low 1500 rpms, you can feel the tires fight for grip as traffic disappears in the rear view mirror.

BMW M5

Off the main road, the M5 eats up corners with the utmost of poise. The suspension is firm and body roll is kept to a minimum. Steering is noticeably tighter and has a more precise feel. Braking is solid and taken care of with ease, thanks to a set of massive 6 piston calipers grabbing some 15.7inch rotors up front. The M5 is definitely an extremely fun car on the street, but now that Iím feeling a bit more comfortable (and still ticket free), itís time to hit the track. Laguna Seca with itís 11 turns and infamous cork screw, happens to be the perfect environment for unleashing this cars full potential.

BMW M5

Itís been a while since Iíve been on the track, so I made sure to build up my speed lap by lap, rather than just dropping the happy pedal and hoping for the best. I pushed braking deeper and deeper into the braking zones and the M5ís huge brakes slow my roll pretty well, but require a decent amount of pedal input. My foot and leg actually got quite the workout. The carbon ceramic option could be the way to go if you catch the track bug. Turn in is quick and precise. The firm suspension keeps the car well planted through the corners, and inspires confidence. Michellin Pilot Super Sport tires offer superb grip lap after lap. Throttle response is quick and with that 500 ft.lbs. of torque calling to you from just 1500 rpms, acceleration out of corners can be quite dramatic. A hard step and you are sideways, smoking tires just before hooking up and getting launched down the straight. This all happens to the tune of the twin turbo v8, crescendoing quickly to the next gear change. Grab the paddle, and the M-DCT has the next gear ready for you in a split-second. Itís a beautiful thing.

The 2013 BMW M5 really gives you the full driving experience. You can have your comfort and track it too.
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1 responses to First Drive: 2013 BMW M5 at Laguna Seca Raceway

GTR-Dad commented:
August 30, 2012, 12:48 am

Nice report! Your experience lines up well with my own.

I have not pushed very hard on the track, and have not experienced brake fade - just some softening of the pedal that I think would be well addressed with some uprated fluid and possibly pads. I'm interested to know to what degree your comment about ticking the 'carbon ceramic' box is based on pedal effort, pedal travel, and brake fade...

Reaction to carbon ceramic brakes is very mixed and seems to vary from brand to brand. In general, the need to get them up to temperature before they offer their best tends to push me away from them for a street car. You did qualify your comment with a 'track bug' qualifier, but if the car will see street duty, I'd be careful to evaluate the impact (no pun intended) of delayed braking force during spirited driving.