In the coming years, pretty much every car model sold will have improved fuel economy. Primarily because of more stringent government regulations, but also because more and more car buyers are looking at mileage numbers.
That holds true for performance and luxury cars as well, though the actual cost of fueling up is obviously less of a concern for someone who can spend an amount approaching (or exceeding) $100,000 on a vehicle.
With that, the new 2013 BMW M5 is really improved over the previous M5, sold from 2006 through 2010. For those not familiar, the M5 is the ultra-performance version of the 5-Series sedan, which has gone through several variations over the years.
The first M5s had inline six cylinder engines, the one after those got a V8, and the more recent example carried a growling V10 under its hood. The cars have never been especially fuel efficient, but the one with ten cylinders seemed a bit excessive. (Though I doubt that many potential buyers took a pass due to its gas mileage.)
It’s a new day in the automotive world, and the recently-revamped 5-Series has received fuel efficiency improvement across the board. The 528i, for example, has a four-cylinder engine, something never offered in the U.S. before.
As for the M5, BMW promised a car that’s equal to or better than its predecessor, but with greatly improved efficiency and reduced carbon output. A V8 is back in the engine compartment, but this time with twin turbochargers and an increase in power over the old V10 M5, 560 horsepower compared to 500.
Looking at the numbers, the mission was accomplished. The 2010 M5 carried EPA fuel economy ratings of 11 mpg city and 17 highway, for a rather dismal combined number of 14. The new M5 with its smaller-displacement V8 manages a much better 14 city and 20 highway, or 15 and 22 if you want the 6-speed manual gearbox instead of the paddle-shifted semi-automatic.
And if you compare carbon emissions scores, the 2013 M5 does much better as well. Measured in grams-per-mile, the EPA says it’s good for 554. Not exactly “green” territory, but a big improvement over the 2010 V10 car’s score of 684. (You can find the numbers for these and any other new or late model car at fueleconomy.gov.)
The car may be more environmentally conscious, but it’s still a beast on the road or the track. The power is amazing, especially considering that the M5 is a pretty roomy sedan. And the suspension, steering, and brakes are better than ever. Electronic driver aids allow you to adjust things like throttle response, shock absorber stiffness, and even steering feel.
I got to do some hot laps in the M5 at the famed Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey a couple of months ago, and the car is really amazing. It may be a pretty large car weighing in at nearly 4,400 pounds, but around the track’s twisty layout, it feels like a much smaller and lighter car, and even a bit like a sports car.
Back here in Southern California, I got a turn in an example with the 7-speed double-clutch transmission, essentially a manual gearbox that shifts itself (if you like – or there’s a manual mode) and does away with the clutch pedal. In low-speed parking lot situations it can feel a little clumsy, but once underway it works flawlessly.
I wasn’t about to add points to my driving record in the burnt orange car, but did get to stomp on it every now and then to feel the engine’s power. It’s there in abundance. But the car is also docile and comfortable, pretty much like any new 5-Series. This car would work great as both a weekday commuter and weekend track plaything.
The cost of admission isn’t for most working stiffs, as the M5’s base price is just a tick under $90,000, but the mandatory Gas Guzzler Tax and destination push the price to about $92,000. Options can send the tab to well north of $100,000, but then again, the ultimate 5-Series has never been cheap.
It may still be expensive to buy, but the annual fuel bill for M5 owners just got a bit easier to swallow.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave