DRIVEN: BMW M5 MANUAL
Manual gearbox sticks it to the (electronic) man and transforms the cold and clinical F10 M5
lack of engagement.
Our way or the highway
In the case of the M5, UK (and European) buyers have one piece of technology forced upon them that our American and Canadian cousins don't - that smooth shifting seven-speed dual-clutch auto. Place your order for an M5 in Orlando or Ontario and you can tick a box marked 'six-speed manual' instead, and it costs nothing extra to do so.
Slick roads and grey skies aside, this Alpine White M5 with its 20-inch double spoke wheels already stands out against the legions of oversized trucks and poverty spec Chevrolets it shares California State Route 18 with. The familiar six-speed manual lever actually looks like something of an afterthought in the M5, missing the textured aluminium surround and neat layout for the adaptive damping, steering and throttle controls found on the automatic's transmission tunnel.
Thankfully more effort has gone into the shift itself, which, befitting a car of this size (even in America the M5 feels on the large side) has a meaty and positive action. Sure you can swap cogs with a pair of digits, but for quicker changes you need to take it by the scruff of its neck and manhandle it into your desired ratio. In contrast the clutch feels quite light, and with a long first gear you need to balance the pedals carefully to avoid bogging down.
But for all this muscle car feel, electronics continue to play their part. In Comfort or Sport mode the M5 blips the throttle on every downchange. The revs are matched quickly and smoothly, but those who enjoy the art of their own expertly executed heel and toe changes will need to select Sport+ mode.
Flaws equal character
One thing that is noticeable is the turbo lag. Clearly the automatic box normally masks this, pre-empting off-boost lethargy with shorter ratios and making it difficult to tell its 501lb ft of torque is delivered via forced induction. Not so in the manual where, even in the higher rev range, there can be a tiny delay before full forward thrust is reached. Do the same with the engine spinning lower down the rev range and that morphs into what feels like tenths of a second, before the boost takes over and you've forgotten all about it. On paper that sounds like a problem, but in reality it's a refreshing dose of character normally missing from the linear power delivery of almost every modern turbocharged car.
BMW M5 (F10)
Engine: 4,395cc V8, twin-turbo, direct-injection
Power (hp): 560@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 501@1,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.3 sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Price: $92,095 (including $1,300 Gas Guzzler Tax)
On the road in the manual M5.