2013 BMW M5 & M6: On Track At Laguna Seca Page 2

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Steering feel is one of the biggest surprises to be found, and it's somewhat better in the M6 than in the M5. While you don't get the telepathic, intuitive information through your fingertips like you'll find in a lightweight, focused (or most especially, mid-engined) sports car, you do get the feedback you need to know what the tires and the surface are doing. The variable steering effort settings (Comfort, Sport, and Sport+) merely modify the level of effort required to move the wheel at speed, not taking away meaningful data even in Comfort mode.

Likewise, the throttle settings offer a choice between Efficient, Sport, and Sport+ modes. In Sport and Sport+, we find one of our common--and brand agnostic--gripes: too much throttle application for too little pedal travel early in the stroke. This makes the car respond almost instantaneously, which feels sporty and fast to the uninitiated, but makes it very difficult to modulate the throttle on tricky high-speed corner exits on track. For this reason, we counter-intuitively preferred the Efficiency setting, which slows tip-in, but is still willing to go to 100 percent when requested.

Finally, we get to the third cornerstone of a good dual-purpose trackday car: the brakes. On both the M5 and M6, the standard steel-rotor brake system is very easy to use, with solid initial bite and easy modulation, but after just a lap or two, the pedal begins to lengthen, reaching quite far indeed after a half-dozen laps. Ultimate stopping power doesn't seem to be compromised, but driver confidence is, somewhat, and as the brakes heat up, the brake zones tend to lengthen out of caution, rather than necessity.

The carbon-ceramic brake option (now available on the M6, and coming to the M5 next year), on the other hand, is an absolute must-have for the buyer that wants to spend serious time on the track. With only minimal fade and pedal-lengthening, and consistently high brake torque and modulation ability, this brake combination was clearly developed for, and on, the track. But--and this is important--it's no less easy to use, no more noisy than the standard brakes on the street, even when cold.

Like all 4,000-pound-ish, 500-horsepower-ish cars, they drink gasoline like akvavit at a Danish wedding. We're not entirely in love with the exterior design of the current generation of BMW cars in general; the M6 (and the 6-Series) largely escapes this criticism. The M5's driver seat isn't very good on track, allowing us to move around quite a lot more than we'd want.

2013 BMW M5

2013 BMW M5

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But now for the kicker: On the street, these cars are just as good as their normal, non-M counterparts; in some ways, they're better. They're surprisingly quiet. The loudest thing you'll hear at cruising speeds in the M5 is the thrum of the tires against the pavement, followed by wind noise around the mirrors. They have fantastic sound systems. They're even quite comfortable, if a notch less cushy than the standard 5-Series or 6-Series. And ultimately, both of these cars are very similar on and off the track. The question you have to ask yourself is: do you really need four doors?

These aren't perfect cars in any one category, but they're so very good in every category, we can't help but think we're seeing, and ultimately appreciating, the M brand's most refined interpretation of what it means to build the Ultimate Driving Machine.

BMW flew us out to drive these cars at Laguna Seca and the surrounding roads in the days following the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Along the way, they supplied some liquor and some food, and a place to sleep. The hotel bed was a marked upgrade from the lost-and-found sleeping bag of the preceding three nights.

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