Vital Stats

Engine:
Twin-Turbo 4.4L V8
Power:
560 HP / 500 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
4.3 Seconds
Top Speed:
155 MPH (governed)
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,354 LBS
Seating:
2+2
Cargo:
14.0 CU-FT
MPG:
15 City / 22 HWY
When Truth Crushes Our Enthusiast Souls



American automotive enthusiasts are a crazy bunch. While the rest of the world embraces quick, innovative and efficient dual-clutch automated gearboxes, a good portion of Yankee gearheads still scream for old-school manual transmissions. Despite all of the inadequacies with driver-directed gear changes, car nuts still enjoy rowing their own gears.

BMW tried to force enthusiasts into a single-clutch semi-automatic transmission when it launched the E60 M5 in 2005, but enthusiasts (and the automotive press) wailed so loudly that the Germans reversed course and delivered a six-speed option to the North American market. While performance actually dropped with the manual gearbox, its arrival quelled a rebellion.

The all-new fifth-generation 2013 F10 M5 debuted last fall with a standard – and much improved – lightning-quick dual-clutch transmission. But rather than send North American enthusiasts into yet another frenzy, BMW is adopting a conciliatory tone, offering buyers in the States the chance to opt for a manual gearbox at no additional cost.

We recently found ourselves on the starting grid at California's Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca sitting in a bright Sakhir Orange Metallic BMW M5. Nestled comfortably in the palm of our right hand, wrapped in soft leather with a bright aluminum collar, was a traditional manual gearshift knob.
2013 BMW M5 6MT side view2013 BMW M5 6MT front view2013 BMW M5 6MT rear view

Our European scribe, Matt Davis, was the first person on Autoblog's team to flog BMW's highly anticipated F10 M5 when he reviewed it last September in Spain. While he was fortunate enough to spend the day with the four-door on Spain's spectacular Ascari race circuit (put the track on your bucket list and thank us later), the automaker only supplied vehicles with its new M-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. It is Europe's only choice.

BMW says the M5 6MT will sprint to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Assuming, of course, a very capable driver is behind the wheel.

But as we mentioned, BMW is offering North American buyers a manual gearbox option that is the focus of this road test.

The F10 M5 boasts a twin-scroll turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 (internally referred to as the S63Tü) rated at 560 horsepower from 5,750 to 7,000 rpm and 500 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 5,750 rpm. Redline is 7,200 rpm. In standard configuration, the engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (M DCT) with BMW's Drivelogic System and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. According to the automaker, the M5 7DCT weighs 4,387 pounds and it will accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds with your grandmother behind the wheel (Motor Trend is reporting a 0-60 time of just 3.7 seconds with launch control assistance and BMW is known for being conservative with its numbers).

2013 BMW M5 6MT engine

The no-cost manual transmission option alters things a bit. The six-speed short-throw box is fitted with the same final drive ratio and special M differential, but the six gear ratios have been optimized for acceleration. Tipping the scales at 4,354 pounds (30 pounds lighter than the automatic), BMW says the M5 6MT will sprint to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Assuming, of course, a very capable driver is behind the wheel.

It didn't take but a few minutes to realize that the manual transmission completely changes the M5 driving experience – and not for the better.

Back at the track, our 2013 BMW M5 6MT test vehicle carried a base price of $89,900. It was lightly optioned, with only the no-cost six-speed manual, 20-inch M light alloy wheels (style 343M) for $1,300 and the stand-alone head-up display for another $1,300. With the mandatory $1,000 gas guzzler tax and $895 destination fee, the bottom line was $94,395.

BMW gave us the opportunity in California to spend time with both the 6MT and 7DCT back-to-back on the racing circuit. We also grabbed a 6MT for a street drive, mostly to observe its low-speed around-town behavior. It didn't take but a few minutes to realize that the manual transmission completely changes the M5 driving experience – and not for the better.

2013 BMW M5 6MT on track2013 BMW M5 6MT side vent2013 BMW M5 6MT brakes2013 BMW M5 6MT shifter

The 6MT required us to become an integral part of the car – both microprocessor and hydraulic actuator.

The 7DCT required almost no operator input on the track. We adjusted the M Drive and M Driving Dynamics Control controls to their Sport Plus settings, put the shift mode to its firmest configuration in the paddock and then enjoyed time on the racing circuit whipping the steering wheel and playing footsies with just two pedals. The computer-controlled gearbox cracked off beautiful shifts, up and down, and the exhaust blipped and burbled every opportunity it found. In the odd chance that boredom set in, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters allowed manual user input. While Bill Auberlen (BMW's M3 GT winning factory pilot) may be quicker with the M5's 7DCT in manual mode, we were quickest allowing the transmission logic to manage shifts as we focused on turn entry and braking zones.

The 6MT is the flip side of the coin. Instead of just piloting the M5 around Laguna Seca's famed circuit, we were very involved as all four of our limbs were tasked with an individual role. The 6MT required us to become an integral part of the car – both microprocessor and hydraulic actuator – and our attention had to be diverted from the apex and exit markers to get the shifts just right. We were plenty quick in the 6MT (thankfully, gobs of torque allowed the M5 to run most of the track in third gear), but we lost precious time on a few shifts and had to really concentrate on nailing the downshift into second gear at Turn 11. It was also much more nerve racking flying one-handed through Turn One at 100-plus mph.

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2013 BMW M5 6MT

Speaking purely on a mechanical level, the 6MT lags behind the 7DCT. While there is nothing physically wrong with the manual box, rowing one's own gears is based on a technology that peaked in the mid-1990s (think Acura NSX, Mazda MX-5 Miata or Honda S2000), and it really isn't going to get any better. The automated dual clutch, on the other hand, continues to improve with each generation and subsequent software update.

It's a Frankensteinian adaptation to the platform incapable of handling the same stress as its dual-clutch sibling.

Simply put, BMW's F10 M5 was designed with the 7DCT in mind. The automated gearbox is capable of ripping up and down through the gears endlessly before taking the Autobahn home at a sustained 190 mph. In sharp contrast, and whether North American enthusiasts want to admit it or not, the M5's 6MT is a Frankensteinian adaptation to the platform incapable of handling the same stress as its dual-clutch sibling – that's a fact.

Our street drive revealed more about the 6MT than we were able to ascertain on the racing circuit (it is impossible to notice subtle qualities while driving at nine-tenths, with a helmet over our head, playfully chasing other M5s). We noticed that the M5 manual gearbox rev-matches on downshift when in certain modes (just like a Nissan 370Z). It works well, and the feature likely adds life to the clutch plate itself. We also noticed how much heavier and more massive the high-performance sedan felt when we were tasked with shifting. Lastly, our tooling around the Monterey Peninsula exposed the gearing as being a bit too tall for America's low speed limits.

2013 BMW M5 6MT rear 3/4 view

The M5 is an impressive four-door supercar with the 7DCT, but the 6MT erases much of its fire.

It isn't easy to build a manual gearbox for a daily driver sport sedan strong enough to handle 500 pound-feet of torque (that kind of insane twisting force used to be reserved for race cars) and make it last 50,000-plus miles. We expected a heavy clutch, but the hydraulically assisted pedal felt unsubstantial and springy. Sadly, those qualities made engagement feel unnatural. The gear selector is well placed, but its movement was typical BMW – a bit notchy and not entirely precise. On one positive note, the light clutch made departing from a standstill easy and shifting while on-the-fly was effortless. Yet overall, something was missing. It was our smile – the 6MT wasn't very entertaining.

We were honestly a bit deflated by our BMW experience. The M5 is an impressive four-door supercar with the 7DCT, but the 6MT erases much of its fire. The manual gearbox delivers slower acceleration, reduced fuel economy (despite what the EPA prints) and, while we might be willing to give in on the numbers a little for an enhanced connection between car and driver, our time with the manual suggests its characteristics will frustrate more drivers than it will satisfy. While our enthusiast-rich blood craves involvement, in this particular situation, it became painfully clear that the computer-controlled 7DCT is the M5's better transmission.

And for those stubborn manual gearbox enthusiasts, we offer a bit of advice: Go find a nice used E39 M5. Its S62 eight-cylinder mated to a 6MT made it of the most engaging sports sedans ever. Then smile.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 189 Comments
      JohhnyDough
      • 2 Years Ago
      Look its really simple, I don't want to have to look down at the dash to know what gear i'm in when the threat of a fast corner or a distracted driver is coming my way. When I drive stick I know what gear im in with my hand down in the resting postion, I can quickly downshift without hesitation. That lack of hesitation goes for the car too since I know exactly if and when I can shift and how many revs are possible to carry over in a downshift. I was driving my E92 with paddle shifters yesterday and as I came down the hill I needed to rapidly brake, downshift and get out of the way of some road debris. What ends up happening is rather then 2 flicks of the left paddle I needed 3 for optimal revs to accelerate out. This only caused driver distraction and the car didn't react as I intended it to. Looking down at the dash to see what gear you're in...that just isn't as intuitive as always knowing where you are when you've got your right hand on the shifter. Honestly after driving stick from 18-28, this first auto car is my biggest disappointment. Save the manuals!
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JohhnyDough
        [blocked]
      vvk
      • 2 Years Ago
      "The 7DCT required almost no operator input on the track." "Instead of just piloting the M5 around Laguna Seca's famed circuit, we were very involved as all four of our limbs were tasked with an individual role." Wow, these two quotes tell us everything we need to know about the difference between the two cars. When I drive, I always want to be "very involved." If I want to get around with "almost no operator input," I take the bus.
      montegod7ss
      • 2 Years Ago
      A DCT being quicker around a race track means about as much to me as a Powerglide being quicker on a drag strip. They are both boring, and I'll not own an automatic as long as I can help it. This whole paragraph is the exact reason why I LOVE manual transmissions. "The 6MT is the flip side of the coin. Instead of just piloting the M5 around Laguna Seca's famed circuit, we were very involved as all four of our limbs were tasked with an individual role. The 6MT required us to become an integral part of the car – both microprocessor and hydraulic actuator – and our attention had to be diverted from the apex and exit markers to get the shifts just right. We were plenty quick in the 6MT (thankfully, gobs of torque allowed the M5 to run most of the track in third gear), but we lost precious time on a few shifts and had to really concentrate on nailing the downshift into second gear at Turn 11. It was also much more nerve racking flying one-handed through Turn One at 100-plus mph."
        FuelToTheFire
        • 2 Years Ago
        @montegod7ss
        If the world ran according to your logic, the winner of a rae would not be the guy who finished first, but the guy who had the most "fun".
          MONTEGOD7SS
          • 2 Years Ago
          @FuelToTheFire
          My logic was perfect, because like I said I don't care what happens on a race track. I drive on streets, not tracks, and an automatic is just boring.
          quackmanquackman
          • 2 Years Ago
          @FuelToTheFire
          He never said his ideas should be applied to racing.
      Chris
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just don't understand. Autoblog is continuously saying that we have manuals here in America, while it's all the rage in Europe. Also, Autoblog is always saying that driving a manual is the only way an enthusiastic would like to drive a car. But this article seems to go against so many other articles before it... Is it just that BMW has failed to execute their manual gearbox correctly? Or are the times changing and DCT is the way to go?
        Michael Harley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Chris
        I'm saying American enthusiasts still refuse to embrace the DCT (or its equivalent). Yes, Europeans have historically had many more manual transmissions (they used to be more efficient and less expensive in small cars), but today's automatic transmissions are quicker and better on fuel. Times are changing, as fuel economy is more important to most than driving enjoyment. - Mike
          Chris
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Thank you for actually replying. So strictly in terms of driving enjoyment, would you recommend DCT (with paddle shifters) or a manual transmission?
        prince_david
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Chris
        This has me confused too. I thought Europe was the land of manuals? What's going on here?
          John Hughan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @prince_david
          Europe is the land of manuals because they're cheaper over there, and given that cars in Europe cost a lot more than they do over here (not just terms of purchase price and tax, but also in insurance and other operating costs), every savings helps -- and that's why pretty much everyone in Europe can drive stick. So in Europe, having a manual is associated with having a cheaper car, whereas DCT is seen as the expensive, premium option. In the US where cars are cheaper, an automatic isn't seen as a major cost, and since so few people take manuals, the actual cost is coming down even farther. That vicious cycle of people not taking manuals because autos are cheaper, which causes autos to be EVEN cheaper, which causes fewer people to take (or even know how to drive) manuals has meant that in the US, driving manual is seen as the mark of an enthusiast or some sort of Jedi power, not the mark of a cheap car.
          telm12345
          • 2 Years Ago
          @prince_david
          @ John Hughan, well said!!! - Jedi
        Chris
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Chris
        hate manuals*
      tea kei
      • 2 Years Ago
      sometimes it's just got to be about the fun, not the fast. and just because you had some issues shifting and losing time doesn't mean that someone else will, or will even care much when they do. it will challenge them to be a better driver. sorry autoblog...this is not an enthusiast article...it's an article without heart...
      SPG1
      • 2 Years Ago
      As long as the 6MT doesn't have overheating issues like the E60 M5 did. The E92 M3 6MT has a transmission cooler. The E60 M5 SMG had a transmission cooler. The E60 M5 6MT did NOT have a transmission cooler. Edmunds experienced overheatting on a 6MT 2007 M5. Save the manuals
      TangoR34
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like BMW made a feeble effort on the 6MT. They could make it more enjoyable w/o better fuel economy or performance. But I think they don't want to try.
        quackmanquackman
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TangoR34
        Yeah, if it was made specifically for America, why didn't they give it a different final drive? Even the writer of this article noted it was geared too highly for US speed limits.
      GN
      • 2 Years Ago
      I hate this new "M" era. They don't stand out like they used to. For example: http://images.thecarconnection.com/med/2001_bmw_m5_100003909_m.jpg http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2009/07/01/21/16/2010-bmw-m5-pic-44134.png
      JonZeke
      • 2 Years Ago
      Big manual transmission cars have never been super awesome aside from the E39. Why? too much mass to keep in check while still affecting attitude via the gearbox. Unless the whole car is designed around that interaction, it will fall flat. 560hp isn't too much for a good manual, 4000+ lbs is if you want to drive fast. I mean some people might believe a Bentley Conti SS would be a blast with a manual, whereas I'd like to think it'd be a busy and unfun experience. I will however buy all might small and light cars with manuals until they don't make them anymore!
      seba
      • 2 Years Ago
      The problem is not the car, it is that you don't know how to drive a manual. I don't mean to offend you, but it is one of the worst articles I've 'almost read'.
      Bruno Balestra
      • 2 Years Ago
      Reads like you people are apologizing on behalf of BMW in advance after it discontinues the MT option for good. Sorry that you feel that way. I am in no way a racing driver and never drove on the track. I can only enjoy a car on the streets. And shifting is, for me part of that enjoyment. You people used to criticize AMG Mercs for being luxury muscle cars. What is that M5 then, when even engine sound is so muffled it must be played through the speakers to be heard? I understand BMWs reasonibg. I just lament it because it also shows laziness. If they can make money out of such expensive projects as the i cars, I doubt they wouldn't make money producing more affordable sports cars and sedans. And don't give me "the volume doesn't justify it" story. They would use parts already developed. Only less of them. Oh well....
      Paul M
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well, this is no surprise... the DCT car is faster, and the manual one is more involving. Um, duh. We've established this a long time ago. The key thing here is that, eventually, the Google (or whatever) self-driving car will also be faster, more efficient, less stressful, etc. But does that make it a better car? Does that make people better drivers? Does that make us care any more about our mode of transportation? Of course not. And that's why manual transmission cars will always be the better choice for people who care about cars. And I'll continue to back that up with my own pocketbook.
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