By Zack Klapman.
This is not an easy one. Usually after I drive the two subject cars, I know which is my favorite; the only difficulty remaining is putting it into concise, understandable English. But this is different.
It’s not that the cars are too similar; they’re actually quite different. The 2013 BMW M5 is a 560HP rear-wheel drive powerhouse of motion whose speedometer needle sweeps right as quickly as objects shrink in the rear. It is ludicrously fast. Mine was limited to 167MPH, and the rate at which it got there would embarrass commercial aircraft. 506ft-lbs of torque wrestle with traction control, while the adjustable steering, suspension, and chassis tuning responses allow you to choose between executive cruiser and track assault weapon. Cosseted in the black interior with my heads-up display giving me speed, RPM, and gear, I was the dark lord of the highway, moving smoothly past left-lane dawdlers gently before disappearing into the night in an instant.
During my drive, a co-worker followed me in a white 2013 Audi S7. He had 140 less horsepower, and 96 fewer torques. His transmission was just a 7-speed automatic, not nearly as fancy or fast as mine. And his AWD meant he couldn’t go burnouts, if you can call that living.
But he was keeping up. Easily. Don’t misconstrue this for racing, because it wasn’t. I rarely explored all of the M5’s powers. My point is that as I sat in what was technically the faster car, in the real world, that means little.
I had driven the S7. I knew it was an excellent car. Despite its deficit, which is meaningless to anyone not on a forum, it reaches 60MPH only 3/10ths behind the M5. How? AWD is how. Besides being good for throwing your iPhone from the cup holder to through the rear window, it makes this car a reasonable option for Yetis, and gave it a general stability that the M5 could only achieve by electronically metering its mighty engine. You felt that quadruple connection to the road, really.
The inside of the M5 is very business-like, a cockpit that prefers function over flair. Buttons –and there’s a lot of them- are well marked, the MMI system is easy to use, and the seats are great. You know you’re sitting in something cool. But it’s only a cool place to sit, because you are consciously thinking, “M5”.
The 2013 Audi S7, as they all do, makes you feel special. There’s bright metal here, heavy knobs there, the perfect kind of click under your fingers, the perfect resistance from that dial. Red and blue illuminate the temperature dials (probably the most used in any car), and the wheel telescoped what felt like twice as far as any other, arriving at the perfect driving position. Although the pinstriped aluminum dash tries too hard, that’s optional. Avoid it, and any complaints you have stem from a bad childhood or poor life choices; it’s not the car’s fault.
Now you see the dilemma. Two fast exceptionally engineered cars, whose only crime is being priced close together (The Audi starts at $89,000, the M5 at $92,000). Oh yeah, and they’re both stunning to wake up to in the morning. Argh.
If you handed me a blank check, this would be a very difficult decision. The drama of the M5 beats the S7. It is Paul Bunyan holding a new ax that is also a flamethrower. I love drifting, I love burnouts, and the M5 is ambidextrous.
But how often will I use it for that, really? Oh sure, the first month will bump Pirelli’s stock a bit, but then what? The exterior is gorgeous, but that’s not the part I stare at while driving. It feels bigger. And then there’s the fact it’s a mute.
After deep thought, and some shocking introspection, I’d buy the Audi. Gorgeous inside and out, confident on any surface, and fast enough.