► BMW M5 Competition review
► We test the maxed-out M5
► Driven on track and on road
For most people, the BMW M5 is one helluva sports saloon. We can’t recall many people complaining it lacked poke or poise, but BMW’s gone and given us a made-over Competition spec model anyway.
As the 5 Series range underwent some minor updates in 2020 - spot the tweaked lights, front grille and bumpers all-round - the M5 is Competition-spec only from now in the UK.
CAR lives with the last BMW M5
What does the new BMW M5 Competition give me that the regular M5 doesn’t?
It adds a bit more power, for starters. Max output climbs by 25bhp to an eye-popping 617bhp, the 0-62mph time slices a tenth off… yep, these are marginal gains, alright. Torque is unaffected, at a treestump-pulling 553lb ft from just 1800rpm. Short on grunt it is not.
BMW says revised dampers makes the ride a little firmer for better body control when you’re on it and the electro-traction nannies are reconfigured for slicker handling. There’s also a fruitier exhaust.
So it’s little bits here and there - but they add up to a not-insignificant £6500 premium. Make that £8595 if you go one step further and choose the M Driver’s package that unties the digital shackles of a 155mph v-max to make a 190mph top speed.
How does it drive?
The 4.4-litre V8 turbo was hardly short on muscle before, but now it’s just rampant. Thwack all the settings up to aggressive and throttle response is uncannily brutal, the exhaust note loud and proud.
We like that you can still turn it down from 11, turning the M5 Competition into a more subtle, subdued kind of cruiser. But this is hardly what you’d call a Q car and, if anything, the slightly stiffened-up chassis takes the edge off the M5's all-round everyday usability. We certainly appreciate the added body control on the track, but since you barely scratched beneath the standard M5's talents on the road in the first place, the added benefits of the Competition will be largely unnoticed.
The end result is a little like the Alpine A110 S - stiffer, faster and tidier on track, but on the road? Just a little more annoying than the standard version as it bobs around our naff road surfaces.
The sensible, nagging part of our brain also wonders whether if you were that bothered about the track setup you'd get something different altogether, but as a one-size-fits-all monster? You could drive this 100 miles to a track in comfort, have a great time achieving single-digit mpg figures on the track and wind down with a calm, relaxing drive back home.
If we’re being honest, we’d struggle to spot those 25 extra ponies, too: when 0-62mph takes a scant 3.3 seconds, you can understand the marginal gains. It feels brutally rapid in a straight line.
And the handling?
More subtle tweaks to the chassis hardly transform the handling, but the Competition pack tightens everything up nicely. Turn-in is improved, feeling more grounded and inspiring plenty of confidence as you pile into a series of B-road switchbacks. It’s still a heavy, big car (kerbweight = a lardy 1940kg), but the laws of physics have been tamed with deft accuracy by BMW’s M engineers. Stopping power is equally impressive, but under braking is when the weight chiefly makes itself known - taking just that little bit longer to shed speed as the body pitches back and forth.
So it's undoubtedly impressive, but not without compromise. The Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4Matic+ is just as heavy on-paper, but manages to feel a little lighter on its feet, sitting lower to the ground and with a little less body roll. The downside is the unforgiving ride comfort over a standard model, which the M5 Competition better retains over a regular 5 Series.
We love the way you can flick between RWD and AWD at the touch of the button. The 4wd is in fact the key to the M5’s split personality, letting you play brute or suit card with nonchalant ease.
When powering hard out of second-gear corners, or when not lifting through a set of challenging third-gear esses, all-wheel drive is a big safety bonus.
The new 2020 BMW M5 Competition is still one helluva super-saloon. We already rate the regular M5 very highly and this addition just adds more drama, more finesse, more outright muscle to make it even better. It’s heavy, it’s pricey (just over £100k), but for the discerning few, this makes the maximum M5 even better.
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