Sunday 19th August 2018
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First drive: BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.

First drive: BMW M5 Competition
Is there really a need for an ever-so-slightly faster BMW M5? M thinks so...

 



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BMW M5 Competition

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Barely more than a year into the life cycle of the seventh-generation G30 5 Series, we've got not one but TWO M5 models to choose from. Joining the utterly magnificent 600hp 'regular' M5 is this slightly-more-focused Competition version - but is it worth the 6,500 premium that BMW UK demands?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW M5 Competition
Pricing: from 96,205 as tested; M5 starts at 89,705
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
Transmission: eight-speed M Steptronic automatic, M xDrive all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 243g/km (VED Band 226-255: 1,760 in year one, 450 per annum years two to six, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 26.4mpg
Top speed: 155mph standard; 190mph with M Driver's Package
0-62mph: 3.3 seconds
Power: 625hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 750Nm at 1,800-5,800rpm
Boot space: 530 litres

What's this?

The second in the new canon of BMW M Competition models, and this time it's the mighty M5 that is the car receiving the treatment. Much blackness is used on the exterior as a result, so you'll find it coating all of the following: the big kidney grilles up front; the side gill breathers in the front wings; the door mirror caps; the surrounds for the glasshouse; the rear diffuser and subtle little boot lip spoiler; the quad-exhaust tips' finishers; and, as all Competition models will have in the future, its dark 'M5' boot badge. The test cars were further denoted by one of those of-the-moment matte-effect paintjobs, this one going by the name of Frozen Dark Silver metallic, while - behind some gorgeous forged lightweight 20-inch alloys on Pirelli P Zero tyres that are unique to the Competition - gold callipers denote the fitment of optional carbon-ceramic brakes.

Inside, given the newness of both the G30 5 Series and the F90 M5 on which it is based, the dash architecture is so fresh that the Competition's changes are limited to some carbon-structure aluminium chrome trim and an 'M Competition' logo that appears in the display upon start-up of the monster biturbo 4.4 V8. Other than that, M tricolour-striped seatbelts, M5 Competition-specific floor mats and Merino Aragon hide on the seats are the only other alterations.

Therefore, in order to really appreciate the M5 Competition, you've got to unleash your inner geek and nerd out on the minutiae of the newcomer's specification. The easiest bit of data to spot is the 25hp hike in peak power output, but the way in which the M5 Competition delivers its numbers is subtly different. So, the maximum 625hp arrives at 6,000rpm, whereas the regular F90's 600hp is smeared across 5,600- to 6,700rpm. Peak torque is unchanged at 750Nm, but the Competition holds onto it for 200rpm more, its band of ultimate flexibility stretching from 1,800- to 5,800rpm.

Then there are the engine mounts for this brute of a powerplant. The Competition's items have a spring rate of 900N/mm, compared to the M5's 580N/mm. That means the V8 doesn't move about so much under hard acceleration, equating to all of its power and torque being transmitted to the drivetrain (the same eight-speed M Steptronic auto with M xDrive all-wheel drive, incidentally) in a more efficient and rapid manner. With the outputs massaged and the driveline firmed up, 0-62mph is a tenth quicker at a searing 3.3 seconds, while the Competition will thunder from 0-124mph three tenths quicker than the 600hp model, at 10.8 seconds all-in. Eye-popping stuff for an executive saloon, we're sure you'll agree.

Elsewhere, the ride height is 7mm lower and the camber on the front axle has been increased to promote keener turn-in. The rear anti-roll bar is stiffer on the M5 Competition and the trailing axle's toe links are now fitted with ball joints, instead of rubber bushes. Finally, the M Variable Damper Control software has been recalibrated to take into account all of the above - the stiffer suspension, the more potent mill and the grippier tyres on lighter wheels. The price for all this (minus the unconfirmed premium of the carbon-ceramics on our test car) starts at 96,205 in the UK - so should you gamble on the Competition, or stick with the 600hp M5?

How does it drive?

OK, mitigation for what's about to come: we love the M5 Competition. It's a stormer. It's simply tremendous fun to drive, it's really sharp and adept on track (not always the ideal location for a 1,940kg all-wheel-drive supersaloon), it looks great, it sounds just a tad more purposeful than the standard M5 and it goes like the unholy clappers when you decide to unleash the full, mad power of that 625hp V8. As 6,500 is only a 7.2 per cent increase on the regular BMW's list price, it's no wonder that the company is expecting take-up of the Competition to run as high as 50:50 in the M5's key markets, which include the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan and its homeland of Germany.

Yes, it's a supersaloon par excellence, in the grand scheme of things. But you might be picking up certain vibes about where we're heading, here. Because the M5 Competition has some 'problems'. One, unlike the M2 Competition (which is the only choice now, for people who want an M2), the M5 Competition is obviously not a replacement, but is instead sold in showrooms alongside the 600hp M5. That links into point two, which is that the 600hp M5 is about as perfectly rounded and gobsmacking as you could wish for a car like this to be. Three, the M5 Competition doesn't feel markedly different in terms of its performance to the 600hp model. And four, we think it's a missed opportunity as a result.

On track, there's no doubt the Competition lives up to its name. It has better body control, sharper turn-in and a general air of feeling like it can live up to the merciless abuse of repeated, high-pace laps of a circuit. There's impressive detail in the steering and a lack of push-on understeer on either corner entry or exit that's most commendable, while it'll shimmy around on its clever M xDrive underpinnings to give you the impression that it's purely rear-driven, even when it's in 4WD modes.

But how many M5 owners actually track their cars? It's got to be a small percentage, right? And, on the road, the 600hp M5 is the superior machine. The ride quality on the Competition is compromised just that gnat's too much to make it something that we'd be prepared to overlook. The 625hp M5 is more nervous and fidgety on poorer surfaces, and it doesn't soak up imperfections in the asphalt with the same genial grace as the regular model. So, for five per cent of the time (on track, if owners even do such a thing), the Competition is going to feel worth its 6,500 outlay; for the other 95 per cent of the time, you'll wish you had the 600hp M5's suspension compliance to fall back upon.

It's not that the Competition is a ham-fisted execution of a sharper M5; if anything, it's that BMW hasn't gone far enough with it. Strip out a bit of weight and sound-deadening, make the exhaust even louder than it is (which is still not very loud at all; fans of V8 acoustic histrionics will need to be looking at the unhinged Mercedes-AMG E 63 S instead), and hike up the V8 to 650hp and 800Nm. Crikey, BMW could probably even safely charge more money for such a machine, like 100,000-105,000, and get away with it. As it is, the 625hp M5 Competition doesn't move the mega-power four-door game on quite enough for our liking.

Verdict

There's only one real major problem with the F90 BMW M5 Competition - and that's the existence of the F90 BMW M5. The Competition's sharper suspension does, incredibly, lead to a more engaging steer and, on a car that costs 90 grand anyway, 6,500 is not much of a premium for a few pub bragging rights on horsepower.

But, while the Competition is undoubtedly a monumentally good supersaloon, it's not quite as compliant and rounded as the 600hp base material - in essence, the Competition doesn't do enough to outmanoeuvre the regular F90. Maybe, though, there's more to come from this new M brand; might we see a 650hp, even louder and lairier M5 before long? Here's hoping.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 5 Aug 2018









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2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.

2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.2018 BMW M5 Competition. Image by Uwe Fischer.








 

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