BMW’s M Division is expanding at a rate of knots and in every direction. Just last week we were experiencing the endearingly compact and fleet-footed BMW M2 Competition and this week we’re driving the altogether more powerful and more luxurious 2018-model-year M5 Competition for the first time.
Unlike its smaller sibling, the new leather-lined performance sedan is an addition to the line-up, rather than a replacement for the standard M model upon which it is based.
The reasoning behind the divergence in strategy for the two new Competition models from BMW’s M division is that the M5 has been conceived with a broader range of use in mind than the arguably more driver-focused M2, so it makes sense to offer two different M5 models to meet those needs.
At $229,900, the new M5 Competition is a neat $30,000 more than the standard F90 M5. Among the competition, it is the Mercedes-AMG E63 S+ 4Matic that looms the largest at $239,611.
BMW M says the added reserves have been achieved without any significant mechanical upgrades to the engine. However, changes to the air flow and cooling system bring an additional 10kg, increasing the kerb weight to 1865kg and providing the most powerful M5 yet with a weight-to-power ratio of 4.05kg per kW.
By comparison, the 1880kg Mercedes-AMG E63 S+ 4Matic packs a smaller capacity twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine delivering 450kW at 5750rpm and 850Nm of torque between 2500 and 4500 for a weight-to-power ratio of 4.17kg per kW.
An unchanged eight-speed torque converter equipped automatic gearbox and electronically controlled xDrive system dole out the drive to all four wheels. The nominal split in drive between the front and rear wheels is 50:50 in comfort mode, though the percentage of drive delivered to the rear wheels increases in both sport and sport plus mode, eventually providing the big saloon with exclusive rear-wheel drive traits when you call up the two MDM modes via a switch on the steering wheel.
ON THE ROAD
Predictably, the added 19kW does not alter the character of the performance in any great way, even though BMW M claims it helps the M5 Competition run the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint some 0.1sec faster than the standard M5 at 3.3sec and 0-200km/h some 0.3sec faster than before at 10.8sec. The delivery remains hugely muscular, inherently flexible and very linear in nature right the way up to where the engine delivers its peak power at 7000rpm, propelling the latest M-car to serious speeds in precious little distance.
Progress never feels anything but extraordinarily vigorous. But at the same time, the engine is wonderfully smooth in nature. Given the breadth of its performance potential on offer, it is incredibly undemanding of the driver with great tractability right from idle all the way up to the ignition cut out. At any given moment you’re aware there is always plenty in reserve at posted speed limits.
And yet despite the supercar slaying speed and added entertainment value brought on by a slightly more boisterous exhaust system whose soundtrack continues to be synthesised and fed through the speakers, it’s the chassis and the added response it brings where the new top-of-the-line M5 really leaves its mark. To make the most of the added power, BMW M has lowered the ride height by 7mm and fitted new dampers and springs, which are described as being about 10 per cent stiffer both front and rear. The front wheels also receive increased camber, with modified toe links and a larger diameter anti-roll bar added to the rear.
The latest M5 proves effortless and terrifically accommodating on truly challenging roads. But to me it lacks the added sense of edginess to make a true competitor to the sublime E63 S+ 4Matic. And I figure this is what BMW M is attempting to address with the new Competition model, which has been conceived as a slightly more responsive edgier car without any loss in its devastatingly good long distance cruising qualities and overall comfort.
For such a heavy and large car, the on the limit adjustability in both MDM 1 and MDM 2 modes is nothing short of breathtaking. Like all M-cars these days, the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system can be switched off completely, and with all that power and torque on tap at little more than idle, it doesn’t take much to send it into a lurid tail-out slide on the exit to corners. When you do, there’s sufficient control to hold the slide and power out of the corner when a hand full of opposite lock.
Initial impressions at an altogether more conservative pace on public roads suggest there is not a great deal of difference in on-road feel between the latest M5 and the new M5 Competition. Yet the longer you drive it the more you come to appreciate the subtle nuances in character that make the latest iteration of BMW’s original four-door performance sedan a more sporting proposition than its standard sibling.
The steering, for one, feels more direct and enthusiastic. The mapping and ratio of the electro-mechanical system is the same, but the increase in camber and lowered suspension imbue it with added sharpness and eagerness to self-centre if not a great deal more feel or communication.
You notice the added stiffness brought on by the upgraded suspension, but tweaks brought to the adaptive dampers do a wonderful job of isolating the cabin from poor surfaces. Indeed, the upgraded suspension provides a rare combination of handling dexterity and all round compliance.
It also provides the M5 Competition with added body control. There is greater resistance to lean in corners and float over undulating roads than with the standard M5. It feels keener and better tied down, though never harsh or over wrought. There’s wonderful balance and even greater finesse, allowing you to place it exactly where you want it on the road.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new M5 Competition is the car the latest F90 M5 should perhaps have been from the very outset. That it delivers a more compelling driving experience than its standard sibling is beyond doubt. The question is: will prospective buyers be prepared to folk over the added $30,000 its edgier character commands. BMW’s M division seems to think so, and after driving it both on the track and on public roads, we’d have to agree. Given the finances, it’s the M5 Competition we’d be happiest to drive away in.
- Interested in buying BMW M5 Competition? Visit our BMW M5 Competition showroom for more information.