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More power, lower and firmer suspension and sharper steering inject even more driver reward and drama into the M5

Our Verdict

BMW M5 2018 review hero front

BMW’s legendary performance saloon takes the plunge into fast 4WD territory

  • First Drive

    BMW M5 Competition 2018 UK review

    Extra-special super-saloon comes with added handling agility but a bit too much hardcore attitude for UK roads
  • First Drive

    BMW M5 long-term review

    We rated the new F90 generation M5 as best in class - did we think the same after three months with it?
Matt Prior
5 August 2018

What is it?

Another week, another Competition version of a BMW. But unlike the M2 Competition we reviewed last week, the M5 Competition is an addition to the range rather than a replacement for the regular M.

There are a few prongs of thinking on this one. The biggest is that an M5 has a broader range of use than an M2 anyway, so there’s a reason for keeping both models in the line up. The standard M5 is for those who just want to potter around in a fast approximation of comfort and the M5 Competition is for those who want a bit more focus and driving keenness. Not many M5 owners are track-day goers, unsurprisingly, given that it’s a 1940kg, five-metre-long saloon car.

BMW reckons that, typically, 50% of a market will drive hard enough to pick the Competition version, though. A bit less in the UK: 30% is the estimate.

Other lines of thinking: I suspect there’s rather more margin on an M5 than an M2, so you can sell ’em both. And it’s not like there’s much of an engine difference between the two, either.

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What's it like?

What do you get? More power, albeit only 25bhp, and the same amount of torque as before from the brawny 4.4-litre V8. That makes the headline figures 616bhp at 6000rpm and 553lb ft in a flat line from 1800rpm to 5800rpm, a 200rpm extension over the standard M5.

The engine is largely mechanically the same as it was. A bit of additional cooling accounts for the 10kg extra the Competition weighs over the standard M5 but, like the additional poke, I doubt that’s what you’ll notice the most about this new variant.

More likely is that you’ll feel the 7mm drop in ride height and new damper hydraulics and springs that are about 10% stiffer all round and are combined with an increase in camber at the front, with modified toe-links and anti-roll bars at the back. It slots into the range straight away and costs £96,205, which is £6500 more than the regular M5.

We rather like the regular car. You can read about one quite often, as we've got an M5 as a long-term test car and we’ve pitched it against its rivals a fair few times for videosroad tests and features, too.

What it does especially well is take you from one place to another very quickly and in quite a lot of luxury. If you want to overtake, or filter into faster-moving traffic, the oomph arrives in reassuring surges, so the capability makes it a particularly easy car to rub along with.

But it ain’t a sports car. I hesitate to use the words ‘sports saloon’, really. Nothing of this size really can be, but some do the noises and responses that make you go gooey better than others. And so far there has been an argument that a Mercedes-AMG E63 does that slightly better than the BMW. I’ve felt that the BMW is a more accommodating and easygoing, and ultimately a more capable car all round. But that AMG V8 makes the right noises.

And I think that’s what BMW is trying to address with the Competition. It has worked.

We’ve tried the M5 Competition in two places: first, a very long, very warm race track, half of which comprises corners. Second, on some very narrow, quite bumpy roads around it. Neither is the autobahn or wide, sweeping Germanic country road that would be best suited, you imagine, to an M5. (But they did quite suit the M2 Competition we tried in the same place.)

The surprise, then, was that it was great. I know, I know: you’re not going to take it to a race circuit. But do, just once, please, to be amazed at what it can do.

If there’s another 1900kg-plus car that can seat five people and yet go and stop and corner like an M5 Competition, and come back after six laps and tinkle and ping away in the pit lane like you’d just taken it to the shops, I’ll be amazed. You can have carbon-ceramic discs as an option on the M5 and, usually, given it’s predominantly a road car, I’m not sure I’d bother: they’re seven grand, and unless you stand on the anchors often, they squeak like a dozen hungry guinea pigs. But they resist fade and deal with the tremendous temperatures generated by a saloon that can go from standstill to 62mph in 3.3sec incredibly well.

And the Competition is good fun, too. Not just in reminding you what feats it’s possible to make heavy engineering do. It’s well balanced, it steers quickly and keenly, and its four-wheel-drive system feels predominantly rear biased, but quickly and relatively smoothly pushes power to the front when it starts to slide, to give reassuring, smooth, handling neutrality.

Should I buy one?

On the road, though, is where it matters and where there’s also some extra welcome keenness. Ride comfort doesn’t feel like it has taken too much of a dive – although if you make the adjustable dampers any firmer than Comfort on the road, you’re bolder than I am. But it’s different, rather than worse. Body movements in the M5 Competition are sharper, but they’re over and done with more quickly, so in a way, the body feels flatter, and the worst edges are still rounded off. 

The most striking thing was driving over some really poor surfaces in an M2 and then an M5 Competition: that’s where you can feel what great work the adaptive dampers are really doing to keep the body mostly flat.

The steering’s sharper and keener as well. The steering itself is the same, but the camber increase, plus the lower, stiffer suspension just brings with it much better precision to a rack that’s usually pleasingly weighted but doesn’t give much back. There’s still not ‘feel’ here, but there is lovely self-centring and a positivity and accuracy to it that you’d usually go to Alpina to find.

So, in short, the M5 Competition turns up the excitement and involvement where you’d want it to, and doesn’t turn down the comfort too much while it’s at it. I’ve always thought that if you just want rapid comfort from a 5 Series, you’d be better off without an M. So if you want the best super-saloon and, perhaps, something approaching a sports saloon, the Competition is the M5 variant to have.

BMW M5 Competition specification

Price £96,205 On sale September Engine 4395cc, V8 twin-turbo petrol Power 616bhp at 6000rpm Torque 553lb ft at 1800-5800rpm Gearbox 8-speed automatic Kerb weight 1950kg Top speed 190mph 0-62mph 3.3sec Fuel economy 26.1mpg CO2 246g/km Rivals Mercedes-AMG E63Porsche Panamera TurboAudi RS6

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Comments
16

6 August 2018

I have the STD F90 M5 with CCB and they do NOT squeak at all, it's how you clean them that makes the difference.

6 August 2018

Bordering on 2000kg so not a weight loss competition. Doesn't £100k bring with it light weight materials anymore.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

6 August 2018
I think this has fake engine noises injected into the cabin?

If so, absolutely nothing can redeem it.

If not, I guess nice, although lower and harder can't always be the answer.

6 August 2018

I've read elsewhere that it's 1865kg rather than 1950kg! The lower figure is the unladen weight, not sure if Autocar's figure is the same.

6 August 2018

Like Mercedes, BMW is no basking in the glory and happt to take all the plaudits with the M5 and I don't blame them because there's very little compeition, especially from Jaguar which BMW (and Mercedes would be worried about). Because as we all know, if Jaguar does do a XF-R, it'd destroy both with a superior chassis and better powerplant and performance. Mind you, the chassis of the standard XFs are better than the M5's. In while it's nowhere near as quick as the M5, save yourself around £50k and plump for the XK 300-Sport. It's still quick enough but handles, steers, rides and just drives better and is more fun than the M5.

6 August 2018
Roadster wrote:

Like Mercedes, BMW is no basking in the glory and happt to take all the plaudits with the M5 and I don't blame them because there's very little compeition, especially from Jaguar which BMW (and Mercedes would be worried about). Because as we all know, if Jaguar does do a XF-R, it'd destroy both with a superior chassis and better powerplant and performance. Mind you, the chassis of the standard XFs are better than the M5's. In while it's nowhere near as quick as the M5, save yourself around £50k and plump for the XK 300-Sport. It's still quick enough but handles, steers, rides and just drives better and is more fun than the M5.

I doubt very much it would run close. And it certainly wouldn't outperform. Let alone every other area like build, reliability and so on, which would be generations behind as always.

At least with these you don't get those massively over the top cackles and pops that you get with the Jag, to make owners tiny areas feel bigger.

Also when Jag claim a power figure, we all know that its 25% less, whereas these are known by fact to be well over claimed.

Sorry you can keep whatever Jag bring out, and the fact they are actually not better to drive than the competition.

Like you know the standard XF has a better chassis anyway, bet you never even sat in either.

6 August 2018
Roadster wrote:

Like Mercedes, BMW is no basking in the glory and happt to take all the plaudits with the M5 and I don't blame them because there's very little compeition, especially from Jaguar which BMW (and Mercedes would be worried about). Because as we all know, if Jaguar does do a XF-R, it'd destroy both with a superior chassis and better powerplant and performance. Mind you, the chassis of the standard XFs are better than the M5's. In while it's nowhere near as quick as the M5, save yourself around £50k and plump for the XK 300-Sport. It's still quick enough but handles, steers, rides and just drives better and is more fun than the M5.

I almost died through a lack of oxygen after ROFL at this further, insightful comment from Roadster. Btw Roadster, I own a Jaguar which I've only had a week....because the previosu one I had was riddled with faults and needed replacing. Unlike the far more reliable BMWs I had before....

7 August 2018

LOL Jaguar will NEVER match the german cars any time soon, I test drove them all, and went German, says it all.

7 November 2018
Brecks wrote:

I test drove them all, and went German, says it all.

That is literally the most asinine sentence i've ever read in my many years of reading Autocar. 

6 August 2018

Andrew English today reviews this in The Daily Telegraph in a far more negative light. 

 

Worse than the standard car on the road, to be totally pointlessly faster on a track.

 

I think this is yet another M that will be totally forgotten about in 10 years.

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