A machine that plays to the heartstrings rather than the statistics.
The BMW M5 has long been the benchmark performance sedan with its world-beating power combined with track capable handling. Over the past few years, even the historic icon has found itself needing to evolve as it faces challenge not only from its archrival, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S 4MATIC+, but also from new crop of performance electric vehicles such as the Porsche Taycan. BMW is not taking this siege lightly and made drastic changes to the line, including the updated 2021 BMW M5 Competition we have on test here.
BMW no longer offers the “regular” M5 in its portfolio and instead, the M5 Competition is the starting point for anyone wanting a super saloon from Bavaria. To top off the lineup, BMW has also unveiled a more powerful and lighter 2022 BMW M5 CS for a one-year limited production run.
This lineup change does not mean that the 2021 BMW M5 Competition is a consolation prize though. Codenamed “S63”, its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine is one of the world’s most potent engines. With 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft. of torque onboard, the M5 Competition can accelerate like the best of performance sedans. Zero to 100 km/h takes only 3.3 seconds and it can reach double that speed in as little as 10.8 seconds, firmly pinning drivers to the back of their seat throughout the process.
Though one can make the argument that the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan Turbo S can easily match or even beat the M5 Competition’s acceleration figures, the aural experience from the deep roaring V8 and the screaming optional M Performance Titanium Exhaust elicits a level of excitement that simply cannot be replicated by just speed. When the exhaust flaps are set to open through the M Sound Control button beside the shifter and powertrain is set to ‘Sport Plus’, the M5 Competition responds to shifts from the eight-speed M Steptronic with thunderous snaps and crackles that transcend the driving experience.
The specially tuned chassis on the M5 Competition is also a delight. It keeps the car feeling planted through corners, the adjustable suspension system feels highly responsive even in the softest “Comfort” setting and ride quality is acceptable in all three driving modes. The M5 Competition’s M Servotronic steering system offers accurate with great road feel, and unlike most cars where we typically prefer an increased weight, we actually prefer the M5 Competition being set to “Comfort” for more natural feel and easier navigation in an urban setting.
We noted that the standard M Compound brakes are excellent in halting the vehicle when the fun needs to stop but pedal response is a bit too aggressive to drive it smoothly around town. Those looking to do lots of track driving should consider the optional M Carbon ceramic brakes as they are lighter and offer greater resistance to brake fades.
The M5 Competition is fitted with a standard M xDrive system that allows power to be sent to the front and the rear wheels seamlessly. The M xDrive system is rear-wheel biased by default, and drivers can dial up its bias by selecting 4WD Sport mode in the M Dynamic Mode (MDM) system, and even have the option to go full rear-wheel drive using 2WD mode. This is a feature that is unique to the true M performance vehicles and separates it from standard 5-series models such as the M550i xDrive. We wish BMW would allow the 2WD option without turning off Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) so less skilled drivers can also enjoy some tail wagging fun.
According to Natural Resources Canada’s 2021 Fuel Consumption Guide, the 2021 BMW M5 Competition is rated at 16.0L/100km in the city and 11L/100km on the highway for a combined 13.8L/100km fuel consumption. We observed similar figures during our test week which is an astonishing accomplishment considering the amount of performance as well as the wintry environment it endured. To no one’s surprise, the M5 Competition requires premium grade gasoline with an octane rating of 93 and above.
The M5 Competition’s styling has been refreshed for 2021 with newly designed BMW kidney grilles, head and taillights, and front and rear bumpers. It looks athletic thanks to a 7-millimetre drop and the body looks a bit more chiseled than the pre-refresh version. The carbon fibre roof sets a nice contrast to the Imola Red paint scheme, and the carbon-fibre exhaust tips round out the M5 Competition’s attractive and purposeful appearance.
Much like its exterior, the cabin of the M5 Competition is also all-business. Drivers are greeted by a thick M leather steering wheel and supportive M Multifunctional seats. These seats provide plenty of lateral support without feeling intrusive or uncomfortable. Our tester is equipped with the Ultimate Package that adds a host of luxury features including soft close doors, automatic trunk, ambient air package, wireless charging, Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system, and massaging front seats. While it is refreshing to enjoy a massage while driving, we found its strength too weak to be invigorating.
Infotainment is delivered using BMW’s intuitive iDrive OS 7 system through the 12.3-inch touchscreen unit atop the centre console. Input is accepted through touch, rotary dial, or by voice. We enjoy that there are plenty of customizable shortcut keys through the number keys and its user-friendliness trumps the competition. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is supported wirelessly and the optional 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system is absolutely brilliant.
To allow its drivers to properly enjoy the capable M5 Competition, BMW has included a host of standard Driver’s Assist features including Lane Departure Warning with steering intervention, Frontal collision and pedestrian warning with braking function, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Collision Prevention, and Speed limit information. As part of the optional Ultimate package, we also receive BMW’s Driving Assistant Professional that adds Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Extended Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Keeping Assistant with side collision avoidance, Evasion Aid, Front Cross-Traffic Alert, and Emergency Stop Assistant systems to the list of standard drivers assist features.
There is also a Driver Recorder as part of the Ultimate Package that uses the cameras around the vehicle to record video footage from various points and allow the driver to review it from the Control Display when the car is parked or export the video clips through its USB port.
The 2021 BMW M5 Competition starts at $122,000 and our tester had bundled in the gorgeous red painted brake calipers for $750, M performance titanium exhaust for $6,000, as well as the comprehensive Ultimate package for $21,500, for an as-tested total of $150,250. The M5 Competition finds itself in a heated battle with the aforementioned Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+, the highly anticipated Audi RS6 Avant despite having different body styles, as well as new crops of highly powerful EVs that are trying to beat it at its own game.
With these performance EVs gaining in popularity and stealing news headlines, the 2021 BMW M5 Competition really has its work cut out for it. Thankfully, BMW knows that by creating a machine that plays to the heartstrings rather than the statistics, they can manage to stay on as the benchmark in the performance sedan segment, and the M5 Competition achieves just that.
*Photos by Desmond Chan*