Parking the M5 Competition, we were struck by a loud noise. It was the cooling fan, and it was vigorous, and it stayed running for longer than we expected before eventually shutting off. And why wouldn't it? It's tasked with a job of keeping heat in check for a thermonuclear 4.4-litre V8 which churns out 617 horsepower. The massively powerful engine is but a chapter in the story of the 2021 M5 Competition, and it deservedly grabs most of the headlines. The twice turbocharged V8 sends a fearsome wallop through the drivetrain when you leg the throttle and after the merest hint of turbo lag you are gone, baby. It is so quick that countless enthusiast mags have coaxed a repeatable sub-3-second 0-100km/h sprint. Only exotic stuff like a Lambo Huracan Performante, a Porsche 911 Turbo S and the mighty Bugatti Chiron will show the M5 Comp their taillights in a drag race, and only just. That is unbridled insanity.
We’ll delve into the other noteworthy crucial talking points, like the trick drivetrain and a chassis that has been fettled with just enough to make the Competition that much shaper than the regular M5.
Fun Fact: The regular M5 isn’t available here in The Great White North any longer because enthusiasm for the Competition models has been so high. That suits us just fine, although we do wish some of the compliance in the standard model’s Comfort mode could be dialed into the Competition. Yes, we are acutely aware that we are getting old (soft?) but around these parts the tarmac can only be charitably described as ‘rough’ and you will feel every single pothole, frost heave and half assed utility cut when piloting the M5 Competition.
During the week, we pondered how the M5 fits into an impressive lineage of cars massaged by the BMW’s M Division. It is a sports sedan, sure, but it has grown up. This is not a car you will likely see in high school parking lots or in the driveways of middle management types- BMW has the M2 and the newly minted M3 for that (although high school students and Dave from Accounting should be so lucky.) No, the M5 Competition is for a more discerning audience but one that staunchly refuses to abandon the motorsport pedigree M cars are so famous for.
We arrived at the realization that the M5 Competition is a strong contender for your One Car Forever. That is, if you had only one parking spot for the rest of your life and had to fill it with something that does it all, the M5 has the goods to be that car. You can take it to the racetrack and have a great time until your tires and brakes cry Uncle, and then turn around and drive home coddled in serene luxury. This is a cross continental mile muncher of the highest order, a ballistic cruise missile that’s adept at covering vast distances in short periods of time. It will happily take you and 3 friends- even Dave from Accounting- to the golf course for a round in style. And then you can put it into 2WD mode and send clouds of expensive Michelin rubber to the heavens. Go ahead, think about what your choice would be- it is a tough one.
There are the various brand fanboys and gals who will reliably answer with stuff like a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes Benz E63 wagon. Quirkier types will no doubt have a reply in the Volvo 240/VW Westphalia/Toyota Previa vein of the automotive past. After spending a week in the 2021 BMW M5 Competition you see here and handing back the keys- reluctantly- it’s like we said earlier, look no further for a profoundly serious contender for your One Car Forever.
Certainly, you could daily drive this car all year round. Ditch the sticky summer Michelins for a proper set of winter rubber and you would be stymied only by a once in a generation snowfall because the car’s 4WD makes it capable in any conditions. For those who like to indulge their inner child but are iffy to drive a car with 600-plus horsepower through treacherous weather, they can rest assured that fun and surefootedness can coexist with the 4WD Sport/MDM setting which relaxes the stability control programing which we wager is the sweet spot of the myriad of drive modes available.
The M5 Competition is a heavy brute, clocking in at 1,945 kilos but that does not mean it can’t expertly sashay down a twisty bit of tarmac. We cannot accurately tell you where the car’s limits are because they are way to high to explore on public roads. Suffice it to say that the M5 will leave you dumbfounded at how easily and enthusiastically it devours corners, no doubt helped by the safety net of power going to all four wheels. Same with the brakes- they shrug off anything you can throw at them which is hardly surprising when you peer behind the wheels at the enormous rotors and calipers.
But not every journey is a qualifying lap and sometimes you just want to chill out and relax, and the M5 rises to the occasion in that context. The Dr. Jekyll cliché is a tired one, but we can’t think of a better way to describe the M5’s behaviour when you want to dial things back a bit. It’s like any other 5 series but better equipped, which is to say it is quiet and comfortable. Our tester came equipped with the Ultimate Package ($21,500) which means it offered every single comfort and convenience feature you can imagine. Some may find that excessive and point out that soft close doors and a power trunk do not add to the driving experience, but c’mon, you don’t you want to feel spoiled?
The M5 Competition, therefore, is an extremely well-rounded package. There are some things that stick in our collective craw, like the synthetic engine noise pumped into the cabin being a tad too loud for our tastes, and how the ride in anything else other than Comfort mode dangerously flirts with being too stiff. The biggest issue that we encountered during its tenure in the Carpages Garage was paradoxical in that we love the engine’s immense power, yet we felt like we were wasting its potential. The speed piles on so quickly and brutally that each time you lay into the throttle you must back off almost right away, heart-a-flutter and eyes frantically scanning all mirrors for flashing lights and sirens. This exercise in mild frustration is compounded by the fact the car seems to be goading you to do just that at the merest hint of opportunity. Since it is so capable and stable at crazy speeds and does a good job like all its ancestors of making serious velocity feel routine, it can become tiresome keeping this beast on a short leash. Yes, we are aware that the problem of having too much horsepower is seriously First World in origin, but anywhere else other than a racetrack or a lightly traveled section of autobahn the M5 Comp feels a bit stifled.
We suspect that the people who will buy this car (excluding horsepower junkie journalists) will not be deterred by the heady output of the 4.4 V8 and will use their M5 in the same way as drivers of lesser powered 5-series models. They will no doubt enjoy the meticulously appointed cabin, the snappy iDrive infotainment system and the banging Bowers and Wilkins stereo. And when the opportunity to uncork the ferocious engine presents itself, they will no doubt indulge their inner hooligan. They can do this in all four seasons, thanks the excellent and dexteritious four-wheel drive system. The M5’s bandwidth is so vast, and it does so many things so well that we think it should be on any gearhead’s short list of Once Car Forever. Like we said, the M5 Competition is Really, Really Fast.
2021 BMW M5 Competition – Specifications
- Price as tested: $150,250
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger Sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Engine: 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 617 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 553 @ 1,800 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,945 kg (4,288 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.6L/100km (19 mpg)