If ever a manufacturer nailed the fit-for-purpose brief with a high-performance four-door sedan, it was the BMW M5 I drove in Portugal late in 2017.
This was the perfect M car that delivered on all fronts, despite shouts from the BMW enthusiast gallery who were ready to scald the company for making the switch to all-wheel drive in their flagship hero car.
It was insanely fast, delivered supreme levels of ride and handling while inside... it was a genuine tech fest. This was one of those rare cars that had been engineered to perfection and delivered intoxicating thrills for anyone lucky enough to be behind the wheel.
In short, there was little if anything that could be improved on, or so I thought.
But, less than 12 months on, there’s a new more powerful version that’s been further honed to deliver a sharper driving experience – if that’s even possible. And, it doesn’t come cheap.
On the surface, it might seem like the bean counters at BMW are solely responsible for the thirty-grand price hike in the new M5 Competition that effectively replaces the still new sixth-generation of their supercar-slaying four-door family sedan.
It just seems all too soon that this uber fast autobahn express should be relegated to the history books so soon after its release. They call that progress, we’re not so sure in terms of the go factor.
Performance-wise, there isn’t much in it. Power has been bumped by just 19kW to 460kW peaking at 6000rpm, while torque remains the same at 750Nm between 1800 to 5860rpm, but with an added 200rpm to the car’s peak torque range. It’s not something that’s immediately obvious though, even on track.
More importantly, at least for some, the M5 Competition is quicker (by one-tenth) from standstill to 100km/h with BMW claiming 3.3 seconds for the benchmark sprint. No surprise that it now matches the rival Mercedes-Benz E63 S in this respect, but does so with less power but significantly more torque – 450kW and 850Nm respectively.
Wind it out, though, and the powerhouse Beemer will punch through the 200km/h mark in just 10.8 seconds. Previously, it took 11.1 seconds, so bragging rights are well and truly in the bag thanks to the M5’s increased boost pressure - from 2.7 to 2.8 BAR.
And while the Beemer’s newfound price tag might sound a bit rich for such small gains in power and straight-line acceleration, it’s more a case of the extra equipment onboard and the various chassis tweaks that better justify the additional coin you’ll need to stump up for the privilege of owning the very latest BMW M5 Competition.
Engineers have modified the engine mounts as well upping the spring rate from 580N/mm on the old car to 900N/mm on the Competition model for sharper steering precision and more immediate transfer of power to all four wheels.
Look carefully from the front profile and your bound to spot the increased camber in the front wheels, which has gone from half a degree to 1.2 degrees.
Less obvious is the 10 per cent stiffer suspension settings and 7mm drop in ride height, again, in the interest of more precision in the handling department. The same could be said of the carbon-fibre roof, not only lighter but also reducing the car’s centre of gravity.
While the power bump itself seems relatively insignificant as far as the higher price tag goes, the swag of additional luxury kit in the M5 Competition is far more convincing.
Under the bonnet there’s an M-liveried carbon-fibre engine cover that is simply a thing of beauty. Soft-close doors all-round are now standard, as is the electrically-controlled rear roller sunblind and manual blinds for the rear side windows.
You’ll also get a top-notch Bowers and Wilkins sound system with 16 speakers and a 1400W output, Four-zone climate control air conditioning, BMW Gesture control and specific 20-inch light alloy wheels for the M5.
That said, you’re probably not marching into your local BMW dealer with the M5’s equipment list top of mind. It’s much more likely to be car’s herculean performance that gets the heart racing, as it did with us at the Sydney Motor Sports Park last week where we got to properly cane this Bavarian monster.
Truth is, it’s difficult to pinpoint the improvements even on track, as the old M5 was all but faultless in its ability to roar around a race track at ungodly speeds, and all too easily I might add.
It does seem louder though; even just idling in pit lane there’s more base and more anger in the exhaust note because just like the M2 Competition, the M5 version also equipped with a switchable M Sport exhaust opening and closing flaps for the ultimate turbo-fuelled noise at the press of a button.
I’d already driven the M2 Competition around the track, so there was no need for any further familiarisation laps – just hit the M2 button on the steering wheel and once out of pit lane, give it everything it’s got under your right foot without fear of trepidation.
One thing is for certain, though: I can’t for the life of me tell the difference between the old M5 and this new Competition model. If there are any, and there simply has to be given the various chassis tweaks, they're too small to notice without back-to-back runs on the same circuit.
I’m trying to focus on the initial turn-in and gauge if there’s more directness in the steering, but there was heaps of feedback with the old car, so even that is difficult. Perhaps you can carry more speed into some of the faster-flowing corners – but I can’t be certain.
The auto transmission is superb, even in Sport mode, though that hasn’t stopped me tapping the shifter over to the left and using the paddle shifters for more control over the shift points.
For a car that tips the scales at near enough to two tonnes (1940kg DIN) its agility is remarkable. You can almost chuck it into the tighter bends and it’s still wonderfully composed.
Even down the straightaway at full-tilt, with the needle nudging 231km/h before lifting off for turn one, I’m thinking I probably didn’t need any brake, just the lift, such is the body control.
And out on the skidpan, it’s just as reassuring. In fact, for the first time I’ve managed a full drift through a proper figure-eight course and trust me, the rear end is hanging all the way out there.
You’ve also got the option of switching all-wheel-drive completely off, but just like at Estoril, I’ve chickened out and left the car in 4WD using the various Sports modes. Even then, you can still get it sideways with a bit of a nudge through the hairpins, but never do you feel like you’re not completely in control.
That’s also the feel of the M5’s M Differential working in the background by delivering a seamless blend of traction and engagement. Nothing seems to have changed on that front. It’s still monstrously fast and ridiculously capable on track.
In fact, it’s so sublimely fast you might want to give some serious thought to adding the carbon ceramic brake package that was fitted to our Frozen Dark Silver tester at the track, for they are capable of reining in huge speed in what feels like a second or two.
The bad news? It’s a $16,500 option, but it’s the first box we’d tick (after Apple CarPlay) if you intend to have some real fun with your Beemer.
It’s not like you’ve got a choice in the matter – there’s only one M5 and it’s the Competition. It’s also going to cost you almost $230,000, but you’ll do so knowing you own the latest and greatest version of one of the most storied automotive nameplates in the world of high-performance autobahn crushers.
A NOTE on the video: "Estoril in Spain" – silly Tony. He knows, of course, that it's in Portugal!