The 2021 BMW M5 Competition Lets You Bludgeon Fun Roads In Reasonable Comfort.
BMW's rocket sedan packs big stats, but is it better than its German competition?
Fast German luxury sedans are some of my favorite cars. They haul ass, seat four adults comfortably, are loaded with tech features, and are as comfortable ripping a canyon road as they are storming along unrestricted Autobahn stretches. BMW's M5 has solidified its place in the upper echelon of the super sedan category, banging out the model since 1984.
As a former owner of an E39 M5, I loved the analog sensations of the early 2000s model, with a powerful naturally aspirated V8 mated to a six-speed manual. Over the decades, Munich's super saloon has grown in size and weight, and the M5's performance and price have jumped up accordingly. After reviewing the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S not long ago, I recently had a week to give BMW's fast four-door offering a fair shake too.
The Rather Big Numbers
The 2021 BMW M5 packs a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 600 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 553 lb-ft of torque across a plateau from 1,800 to 5,690 RPM that helps it propel from 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds, and that's in its standard form. Tick the $7,600 option box to add the Competition Package--as my tester did--and you'll get an extra 17 horses, knock a tenth off the 0-60 time, add an M Sport exhaust system, bumps up from 19s to 20-inch M Y-spoke forged wheels, shadowline lights and exterior trim, and M seat belts. Spend another $2,500 for the M Driver's Package, and BMW will give you a free 1-day class at a BMW Performance Center while also bumping the M5's top speed from 155 to 189 MPH.
BMW's M5 Competition hits the street as a sedan, without a wagon option, and contends with the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S (which has sedan and wagon choices) and Audi's RS6 Avant (if you want a wagon) and RS7 (the sportback option). Power in the M5 is slightly more than the Audi offerings and just down on the fast E-Class, with a torque disadvantage against both of its rivals. The M5 runs its power through an 8-speed automatic and BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system that lets you toggle the system to go rear-wheel-drive only, if you want to let the ass-end kick out more easily.
For 2021, BMW gave the M5 a mild touch-up, so the keen eye will notice updated headlights and taillights, slightly bigger kidney grilles (but not the massive ones on the 3 and 4 Series), revised fascia and rear diffuser, and much bigger screens in the cockpit. Pricing for the M5 starts at $103,500, and after ticking plenty of options to make the car more comfortable inside, bumping better tunes with the Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, in addition to opting for carbon ceramic brakes, the total MSRP for the M5 Competition painted this gorgeous shade of Motegi Red hit $136,045.
Cruising Quickly As A Daily Sedan
If you want to make an impression at the office parking lot, the M5 Competition will get the nod from your boss, and will make your commute there beyond enjoyable. The twin-turbo engine is quick to respond to your slightest inputs, and will dispose of any slower moving commuter in a blink. Adaptive damping is set up on the sportier side, and even in its softest setting, every bump and pothole along city streets will be felt.
I configured the M1 steering wheel-mounted button to engage my individual daily driving mode. I put the engine in sport, stuck the transmission in the middle quickness setting, firmed the steering feel, and softened the suspension in its comfort setting. With this setup, the M5 is comfortable enough around the city while still being sporty in the bends without slowing down that seriously potent engine.
Because I love rumbly noises out back, I made sure the exhaust was set to the louder mode, but gripe that BMW fakes in some engine sounds through the speakers. Take it easy on the throttle when you aren't playing on fun roads, because the EPA estimated fuel economy figures of 15/21/17 MPGs were a dream I never achieved, experiencing 12 MPG during my test, even with the stop/start mode engaged.
BMW nails the seat setup in the M5 with big, cushioned buckets that give you loads of adjustable lateral support, and heating, cooling, and massage when you opt for the executive package. 2021 M5 models now have remote start standard, which I highly suggest if you want to cool or heat your cabin and seats before you hop in for a drive. I dig the illuminated M5 badge in the seat back that greets me as I walk up to the car at night. Back seat space is good for two adults, and there's plenty of headroom too. Boot space is massive, and the rear seats fold down if you're truly interested in toting Ikea furniture home in your $130,000 sedan.
The new 12.3-inch infotainment display is great, and with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto you can control your audio and navigation apps versus using an iDrive system that's receiving iterative updates which try to make it better. I give BMW bonus points for having great parking cameras, an adaptive cruise control system with traffic jam avoidance that works nicely, a wireless phone charging point that's tucked ahead of the cupholders, and for equipping the M5 with real cupholders that fit a 32-oz (that's a medium in Texas) Whataburger cup.
Ripping The Twisty Routes
Escape your city streets for the windy stuff, and you'll be delighted by the BMW M5 Competition's abilities. Make sure to have the engine in the sport or track mode, and the 617-horsepower turbocharged V8 will roar to life, sending the big German sedan toward "arrest me" speeds effortlessly. Along the empty stretches of some of my favorite Texas Hill Country roads, the M5 Competition excelled at blasting between curves, and was planted around any fast bend it met.
Not as light on its feet as its AMG E 63 counterpart, the M5 is still sharp and nimble in the curves, with steering confidence that's enhanced by driven front wheels. I toggled the rear-wheel-drive mode, to see how the M5 Comp danced, and definitely enjoyed letting the rear induce a hint more slip angle. Frankly, just leave the M5 in AWD to give yourself a more stable front end in the quicker corners. I appreciate that BMW gave the M5 Comp a set of Pirelli P-Zero tires with reasonable measurements of 275/35/20 up front and 285/35/20 out back.
The M5 lets you adjust the 8-speed Steptonic transmission from smooth to aggressive on the shift lever with its three-stage Drivelogic shifting system, which has steering wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifts. I went all the way up to S3 in the M2 drive mode, and loved the quicker shifts that weren't too harsh. Along a longer, emptier farm-to-market road, I preferred to handle shifts myself because the automatic would tick up a gear higher than I wanted most of the time.
Speaking of that M2 custom drive mode, I went hardcore with all the settings, save the suspension, which had to be set to comfort because BMW gave the M5 Competition's sport and setting wildly stiff damping that's best suited to a track. This is another spot where the E-Class is better, which offers more compliant adaptive dampers when it matters.
The Competition Package gives you access to the M5's track mode, which shuts off the nannies for optimal hooning. Track mode can also minimize the content on both 12-inch displays, while giving you an instrument cluster that's easier to decipher. I found that toggling the M Mode button next to the shifter also enabled this display, and prefer that look while also having clear shift lights pop up.
When you hit braking zones, you'll be glad you spend the extra cash on carbon ceramic brakes that sport stunning gold calipers. If you don't think you need the extra braking power, but still want to make your brakes look cool, red calipers are a no-cost option on the M5. Another no-cost option is a glass moonroof, but I love the standard carbon fiber roof that gets rid of a big chunk of weight while lowering the center of gravity.
This Rocks As A Super Sedan, But There Are Options
BMW supplies enthusiasts with a fantastic super saloon, packed with a ton of power under the hood, exceptional levels of grip, and an interior that will keep you happily comfortable on long treks. The M5 Competition is still a badass fast sedan, but the exterior and interior have stayed too similar to previous years versus its Audi RS and Mercedes-AMG competition, which continues to get better looking. To me, AMG's E 63 S is still the better super saloon option, and I'd take it in wagon form. I'll be giving the Audi RS6 Avant a proper test in a few weeks too.
If you're craving even more performance from the M5, European drivers are now treated to the M5 CS that receives 627 horsepower, can sprint from 0-60 in 2.7 seconds, has a more dynamic chassis setup, and gets racier seats you'll recognize from the new M3 Competition. U.S. readers have to wait a little longer to get our hands on the CS.