A BMW M5 is a car that typically flies under the average car spotter's radar. It doesn’t have a brash body kit, or flared fenders, or big wings.
Order one in silver or gray and most will think that you’ve bought yourself a very nice 5 Series.
The Imola Red M5 Competition I drove did not have that problem, and it seems if you want people to notice you in your shiny new executive jet, the best way to do it is to order one in a bright hue.
The red paint also provided the perfect canvas for all the black trim pieces that come with the Competition. The grille, window trim, wheels, and even the carbon fibre roof all turn this from garden-variety saloon into something more desirable. The non-competition M5, by the way, has been dropped from the lineup.
The 2021 M5 gets revised head and taillights with new lighting signatures, re-sculpted intakes, and black chrome tail piles out back, although my M5 had the optional titanium exhaust with carbon tips, a $6000 extra but worth every penny. If you like your cars loud, then don’t even hesitate. Without it, the M5 doesn’t make as much of a racket as I remember from a few years ago. Updated Euro noise regulations might have something to do with it, but the optional exhaust cures that ill.
There are improvements inside too. The main screen is larger at 12.3-inches, and it runs the latest version of iDrive, which remains one of the best infotainment systems in the industry. You’ll also find a couple of new buttons on the centre console, one called "M-mode" and the other "Setup". "M-mode" lets you quickly switch between road and sport settings on the fly. Hold the button down and you enter track mode, which switches off the main screen, mutes the stereo, and disables all driver assistance features.
Press “Setup” and it quickly brings up the drive setup screen allowing you to tweak parameters like engine response, steering weight, chassis stiffness, and even the drive wheels.
Disabling the rear-biased all-wheel drive system requires you to turn off stability control first before switching into pure rear-wheel drive mode. In this setting the front wheels will not be there to save your bacon if you mess up, so use with caution.
Power is unchanged but it’s not like anymore is necessary. The 4.4-L twin-turbo V8 pumps out 617 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque from as low as 1800 rpm and benefits from improved cooling and lubrication helping to keep all the reciprocating bits moving smoothly even during extreme use cases like on a track. Power is metered through an 8-speed automatic, and then out to all four wheels.
If you do decide to take your M5 to a track, you will come a bit closer to realizing its insanely high limits but the street is likely where it will spend most of its life and it's over here where you can really come to terms with how good the M5 actually is at just being a car.
The current 5 Series feels great in any guise but the all-powerful M is a benchmark not just for sport sedans, but all sedans.
Yes, it’s something only the well-heeled can afford but a quick look at its spec sheet and you’ll find numbers more in line with those from Maranello than a typical sedan. The biggest difference is the practicality and usability.
Beyond the massive power, which I will get to in second, the M5 Competition is very comfortable with big plush seats, covered in creamy leather, and tons of room to stretch out in. The ride quality is great, and it’s quiet enough that fake engine noise has to be pumped in through the speakers so you can hear it. I would gladly drive this every day of the week, and I wouldn’t be missing out on anything.
Even the back seat will accommodate three people though it would likely be more comfortable with two. The beauty here is that the M5 never “feels” that big to drive.
Upwards of 600hp definitely has something to do with it giving it a weightless feel. Power delivery is linear, despite being turbocharged but it’s also monumental. Launching this beast from a stop using the built-in launch control system is an existential experience, only found in a handful of cars.
It’s not 911 Turbo S fast, but thanks to its AWD system, every single one of those 617 horses is put to good use. It’s comically easy to go very, very fast anytime you feel like it. There’s no prep necessary and no little prayers that need to be said beforehand. Just make sure you have enough road in front of you and mash the go pedal. The computers will sort out any traction issues and off you go, rocketing towards the horizon with no signs of running out of steam.
The fun doesn’t stop there because the M5 will turn into a corner with such gumption you’ll forget how much it actually weighs. With the chassis in “Sport plus,” the ride is mighty stiff but still compliant enough for you to keep your fillings. Body roll is all but eliminated.
The standard steel brakes are the size of wood-fired pizzas and provide confident and repeatable stopping power but if you actually plan on taking this to a track more than once, optional carbon-ceramic binders will extend your lapping session and also save a not-insignificant 23 kgs of unsprung weight.
The M5’s ultimate party trick is when you just want to wind things down. Pick an experience mode from the infotainment system, turn the massaging seats on, and relax in your very own isolation chamber. On the highway, you’ll even get good mileage.
It’s this ability to go from super sedan to a luxurious mile crusher on command that has made the M5 a legend in the automotive community. If you’ve got the cash this is one of the easiest cars to recommend. If you don’t, well, you can always dream.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.