But are the Competition version’s gains over the regular M5 actually any use? And are they worth paying £6500 for? By Georg Kacher

MARGINAL GAINS. Not the sexiest of concepts – the idea of a little bit here and a little bit there making a significant difference – but it’s worked a treat for all sorts of sporting set-ups, from Team Sky at the Tour de France to Gareth Southgate’s England at the World Cup. But does it work here? Thing is, the current BMW M5 uses a lot of technology to deliver a lot of performance at a high price. It’s a very rewarding, very full-on driving experience. Add a bit more power, tweak the tech and charge more money, and you get the M5 Competition, offered for sale alongside the regular M5. Gains, for sure, but not gamechangers.

The spec sheet tells part of the story. You get an extra 25bhp. It cuts the 0-62mph time by 0.1sec. You get the same amount of torque, but the peak output is available over a broader rev range. The ride is firmer and the cornering sharper, the electronic aids reconfigured for an even greater performance orientation, and the exhaust is louder. It also costs £6500 more, or £8595 if you go one step further and tick the box that ups the top speed from 155mph to 190mph.

The story the spec sheet doesn’t tell is that these changes combine to tip the M5 slightly further over the boundary between grand cruiser and grand bruiser; the needle moves a fraction further away from 5-series and towards M car. It’s very impressive, but not necessarily preferable.

The 4.4-litre V8 engine sounds like a high-revving twin-turbo unit should: impatient, robust, dense, in combat mode at the tiniest blip of the throttle.

bmw m5 competition 2But fortunately for your neighbours the voluminous exhaust system knows three tonalities: in addition to loud and louder, a stab at the sound control button makes the V8 talk in a more subdued voice.

On the road, it’s very hard to detect the 25bhp bonus; you’d have to drive the two version back to back to spot the difference. In terms of handling, roadholding and ride, it’s easier to pin down a small number of subtle distinctions. The spicy Competition pack ties the axles and the drivetrain more firmly to the body. While a little more front-end camber improves the turn-in grip, the revised rear trailing arms and the thicker anti-roll bar make the car feel better grounded and more confidence-inspiring.

At 1940kg, this M5 is alarmingly heavy for a model badged Competition. But thanks to that serious overload of power and torque, it can record a 0-62mph time that at 3.3sec is in Ferrari GTC4 Lusso V12 territory. A mere 7.5sec later, the car passes the 125mph mark. In previous M5s, flat-out autobahn stints were a proper test of courage, but thanks to all-wheel drive and torque vectoring that occasionally critical high-speed waywardness has disappeared for good. Despite the considerable bulk and weight, this four-seater is very nearly as agile as the M3. When powering hard out of second-gear corners, or when not lifting through a set of challenging third-gear esses, all-wheel drive is of course a big safety bonus.

bmw m5 competition 3Driving all morning close to seventh heaven, the 617bhp saloon never tires of summoning mind-boggling cornering grip, while always talking us loud and clear through tricky sections, finding the appropriate gear with prompt dedication, and allowing us to brake late and then later still.

The M5 Competition waltzes like a professional, elegantly dancing along the edges of adhesion, inviting weight transfer to support the rhythm, effortlessly fathoming the grey zone between carving and sliding. Much more so than its predecessors, the 2018 vintage M5 rewards smooth and precise inputs with a fast, drama-free flow.

Even with the tyres close to melting point, this car is all about trust, balance and responsiveness. While the driver’s right foot sets the pace, the beat of progress is up to the gear-shifting index fingers.

The biggest challenge for the driver at the wheel is self-restraint. To exercise it, don’t look for a button in the centre console. Instead, you must try not to flick the switch inside your head.

MARKING

LOVE
Awesome in every respect
H A T E
Awesome price tag, too
V E R D I C T
Not twice as desirable as the half-as- expensive M2 Competition
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

BMW M5 COMPETITION

> Price £96,205 > Engine 4395cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 617bhp @ 6000rpm, 553lb ft @ 1800rpm > Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive > Performance 3.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph (190mph with Driver’s Pack), 26.1mpg, 246g/km CO2 > Weight 1940kg > On sale September 2018

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