It’s a fair while since the BMW M5 has been declared a sensuous, inviting thing. Three generations probably (starting with the V10 E60 model back in '05). Even in this car, the latest, Competition version of the M5, there’s still a slight tactility barrier between your brain and the car.
The steering is a bit lifeless and the whole car is faster than you’ll ever be, so you might as well shut up and just take the ride on its many other merits. And merits there most certainly are. Enough for third place, anyway.
Actually, calling the M5 Competition out for being a bit aloof is probably a mistake to begin with. Remember being told how a modern supersonic fighter-jet just wouldn’t stay in the air without computers? Well, it’s the same thing going on here, I reckon.
While your attack-jet has to be inherently unstable to be able to turn fast enough, and absorbs distance faster than the human brain can figure, it’ll also fall out of the sky without a super computer making the crucial split-second decisions.
Ditto the M5, to some degree. See, there are times, particularly on the track where you honestly felt like you were just (and only just) hanging on to the tiger’s tail. When those 460kW and 750Nm light off, you are inevitably going to start arriving at corners in a way you’ve never discussed with your Nana. At which point, you better hope like hell that the car is going to step in and not get as flustered as you are right at this instant.
Seriously, on full boost and big revs, unless you’re Rick Kelly, you’re probably just along for the ride. It’s very focusing, but it’s also intimidating. Kind of like trying to land a four-metre shark in a three-metre tinny. You better be careful where you put your feet.
The M5’s lap time of 1.30:8 puts it fourth outright in the inaugural MOTOR/The Bend GP, an amazing feat when you consider that it’s the only car here (apart from the hot hatches and the RS4) with four doors and five seats. It’s also a hefty bugger at almost 1.9 tonnes, and, again, it’s here that you can see that the Competition is all about a result, not necessarily giving you puny humans a chubby, per se.
With the dampers set to Comfort, you might notice a tiny bit of body roll and maybe even a whiff of understeer on the track. But switch the drive modes up to a racier setting and the thing is suddenly producing mild oversteer on the limit. Turn off the DSC (as you can in a modern M-car) and turn off the front axle, and the M5 is a drift-car par excellence.
In a straight line, the thing is utterly formidable. Again, it’s a no-nonsense approach to things with the Competition combining tyre and mechanical grip (it’s all-paw, remember) with a warhead of an engine to get it to its destination 400m away.
From rest, it needs just 3.78 seconds to get to 100 and from there it requires a mere 7.45sec more to reach the quarter-mile (in 11.53sec). At which point it can be relied upon to be screaming along at better than the double-ton. In the process, it requires just 1.8 seconds to get from 80 to 120km/h. Only the 911 GT2 RS needs less time for this crucial-to-overtaking stunt. And not much less.
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And you don’t need to be redlining the thing in every gear to achieve that sort of thrust, either. The torque curve is flat enough that every single one of those Newton metres is available from as low as 1800rpm all the way through to just 200rpm shy (5800) of where power maxxes out. That’s modern engine management for you. Impressive barely covers it.
The other theme that has surrounded the latest M5 is its value-for-money quotient. Okay, so the Competition package adds around $30K to that, but you can see and feel where that money has gone. BMW has previously admitted that the Competition is all about going fast at the possible expense of some luxury.
But unlike the track-oriented M4 CS where BMW ditched everything from the cup holders to the actual door trims, in the M5 Competition, it’s hard to see where the luxo thing falls anything like short. On the flip side, the stiffer suspension can be felt and it’s this that gives the car its edge on the track.
Well, combined with the lower ride height and the tweaks to the wheel-alignment settings, but the fact that adaptive dampers have been retained enable to car to remain civilised but fearsome over a wide range of conditions.
It may not be the most talkative car BMW has ever built, but in terms of the brand’s four-door sedans, it’s far and away the fastest we’ve ever seen.
11 contenders, one winner on Performance Car of the Year 2019
2019 BMW M5 COMPETITION SPECS:
Engine: 4395cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 460kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 750Nm @ 1800-5800rpm
0-400m: 11.53sec @ 203.09km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 30.8sec
Dylan Campbell - 3rd
"If it had the front end and noise of an E63, it would be near perfect."
Louis Cordony - 5th
"Superman in a business suit, but three cylinders sound missing."
David Morley - =5th
"A dead-set ballistic missile. With controls of clay."
Scott Newman - 4th
"Lunatic performance but ride, steering and noise should be better."
Rick Kelly - 2nd
"A big angry monster that really deals with its size well."
PCOTY 2019 Scoring