2019 BMW M5 Competition First Drive: Fighting Weight

Flingable? Tossable? Yes. The M5 Competition approaches corners with a sprightly demeanor, eager and agile. Although the M5 Competition is expected to carry the same curb weight as the M5, the increased overall rigidity makes it a lot more enjoyable to throw that mass around. The last M5 we tested weighed in at 4,268 pounds, which is only 200 pounds heavier than the college-weight 1999 E39 M5—made all the more impressive given the all-wheel-drive components and 20 years of safety improvements. The M5 Competition is also the lightweight contender in its category, besting the Audi RS7 (4,407 pounds), Mercedes-AMG E 63 S (4,581 pounds), and the Porsche Panamera Turbo (a cheeseburger-diet-worthy 4,662 pounds).

This lighter mass is instantly noticeable as I take the M5 Competition for a few laps around the wildly entertaining Ascari racetrack on the outskirts of Ronda, Spain. This private track includes turns with such charming names as The Screw, Piff-Paff, and The Kink. High-speed straights are followed by blind corners and sudden elevation changes. It’s as fun as it is demanding. As I rocket out of the last turn onto the front straight, the M5 Competition schusses down the tarmac as if carving through fresh powder.

The transmission is brilliant in its anticipation, trading gears up and down with a swift, keen intuition. In manual mode, I hit the rev limiter several times until I familiarize myself with the upper ranges of the V-8’s aural cadence: The increase in frequency doesn’t bring along a sense of corresponding urgency. It lacks the telltale note of an engine singing at the height of redline, ready to drop an octave in search of more rpms to devour. Blame the overboosted M Sound soundtrack, which pipes through the stereo speakers a literal false note—call it exhaust tuning by Bowers & Wilkins. Yes, yes, I get it; right now you’re a race car. If any engine configuration deserves to naturally show off the combustible fruits of its labor, it’s the burbly beauty of a V-8. Keep the flaps open on the pipes and dial down the digital enhancement, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, the steering feel is as absent as the exhaust note is prominent. Though BMW has made strides on rediscovering the joys of tactile sensation, there’s still a disconnect between the wheels on the ground and the wheel beneath my hands. The only time I feel something approaching feedback is when the lane departure warning vibrates the wheel. BMW engineers have proven they can program a mode for every occasion. So how about this: I’d love to see a Natural mode added to the mix, delivering a purity of steering feel and exhaust note. The rest of the M5 Competition experience is so visceral, so thrilling, so involving. It’s only fair that these two components exhibit that same sensorial impact.

Speaking of the senses, sharp eyes will pick up the exclusive visual changes on the M5 Competition, beginning with the black “M5 Competition” badge on the trunk. Elsewhere, high-gloss black trim abounds, replacing body-color bits on the mirror caps, rear apron insert, and Gurney lip on the trunklid, while the chrome found on the tailpipes, side gills, and front grille also give way to the same high-gloss black. Exterior door handles lose their brightwork in exchange for a full body color treatment. The overall effect imbues the M5 Competition with a subtle yet sinister shadow, though the blacked-out kidneys look more like two amoebae on the verge of symbiosis than an iconic design element.

Fun Fact: When the M5 debuted back in 1985, it was the fastest production sedan in the world. According to Van Meel, it was built out of necessity: It turns out the security detail had trouble keeping up with BMW’s CEO of on high-speed autobahn runs, so they appealed to the M racing division for help. Van Meel sees the M5 Competition as a worthy successor to that legacy: a no-compromises sports car that just happens to have four doors and a trunk.

Available now, the M5 Competition starts at $110,995, commanding a $7,300 price premium over the standard M5, but well worth the cost if frequent track days are in your future. The M5 Competition completes the about-face from its paunchy predecessor and charges headlong into middle age with a renewed sense of focus and vigor.

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