The Letter M
Is it possible to have a favorite letter of the alphabet? When it comes to BMWs, that letter is M. Founded in the early 1970s, BMW’s M division has been creating high-performance versions of BMW vehicles for years. The first M5, produced in 1979, was the motorsport division’s second car (the first being the breathtaking M1). Since that time the M5 has set the bar for high-performance sport sedans, and after spending time with the 2021 BMW M5 Competition it’s clear that brilliant BMW engineering keeps moving the bar higher and higher.
BMW provided us with a 2021 M5 Competition painted in eye-catching Motegi Red Metallic. As the top-level trim in the 5 Series lineup, the M5 Competition is fully loaded with luxury and performance features. The vehicle we tested also had optional extras including an Executive Package, M carbon ceramic brakes, an M Driver’s Package and a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound audio system for a total MSRP of $136,045. Competitors to the BMW M5 include the Mercedes-AMG E63S, Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, Audi RS7 and Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye.
The M5 Competition carries a number of styling cues that distinguish it from the “standard” BMW 5 Series. The 2021 BMW M5 Competition’s signature kidney grille is finished in black and extends lower into the front bumper. An aggressive lower front fascia has a large hexagonal center intake flanked by larger air intakes on each side. The slim, adaptive LED headlights make a statement with new L-shaped light tubes. The M5 Competition’s carbon fiber roof makes a styling statement as well as lowers the car’s center of gravity for improved performance.
At the rear of the vehicle, the BMW M5 Competition gets L-shaped taillights that have a three-dimensional design; an aggressive rear diffuser houses the M quad exhaust. A black finish on the front fender mesh inserts, mirror caps, rear spoiler, badges and rear bumper inserts further differentiates the M5 Competition from other BMW 5 Series vehicles. The M5 Competition M Sport exhaust system tips also get finished in black chrome.
Wheels and Tires
The 2021 BMW M5 Competition rides on 20-inch Y-spoke bi-color forged alloy M wheels fitted with Pirelli P Zero high-performance tires. The M carbon ceramic brakes employ massive 16-inch front rotors that stand out through the wheels thanks to gold-finish calipers.
Under the Hood
The 2021 BMW M5 Competition draws motivation from a 4.4-liter TwinPower turbocharged V8 engine producing 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque — the latter available from 1800 rpm. The engine features two turbochargers, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, direct injection and upgraded cooling and oil systems. The powerful V8 gets teamed with an 8-speed M Steptronic transmission that features multiple drive modes as well as paddle shifters and launch control.
The standard rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive system distributes torque between the front and rear axles through an electronically controlled multiplate clutch, and at the rear the Active M Differential splits torque between left and right wheels. The driver can select from three xDrive modes: 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD.
The 2021 BMW M5 Competition features a double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension with standard Dynamic Damper Control and M Servotronic steering that offer a choice of drive modes: COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+. The SPORT and SPORT+ modes each increase suspension firmness and steering effort, but the driver can make separately selections as well. The M5 Competition also gets new shock absorbers and a fully recalibrated damper control system for improved ride comfort on the highway.
The combination of the powerful V8, quick-shifting transmission and the grip of all-wheel drive delivers performance at levels of premium exotic cars. The 2021 BMW M5 Competition accelerates to 60 mph in a mere 3.1 seconds and will reach a top speed of 190 mph — clearly not a typical family sedan.
Even though the 2021 BMW M5 Competition exists in rarified air as one of the highest-performance cars on the road, inside it is a lovely blend of luxurious amenities and high-tech displays, along with a healthy dose of sports car styling. Two-tone leather trim on the seats, doors and center console are a significant touch, along with the contrasting stitching throughout. Soft Alcantara covers the headliner and A-pillars, and aluminum carbon trim adds to the car’s high-tech styling.
The front seats in the 2021 BMW M5 Competition get trimmed in soft Merino leather and feature power shoulder and thigh support. Seats are also heated and cooled, and as part of the Executive Package they feature integrated massagers. The M5 logo embroidered on the head restraints is a nice touch. Seats are a bit stiff yet comfortable, with large bolsters to keep occupants in place during spirited driving.
The 2021 M5 Competition features the BMW Live Cockpit Professional with iDrive 7, a 12.3-inch instrument display and a new 12.3-inch digital center information display, giving the vehicle a high-tech vibe. The GPS navigation system has been improved with cloud-based BMW Maps for faster route calculations as well as dynamic recalculation based on real-time traffic data. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard.
Rear seats of the 2021 BMW M5 Competition are trimmed in the same two-tone leather as the front seats, with further comfort provided by heated outboard seats and dual-zone rear climate control. Passengers in back will find plenty of legroom and headroom; however, the middle seat is stiff and possesses limited legroom.
Even though the 2021 BMW M5 Competition drives like a sports car, it gladly performs all requisite duties of a daily driver. The power-operated trunk lid reveals room for multiple pieces of luggage or other larger cargo.
On the Road
The M5 Competition has multiple personalities, which is one of its most endearing qualities — despite more than 600 horsepower on tap, the car functions well as a luxury sedan. With the sport exhaust muted and suspension set to Comfort, the M5 is perfectly balanced for smooth driving in urban settings, as well as cruising the open road. Turn on seat massagers and the high-end audio system and the M5 transforms into a welcome conveyance for long road trips, certain to please those not feeling the need for speed. And even though the 2021 BMW M5 Competition remains obediently composed in this fashion, it certainly isn’t its strong suit. Bring on the M Mode.
One of our favorite aspects of the BMW M5 Competition are its drive characteristics, which can be configured for performance or comfort. Engine, chassis, steering and all-wheel-drive system can be adjusted independently so the M5 drives like a luxury sedan — calmly and quietly. Conversely, the driver could choose the highest performance settings and the M5 Competition transforms into a roaring beast. All settings can be stored and selected via M buttons on the steering wheel.
During our time with the 2021 BMW M5 Competition, we happily preset the M button on the steering wheel to configure the car to express its most aggressive nature — in fact, pressing the M button brings up a screen confirming the driver’s intentions. Once selected, the M5 Competition awakens with a pleasing rumble from the quad exhaust outlets. Full throttle changes that sound to a breathtaking roar that results in brutal acceleration. Shifts up or down occur instantaneously, and it doesn’t take long for the M5 to propel into triple-digit speeds. Even stabs at the accelerator from 70 mph will pleasingly push occupants back into their seats as speed climbs.
Sports Car Handling
When we took to our favorite winding country roads east of Seattle, the M5 Competition seemed to forget all about being a big four-door sedan. Steering is precise with excellent feedback and grip is outstanding. Winding through challenging curves, the M5 Competition stays flat and stable. Granted we didn’t explore the limits of the M5’s capabilities since we were on public roads, so we were left longing for some quality time at a racetrack.
The BMW M5 has always been an impressive sport sedan, properly merging daily drivability with extreme performance capability — and this latest M5 Competition delivers on that promise. With contemporary styling complemented by an elegant yet sporty interior, the 201 BMW M5 Competition certainly looks the part of a sport sedan. And with more than 600 horsepower, amazing handling and excellent traction, the M5 Competition has plenty of performance to back up its aggressive looks. Granted the car’s purchase price is not for the faint of heart, but it says a lot when a vehicle of the M5 Competition’s caliber pleases so much that it makes any driving enthusiast consider their bank balance and their need to keep paying on that silly mortgage . . ..