In-depth reviews

BMW M5 Competition F90 review – verdict, specs and prices

The BMW M5 is now only available in Competition trim in the UK, but this is no bad thing as it remains a finer-honed version of the standard M5

Evo rating
from £96,205
  • Powertrain devastatingly effective; more dynamically capable than rivals and beautifully built
  • It’s big; steering lacks life; soundtrack is too augmented

The BMW M Competition recipe is now fairly well refined. Simply take an existing M-car, add a touch more power and treat the suspension to a few well-chosen tweaks aimed at sharpening the driving experience. It’s an approach that has been followed to the letter (and number) with the M5 Competition, which is now the only M5 available in the UK. Launched quickly into the current M5’s model cycle, the Competition is a rival for supersaloons such as the Mercedes-AMG E63 S.

In the Competition upgrade, BMW breathed on the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8, raising power to 616bhp – although torque remained unchanged at 553lb ft. Performance gains are minimal, but the optional M Driver’s pack does raise the top speed from a limited 155mph to 190mph. Of more interest are the changes aimed at sharpening the handling, with a lower ride height, stiffer springs, recalibrated dampers and altered geometry. It all adds up to make a car that’s more involving and agile than before, yet with barely any reduction in comfort. What the updates can’t do, however, is shrink the size of the BMW, so it still feels vast.

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> Click here for our review of the Mercedes-AMG E63 S

External changes over the standard M5 are small but worthwhile, particularly the 7mm drop in ride height, which gives the car more of a hunkered and aggressive stance. There are also new 20-inch forged alloy wheels and a subtle gloss black finish for the trim and the badges. Inside it’s business (class) as usual, with only the red-finish starter button giving the game away that this is the Competition model.

While the BMW M5 Competition is certainly a lot of money at £98,135, it's also a lot of car, being the only BMW with this fire-breathing powertrain to dip below six figures, a price bracket the closely related M8 Competition and its derivatives occupy. 

BMW M5 Competition: in detail 

  • Engine, gearbox and technical specs – 4.4-litre twin-turbo engine has extraordinary punch, auto is slick and responsive and chassis is packed with tech
  • Performance and 0-60 time  – Click the right buttons and the M5 will beat all major rivals from the lights, not to mention most modern supercars
  • Ride and handling – agile and dynamic beyond what you’d imagine possible considering its size and weight
  • MPG and running costs – With great power comes great fuel consumption – it’s thirsty, while the complex power and drivetrains belie its familiar shape
  • Interior and tech – A generation old, but beautifully constructed and finished. No longer has a tech advantage, but everything works
  • Design – BMW’s conservative 5-series forms a good basis for an M5 that does well to slip under the radar.

Prices, specs and rivals

The BMW M5 Competition weighs in at a not inconsiderable £98,205, which is £8500 more than the standard car when it was launched back in 2017. That said, if you’re committed to spending the thick end of £90,000 to £100,000 on a car, then the extra outlay is hardly likely to sway your decision. More importantly, the improvements to the chassis are so tangible and welcome, delivering a level of poise and engagement we expect from M-cars, that you don’t begrudge the extra outlay.

The £94,275 Mercedes-AMG E63 S undercuts the M5 Competition, although not by much, and on the surface appears to offer more bang for your buck. Its 612bhp twin-turbo 4-litre V8 is fractionally down on power, but its bellowing V8 soundtrack means it lacks nothing in drama. And while it lacks the ultimate precision and poise of the M5, it can still be hustled at alarming speeds, while the ability to switch from four- to two-wheel drive will make you very popular with your local tyre fitters.

Close on power and arguably even more engaging to drive, the 550bhp Porsche Panamera Turbo is even more expensive at £116,395. Like its rivals here it’s four-wheel drive, but while it can’t be switched into two-wheel-drive mode the Porsche’s clever set-up allows you to have plenty of rear-drive hilarity if the mood takes. It’s not quite as spacious as the BMW and Merc, but the hatchback Panamera isn’t short of practicality, plus it's just as refined and even more beautifully finished.

Audi’s new RS7 lacks the Porsche's sense of occasion, the BMW’s capability and the  Merc’s theatricality, but is arguably more polished than all of them, riding and handling in a way belying it’s 22-inch wheel and tyre package.

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