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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
Price
from £111,425
  • 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 sits alongside the special edition M5 CS in the UK lineup. But the current M5 isn't long for this world, and with a V8 hybrid replacement set to arrive next year based on the new 5-series, it signals the last ever pure ICE version.

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For 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 £111,425, it's also a lot of car; it somehow doesn't look or feel dated despite the recent unveiling of the all-new 5-series. Even so, expect its 2024 replacement to arrive with an entirely new level of performance and tech. 

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For the first time in the history of the iconic supersaloon, BMW released a CS variant in 2021, with a 626bhp output making it the most powerful M5 ever produced. With a 70kg reduction in weight and a much more focused chassis, it even took the title of evo car of the year 2021.

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, and some 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 bely 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 £111,425. This is the going rate for a large super saloon these days – the Mercedes-AMG E63 S is also nearing the end of its life, and in Final Edition spec, it costs £120,435. Its 604bhp 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 621bhp Porsche Panamera Turbo S is even more expensive at £141,400. 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 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 its 22-inch wheel and tyre package, and comes in at £115,225 in Performance trim.

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