Test Drive: 2019 BMW M5 Competition

Am I annoyed that, once the lots have been drawn and my turn comes up, my time with the 2019 BMW M5 Competition ends up being in the dead of winter during the snowiest week of the year?

Mildly, I suppose. With this car, warm sunshine and a pristine, dry, twisty racetrack would be any reasonable human’s preference.

But here in Canada, ideal driving conditions just aren’t available for roughly 50 percent of the year unless we’re willing to drive a very long way to reach them. And let’s face it: there aren’t very many people who would buy a sedan, no matter how much of a performance car it purports to be, and be happy about leaving it to sit in a garage for six months.

A winter test to see how an M5 Competition feels as a year-rounder, while perhaps not quite as much fun as gnawing on apexes, can therefore be viewed as an act of community service. (You’re welcome.)

And how does it do? Shockingly well. M cars have a well-deserved reputation for hanging out on the wild, ragged edge; but it turns out that when you want to reel this one in a little, it’s more than happy to hang back and provide a smooth, comfortable, and all-around gorgeous drive.

M5 on (Light) Steroids

In case the M5’s 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque aren’t enough for you, along comes the M5 Competition with the same 4.4-litre twin-scroll turbocharged V8, retuned to snarl out 17 more horses and deliver that same torque 160 rpm deeper into the band to top out at 5,860 rpm. No, that’s not dramatically more – but the difference on the MSRP between the two is just over $8,000, which accounts for less than 7 percent of the total you’ll be paying, so the value proposition there is at your own discretion.

That, though, is the easy part. Here’s where the fodder for arguments between keyboard warriors begins.

Like the standard M5, there’s no manual transmission available here; the same eight-speed automatic is your only option. Now, if you like to row your own and a clutch just can’t be had, this is one of the better transmissions out there. When you leave it to its own devices, it operates like it’s reading your mind. When you want to take over, shifts through both the stick and the paddles feel almost synaptic-fast. You’ll almost – almost – forget that you’re not using your left foot. But absolutely no one offers a high-powered sedan with a stick anymore, so this is a pointless whine.

Also, as with the standard M5, the M5 Competition comes in all-wheel drive only. This isn’t unique to Canada; the US gets xDrive only, too, and there are precious few cars in this echelon that are equipped otherwise in Canada these days. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The system has a bias for the rear wheels to begin with, and it powers only the rear axle when it’s forced into two-wheel drive mode. So, it offers prime control during less ideal weather like what I experienced, and when summer hits and you’re ready to rip, holding down the Traction Control Off button for a few seconds reveals 4WD, 4WD Sport, and 2WD options to suit your mood.

That ease of changeability is an absolute hallmark in this car. The M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel start with a staggered group of performance settings that can be fully customized to the driver’s own preferences. Plus, there are separate buttons within easy reach on the centre console that allow individual adjustments to the gearing, damping, and steering feel on the fly, each with three levels to choose from that make a notable difference in behaviour. If you live in a place where the highways, side roads, and performance driving spaces are maintained at drastically different standards – meaning, if you live in a place where it snows with regularity – then you’ll appreciate this flexibility deeply.

But if you’d rather not think about it all very much, the car can work with that, too. The fact that you’re driving around in comfort mode in no way precludes it from responding appropriately when you stomp on the gas pedal. And the M5 Competition’s custom exhaust system will emit an almighty, belligerent, glorious noise when you do.

There are a few more things that set the M5 Competition apart from a standard M5, such as engine mounts with firmer spring rates, a 7 mm lower ride height, and multiple subtle chassis tuning tweaks.

Bringing up fuel economy feels like an exercise in futility, but in case anyone is interested: Natural Resources Canada says you should expect to use 16.0 L/100 km in city driving, 11.2 on the highway, and 13.9 combined. Past reviews have shown that I’m not one to be shy with the go pedal, although the persistently poor road conditions may have squelched my enthusiasm some during this week of roughly 50–50 city and highway testing, which saw me land at an average of 14.6.

Premium All Around

If you can afford it, there’s no question that performance-wise, this car talks the talk. But the premium interior finishes and features walk the walk to back it up.

The M5 Competition gets more gloss black exterior finishes than its M5 counterpart. This appears most dramatically on the grille surrounds and is also present on the side mirror caps and the side air vent mesh. The wheels are made from a custom-designed light alloy and, with 275/35 20-inch tires on the front and 285/35 on the rear, the latter aren’t quite as wide as the stock tires on a Porsche Panamera Turbo, but they certainly look and feel substantial enough.

On the inside, an illuminated M5 logo adorns the front seat backs – my kid is enraptured with these, but I find them a little gaudy and could go without them – plus very nice M patterned seat belts. The brown and black Merino leather in this tester has a grey stitching detail that, in my opinion, doesn’t suit it very well. But with black, grey, white, and darker brown combinations available, this is an easy fix.

There’s extensive use of well-executed digital touches such as the standard fully digital instrument cluster and HVAC controls, and the resolution on the back-up camera delivers one of the clearest views I’ve encountered. While I’m a confirmed Android user and Android Auto is not available here, Apple CarPlay is included for the iPhone junkies, and the latest BMW infotainment system is one that I find among the easier ones to learn and navigate while in motion.

Verdict

Relative to the M5 Competition, the Porsche Panamera Turbo falls short on horsepower (550 hp) but bests it on torque (568 lb-ft from 1,960 rpm) – but it also costs $50,000-plus more. The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ is a better match (603 hp, 627 lb-ft of torque from 2,500 rpm, MSRP from $117,000), but the high degree and ease of customizability make the M5 Competition truly stand apart.

How each of these cars would hold up as year-round daily drivers would be a fascinating side-by-side test, and it’s not one I’ve performed myself. But after spending a week sliding around safely and happily with the M5 Competition in a proper Canadian winter, I feel justified in declaring that this is one very special car indeed.

2019 BMW M5 Competition
Engine Displacement: 4.4L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 617 hp
Peak Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800–5,860 rpm
Fuel Economy: 16.0/11.2/13.9 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 530 L
articles_PricingType 2019 BMW M5 Competition
Base Price $121,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,245
Price as Tested $142,745
Optional Equipment $19,400 – Premium package $6,500; advanced driver assistance package $1,500; carbon-fibre engine cover $1,200; full Merino leather $4,900; Bowers & Wilkins sound system $4,900; ambient air package $400
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
8 Styling
10 Powertrain
9 Quality
8 Comfort
7 Practicality
9 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value