BMW expands on its Competition idea for M cars by giving its almighty M5 a shot in the arm. But should you really be sinking your money into the new M5 Competition, or sticking with the (for want of a MUCH better word) 'standard' supersaloon?
In the metal
BMW's Competition philosophy seems to demand black detailing and the M5 Competition is rife with the stuff. Not only is there the signature dark boot model badge, but you'll find the kidney grilles, the side gill breathers aft of the front wheels, the door mirrors, the window surrounds, the discreet little lip spoiler on the boot, the rear diffuser and the quad tailpipe trims are all finished in gloss-black. Gold callipers behind the bespoke forged lightweight 20-inch alloys denote an M5 Competition sitting on its optional carbon-ceramic brakes, while some of the test cars were finished in Frozen Dark Silver metallic, which is one of those funky matte-effect paintjobs.
Other than that, it's all pretty much the same as the 600hp M5 on the outside and the same goes for the cabin. Merino Aragon leather upholstery for the seats is all very nice, while the eagle-eyed among you might also note the M tricolour-striped seatbelts, aluminium carbon-structure chrome dashboard trim and Competition-specific floor mats as being a little different to the norm. Fire the M5 Competition up and an 'M Competition' logo appears in the display, as well - but, when the M5's cabin is so well-sorted from the off (and when it's still so architecturally new, truth be told), wholesale changes are not necessary.
The marketing strategy for the M5 Competition is a little different to that of the new M2 Competition. In the M2 line-up, the Competition completely supersedes the old 370hp variant and is now the only M2 you can buy going forwards. For the M5, though, the 600hp model naturally continues (it's only been on sale for a matter of months, so BMW could hardly can it) and the German company believes that take-up of the Competition will run as high as 50:50 in markets where it is available; as one BMW representative put it, sometimes people just want the bigger numbers.
Which leads us onto the engine. The 4.4-litre V8 has had a slight tickle in peak power, the Competition delivering 625hp and trimming a tenth off the regular M5's 0-100km/h time (now 3.3 seconds, which is astonishing for a two-tonne limousine, even one with all-wheel drive), as well as three tenths from the 0-200km/h time - the Competition will check off this particular run in a scandalous 10.8 seconds. Elsewhere, BMW firms up the Competition's engine mounts, to ensure the prodigious power of the 4.4-litre biturbo V8 is transmitted to the eight-speed auto and M xDrive running gear as quickly and effectively as possible, while there are also changes to the front suspension camber, the rear suspension's bushings and links, the introduction of a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and a lowering of the ride height by 7mm. Finally, the M Variable Damper Control has been retuned, to accommodate all of these hardware amendments.
We should start with a disclaimer: the BMW M5 Competition is one of the best supersaloons, of any era or from any brand, you could wish to drive. It has all the incredible performance, all the marvellous handling tricks, all of the plush and easy-going nature of the regular M5, only it's a tiny bit louder, it's a tiny bit faster and it's a good deal more eager to turn-in. Given a chance to thrash the M5 Competition on track, its willingness to seek out the apexes of multiple corners time and time again was quite remarkable; especially as, for all its dynamic brilliance, it's a heavy saloon car and not a specialised sports machine.
So why only 4.5 out of five in our rating? Well, it's because we don't think the improvements are significantly noteworthy enough to make the premium required for the M5 Competition worthwhile - especially as the firmer, sports-oriented suspension harms the M5's ride quality to a notable degree. Out on the road, the M5 Competition never quite flows with the same ethereal grace and gentility of the 600hp car, which not only makes it less comfortable to ride in on washboard surfaces, but it also means the driver is a little less willing to get on full power on bumpier roads than they might be in the 600hp M5.
Also, while the exhaust is just a little louder than the regular M5's, this Competition still doesn't have a soundtrack that would make you go 'WOW!', like you would in a Mercedes-AMG E 63 S set to 'Full V8 Thunder'. OK, the standard M5 has to fulfil its 'duality of personality' role, by being rudely fast and extraordinarily discreet in equal measure, but surely the use of 'Competition' on the BMW's boot lid means that the engineers could have been allowed to cut loose with the exhaust note on this model - you know, give us a few more histrionics from the back box?
It's very fine margins we're talking about here, of course, when we're being critical. The M5 Competition is a blinding vehicle in many respects and we can understand why people would want one, favouring it ahead of the 600hp car. But it's that 600hp M5's very completeness, its brain-befuddling breadth of abilities, that makes the Competition look a bit surplus to requirements; it hasn't quite evolved far enough away from the source material to merit the price inflation.
What you get for your money
The Competition is just a few Euro shy of €12,000 more expensive than the 600hp M5, and that's a premium that we only think is worth paying if you're actually planning to take your BMW M5 on track on a semi-regular basis. Otherwise, the extra comfort of the 600hp model makes it our preferred choice for road use here in Ireland. Also, €12,000 will buy the 'regular' M5 a lot of fuel, won't it?
If the standard 600hp BMW M5 didn't exist, we'd give the M5 Competition full marks. It's a storming fast saloon, with a glittering chassis, a monumental powertrain and enough ride comfort to make it a usable daily driver... if, naturally, you're rich enough to run a 625hp V8 on a regular basis. But the 600hp M5 does exist, and it's as near-perfect as you could wish for, with a more forgiving ride and a lower price tag, too. The M5 Competition is therefore the perfect Bavarian supersaloon for people who enjoy regular track action, which is where this latest big BMW feels most justifiable.
Not had quite enough? Then take a read of The hidden secrets of the BMW M5 Competition over on our sister site, 50to70.com