BMW ex­ec­u­tive goes from great to mag­nif­i­cent

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL LAUNCH/ The M5 Com­pe­ti­tion could have been called the M5 Han­dling Pack­age, writes Michael Tay­lor

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

The F90 BMW M5 is a fab­u­lous ma­chine. The M5 Com­pe­ti­tion is bet­ter. Tan­gi­bly and sparklingly bet­ter. It’s not that it’s just quicker in a straight line, but that it’s so much more pre­cise, pre­dictable and fun through cor­ners.

Has there been a bet­ter time to be a buyer of so­phis­ti­cated mus­cle cars? Buy­ers have a choice of the BMW M5 and its peren­nial arm-wrestling foes, the Mer­cedes-AMG E63 or the Audi RS6/7. It’s the way hot car mak­ers are find­ing niches, like main­stream brands have done. For the M divi­sion it means the F90 M5 has just be­come a mini range, topped by the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion, and it’s a glo­ri­ous, bend-be­lit­tling odyssey.

The M5 Com­pe­ti­tion will of­fi­cially be the mid-level ver­sion of the M5 fam­ily when a lim­ited num­ber of them land in SA in Septem­ber. There is even talk of an even­tual M5 CS, which might be a gig­gle.

For now, the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion will do a fine job of bring­ing the heat, with 460kW of power and 750Nm out of its 4.0l, V8 twin-turbo mo­tor.

But the Com­pe­ti­tion isn’t about how much ex­tra power it gen­er­ates. It’s about how much more speed it re­tains mid-cor­ner and how it uses the power get­ting back out again.

It’s only an­other 19kW of power over the stock M5 sedan, the torque fig­ure is the same and the sprint to 100km/h only drops by 0.1 sec­onds, to 3.3 of them. M claims the sprint to 200km/h is more in­dica­tive of fast car per­for­mance these days, but even then its 10.8 sec­ond fig­ure is only 0.3 sec­onds faster than its cheaper sta­ble­mate.

So that’s not the rea­son any­body is buy­ing an M5 Com­pe­ti­tion, and that’s not the rea­son M thinks it’s spe­cial.

EX­TRA WORK

It’s largely spe­cial be­cause of the ex­tra work M has done un­der­neath the car, es­pe­cially up front.

There are new en­gine mounts, the body rides 7mm lower, the front end’s cam­ber an­gle grows to about 1.3 de­grees, the springs are stiffer and the ac­tive dampers have been tweaked. The back end has dif­fer­ent toe links and anti-roll bars, plus its sus­pen­sion sub­frame is at­tached to the chas­sis with ball-joints in­stead of rub­ber mounts.

If they wanted to make it crys­tal clear what the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion was all about, they’d have called it an M5 Han­dling Pack­age. But they didn’t.

We wrung its neck at the As­cari Race Re­sort in Spain, at­tacked it on moun­tain roads and cruised it down high­ways. And there wasn’t any­thing the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion didn’t ex­cel at.

The pos­i­tive im­pres­sion be­gins when you look at it. There are black­ened kid­ney grilles and the glossy car­bon ac­cents on the boot spoiler, the mir­rors and the M5 badges on the front quar­ter pan­els, plus its own set of forged 20-inch al­loys wrapped in notcheap 275/35 ZR20 and 285/35 ZR20 Pirelli PZeros.

Just like the ex­te­rior, the in­te­rior de­sign doesn’t scream that you’ve spent an ex­tra few hun­dred grand, with M colours stitched into the black seat­belts, its own floor mats and a new in­stru­ment clus­ter graphic (only when you start it up). That’s prob­a­bly apt, be­cause flashier peo­ple might pre­fer the more eas­ily demon­strated op­tion of more straight-line speed, while cornering is a more sub­tle art the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion has come close to per­fect­ing.

That throb­bing, men­ac­ing V8 con­fronts you first, and it’s ei­ther bru­tal or calm and oddly quiet, depend­ing on the mode you want to drive in.

It’s an easy ur­ban com­pan­ion, which seems odd at first, but then you see that the enor­mous torque peaks at 1,800r/min and it be­comes clearer. It’s so strong that it doesn’t need to worry much about the noisy drama of kick­ing down gears to over­take. It just stays in the same gear.

Its ride qual­ity pays a sur­pris­ingly small price for all of its stiff­en­ing, and the body re­mains firm and ac­cu­rate to the touch.

We drove it on a nar­row, bro­ken moun­tain road and won­dered if it was too firm, only to drive the same road in the M2 Com­pe­ti­tion the next day and re­alise that the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion was a crea­ture from an­other world. Where the smaller M was slid­ing and slip­ping in its pro­gres­sive, gig­gles-per-mile 2018 R2,062,306.50 Septem­ber 460kW 750Nm 305km/h (with Driver’s Pack­age) 3.3 sec­onds 10.7l/100km 243g/km way, the M5 Com­pe­ti­tion got on with the job of punch­ing more spin into the speedo nee­dle, dis­dain­ful of the hor­rid road be­neath it.

The elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal power steer­ing is a bit ar­cade game in its Com­fort set­ting, but it comes alive in Sport and Sport+, de­liv­er­ing a flow of nu­anced feed­back to the driver. It’s the first point of con­tact with the road, and it’s a big step for­ward, clearly aided by the ex­tra stiff­ness and ac­cu­racy at the front of the car.

It’s even bet­ter on the track, and the best part is that you can cus­tomise the setup so you can have the rest of the car (pow­er­train, sus­pen­sion damp­ing, ex­haust note) in full good man­ners mode and keep the steer­ing in the oh-so-tasty Sport mode.

The eas­i­est thing would be to sep­a­rate this all out into its dif­fer­ent bits, but it can’t be done. The M5 Com­pe­ti­tion is too co­her­ent a pack­age for that. It has the M2’s abil­ity to shrink around its driver so that the 1,865kg, 4.96m sports sedan feels like ev­ery tyre is just there, an ex­ten­sion of the driver’s arms and feet as they touch the road.

So you bel­low out of the As­cari pit lane with the M1 and M2 modes switched on via bright red but­tons on the steer­ing wheel, flick­ing its abil­i­ties up and down. That mighty en­gine howls all the way to the 7,000 revs cutout in its man­ual mode, then the front end yaws so hard into the first, down­hill left-hand bend that at first you take too much cor­ner. Cars near to two tons aren’t sup­posed to hide their weight like this.

De­rived from the big X mod­els, it’s matched to a light­ningquick com­puter and the elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled torque vec­tor­ing M diff on the rear axle, and it eats all of the V8’s out­put from the slick eight-speed auto and smashes it into the road.

It’s a joy to toss around, ei­ther on the track or on the road. It can be ei­ther cruised around us­ing sur­pris­ingly lit­tle fuel or driven briskly with a calm as­sur­ance or picked up and thrown at cor­ners like it’s a fat tar­mac rally car.

What­ever you choose to do with it, it will just give you the con­fi­dence to know you are in con­trol of ev­ery sit­u­a­tion.

Price: On sale date: Max power: Max torque: Top speed: 0-100km/h: Com­bined con­sump­tion: CO2 emis­sions: Star rat­ing:

Left: Small cos­metic changes hide the big ride-al­ter­ing changes be­neath the ex­te­rior.

The M5 Com­pe­ti­tion is at home on the track as it is on al­most ev­ery type of road. Above left: The in­te­rior is mostly stock M5.

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