2021 BMW M5 Competition LCI
Sedans may not look as good as a sports coupe, or may not be as fast as a supercar. But what about a premium sedan that looks as good as a sporty coupe, and as fast as a supercar? BMW 5 Series has been a strong contender in the premium mid-size sedan segment for almost half-decade, and M5 is known as one of the best sporty sedans in the world. However, where the magic happens is not only a drivetrain swap, it is much more than that.
BMW recently updated the 5 series platform, which is also called Life Cycle Impulse (LCI). M5 is also included in that update, meaning that it has been facelifted like the rest of the 5 series. Although the LCI name sounds weird, there are some important changes in the interior, exterior and mechanical. What is surprising about driving the 2021 model year M5 is that, unlike 20 years ago, now a totally new driver may feel himself like a Michael Schumacher behind the wheel – meaning it does not require a high level of driving skill to go fast anymore.
Exterior and Interior
For regular people, it really is no different than the regular 5-Series, as it carries the same main design elements and body lines as the rest of the lineup. This is actually one of the reasons why many people buy sports sedans over supercars. For car enthusiasts, there is a night and day difference between a regular 530i and M5, but at the end of the day, the subtle design makes it more attractive for potential buyers.
Aside from how subtle it looks for non-car people, as a car guy, it looks uniquely BMW. Big front grilles in the front, BMW Laser headlights, big front bumper vents and body lines that go all the way to the taillights. Of course, it comes with M special 20″ rims that you need to pay $500 extra on top of standard M5 Competition wheels. To be honest, I am not a fan of the red colour on a sedan, it is just too flashy for a subtle design. Regardless of the colour choice, it looks gorgeous and probably the second-best looking ever, after the famous E39 M5.
I personally love how the 5 Series looks from the rear, M5 took it to the next step with a more aggressive-looking rear bumper and rear quad exhaust tips that has carbon fibre wrapped around it. Since this is a Competition version, it comes with an actual carbon fibre roof for weight reduction and a better center of gravity. However, that means you have to opt-out of the sunroof.
In the interior, you get the typical BMW quality. If you are coming from any other BMW model, the layout is actually not that different and you would feel at home. Anywhere you touch is leather-wrapped with soft-touch materials. Though everything looks fine at first glance, there are some problems, especially with this price range. One of the most obvious ones is the amount and placement of glossy black usage is too much, it covers almost 50% of the dashboard and it is placed where you touch constantly, meaning you have to clean it almost on a daily basis or it would look nasty.
Although the steering wheel is the same, M5 comes with M-specific buttons for additional settings. It comes with a massive 12.3-inch infotainment screen that sets the industry standards. All things aside, the biggest difference compared to regular 5-Series is the seats. They look gorgeous and feels like it is surprisingly more comfortable than 540i’s M package seats. It comes with heating, ventilating and massage options available.
One of the biggest advantages of having a sports sedan is that accessibility to the rear seats, and having nice rear seat passenger accommodation for family hauling. The current-gen 5-Series comes with a decent amount of rear headroom but falls behind in terms of rear legroom space. This problem gets worse with the M5, as it comes with M-specific seats in the front that has a much thicker profile, meaning you have even less legroom space in the rear seats. Unless you constantly ride with very tall adults in the back, this is not a deal-breaker as passenger accommodation should not be your priority if you are buying an M5, but definitely something to note.
Things get better when we check the trunk space, it comes with a class-leading trunk capacity of 18.7 cubic feet (530 lt). In terms of overall cargo space and functionality, there is no difference between the M5 and 530i, it is totally the same. You can fold down the rear seats and get even more cargo space in the rear like a regular model. Unlike the rear seats, this is where you feel that this is a proper mid-size sedan and one of the most important factors why people are buying an M5 over a dedicated supercar like Porsche 911.
Engine and Drivetrain
This is the fun part, like any M-powered car, it comes with a ridiculous amount of power. BMW M5 Competition produces 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque from a 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine. Like many BMW models, it comes with 8-speed automatic transmission but specifically tuned for the M5. When you first pop the hood, you immediately realize that BMW covered almost everything with plastics to make it look cleaner.
As it comes with twin turbos, they are located on the top of the engine, both turbos are cooled by water/air intercoolers as it definitely requires additional cooling due to high power and lack of space in the engine bay. Even if you daily drive and don’t push the engine to the limits, it constantly tries to cool itself down. Not to mention it must be a nightmare if you ever try to work on the engine for repair or any type of maintenance.
The 8 Speed Transmission is made by ZF and as always, it is a perfect match with the V8 engine. You can adjust the tuning of the transmission by clicking buttons on top, making it more responsive or smoother depending on driving conditions. This transmission is proof that you don’t really need more gears to make it better, in fact, it is much better than any 9 or 10-speed automatic transmissions available today.
Unlike 20 years ago, modern sports sedans must have all-wheel drive. As they get into horsepower wars, the numbers have been increasing significantly in every generation. It got to a level where modern sport sedans could not transfer the power efficiently if they have rear-wheel drive only. However, BMW got you covered if you are missing RWD driving dynamics, as you can disable the front axles and only drive with rear-wheel drive. When it is in all-wheel-drive mode, it sends more power to the rear, meaning it always has rear-biased driving dynamics as expected from any type of M car.
M5 Competition comes with huge brakes in the front, probably bigger than a standard Toyota Corolla rim, which makes the car stop like a supercar. You can get the optional Carbon Ceramic brakes, which are $9500 extra. For daily drivability and long-term cost, steel rotors are completely fine and unless you take it to track frequently, standard brakes are completely fine. Considering its curb weight which is almost 2000 kg, it gives you a lot of confidence and the brake pedal feel is a little bit on the sensitive side especially at low-speed braking.
Driving Impressions and Features
The most impressive feature about driving the M5 Competition is that how versatile it can be as a daily driver. There are no compromises in terms of driving dynamics, unlike the sport sedans from 20 years ago. You don’t get punished and the suspension is extremely compliant that it can definitely handle all types of road imperfections. If you keep the driving mode in Comfort, it is really hard to understand that this is a proper sports car that can do 0-100 in less than 3.5 seconds can ride this smoothly. It just feels like a regular 540i with more side bolsters.
Of course, that smoothness comes from updated suspension settings, BMW revised the dampening settings but Competition is still 10% stiffer than regular M5. Even in the stiffest setting, it does not break your teeth but at the same time, there is no body roll when you push it to its limits. Of course, it feels heavier than an M3 and the initial turn-in feedback is a little bit slower, especially the front end, but mid-corner stability is excellent and it offers a tremendous amount of grip.
Things get very serious over 50% of throttle input, and the twin-turbo engine has tons of torque starting from 2000 rpm all the way up to the redline. It is really hard to resist the amount of power readily available, and the M exhaust is not helping you if you want to drive within legal speed limits. As a result, it is almost impossible to get the advertised fuel consumption. In our tests, we were averaging about 16.0L, which is expected from a twin-turbo V8.
Feature-wise, it has almost everything available in a premium mid-size sedan. This year, BMW updated the infotainment system and now wireless Apple CarPlay is available. Adaptive Cruise Control works great, I just wish the lane centering feature would allow you to keep your hands off the steering wheel for longer, like Hyundai/Genesis models. BMW’s head-up display is one of my favourite features about the brand, you can see almost everything without taking your eyes off the road, including changing radio channels.
Pricing and the Verdict
There is no doubt that the 2021 BMW M5 Competition LCI is a complete package if you are looking for a sports sedan that can handle almost every task, for the price tag it better be. It is a well-engineered masterpiece that makes it easy for all types of drivers to go fast without too much effort or skill. If you can handle extra maintenance items as well as overall gas consumption, which if you can afford this car you should be able to afford the rest, this could be the best dual-purpose streetcar in the world that can do everything great.
It can be an excellent grocery-getter, weekend warrior, track toy, family hauler, luxury limo, but no matter how perfect and versatile it is, there is the drama factor missing that should make the driving experience more intense. To do all of this, you need to pay the premium and it is obvious that M5 Competition is not for everyone. But if you are that person looking for one car to “do-it-all” with no drama, it would be one of the best options available. 2021 BMW M5 Competition starts at $122,000 CAD and our tester has the price tag of $150,250 with the addition of Ultimate Package ($21,500) and titanium exhaust ($6000).
For details of pricing and equipment, please see the window sticker of our tester below:
For more details, please visit www.bmw.ca
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay, Photo in Barrie by Serdar Yilgoren