Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Reviews 2021 BMW M5 Competition Review: A Legend Reborn

2021 BMW M5 Competition Review: A Legend Reborn

The 2021 BMW M5 oozes power and prestige. Some of its driving technologies might be too invasive however


  • The BMW M5 is priced from $122,000 in Canada, $103,500 in the US.

  • The M5 is offered only in Competition form in Canada.

  • The car is exceptional however with one serious issue.


I touched on the fact that I’m not familiar with anyone who is a car fan that is not a fan of BMW. While many prefer older models as a number of them lost interest in the 2000s, including myself, I’m enthralled to report that the 2020s are looking really good for Bimmerphiles. The new 2021 M5 Competition is exhibit B.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

For those who are curious, exhibit A is the M2 and, most recently, I’ve added exhibit C in the all-new M3. More on the latter later but in the meantime, I can enthusiastically report that the F90 M5 is the most enthralling M5 since the E39.


Visually powerful and subdued like an M5 should be

This is all the truer thanks to the F90’s mid-cycle refresh which took place last summer. Although subtle, the changes are visually impactful. The revised headlamps bring an undeniable dose of extra aggression while the taillights seem tucked and serious. It’s also very possible that the incredible BMW Individual Imola Red paint ties everything to perfection.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Part of that perfection also comes from the new strongly defined front and rear bumpers. The M5 has incredible street presence and, like other BMWs, looks smaller than it actually is. The tidy lines are heightened by the tester’s sublime double-spoke gloss black 20-inch alloy wheels, included carbon fibre roof, and optional M Performance Titanium Exhaust with carbon tips. Low slung, wide, and incredibly loud, the F90 BMW M5 is stunning although I think the all-but-invisible rear decklid spoiler should be made of carbon fibre…

If the exterior is about visual hostility, the cabin can only be defined as ultra-premium though conceived for driving. The M multifunctional seats, complete with an illuminated M5 logo, are designed to support and cajole. Wherever one looks, there’s leather. As specified, the tested unit was fitted with black and midrand two-tone Merino leather. The resulting style is exquisite. As always, craftsmanship and other materials blend to perfection with expertise that is beyond fault.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Included with the M5 Competition are a 12.3-inch instrument display, a smart 12.3-inch central touchscreen display, the 4-zone climate control, and thanks to the optional Ultimate package, a Bowers and Wilkins Diamond surround audio system, wireless charging, and more.


Power, speed, and Servotronic

A BMW M5 has always stood at the middle ground, between a Mercedes-AMG E 63 and an Audi RS 6. While the AMG might be the most engaging to drive hard, compromising its daily comfort, and the RS 6 more focused on comfortable ultra-rapid transit, the M5 bridges the two with intense performance and refinement. But there’s a caveat.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

It might be me, quite frankly, however, I don’t think I’m completely crazy. Almost immediately, after leaving the pick-up point with the Imola Red M5, I noticed something off about the car’s steering. As standard equipment, the M5 features M Servotronic steering which BMW describes as follows: “The intelligent system dynamically adapts the steering boost according to your speed.” As such, there’s nothing unusual about this variable assist system however in my tester, it consistently overstepped boundaries. Most offensively, it would overreach with extra input on top of the one I’d already dialed in. This would cause me to correct, inducing over-corrective-ness from the Servotronic. I attempt to explain this in the above video.

Beyond the overbearing and driving-enjoyment-killing steering, the 2021 BMW M5 Competition is an absolute beast of a monster. The magnificent twin-scroll twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine produces an astounding 617 horsepower at 6,000rpm and 553 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,800-5,600rpm, and it is unbelievably sophisticated. This mill is just as happy cruising about relaxed or, in a hundredth of a second, challenging known laws of physics. Thankfully, the brakes are incredibly powerful and capable of returning things back to normal.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The M5 Competition needs only 3.3 seconds to reach 100km/h but from the seat-of-the-pants, it requires half that amount. The standard 8-speed M Sport automatic transmission, with customizable shift patterns, is perfectly matched to the engine as too is capable and extremely flexible. The included M xDrive all-wheel-drive system (with RWD capability) and its rear active M differential delivers ultra-dynamic rear-wheel-drive-biased driving fun.

Finally, the M Adaptive suspension with its dynamic damper control is the element that positions the M5 between the E 63 and the RS 6. Though it is dialed in at 9.5/10 in its most comfortable setting, ride comfort is far better than the AMG, which cannot be turned down from 11/10. The technology is brilliant as the dampers are capable of maintaining poise even over rougher surfaces all the while keeping the M5 flat and level through bends and curves.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

There are numerous ways to configure the M5’s driving components through the “setup” button and screen menu. For the daily, the Engine is set on Sport, the Chassis and Steering at Comfort, and M xDrive on 4WD are best. These functions can be programmed into the M1 and M2 steering wheel-mounted buttons for rapid access.


The M5 over the M8

Last winter, I spent a week with the M8 Competition Gran Coupé and was slightly disappointed. As I put it in the review, the M8 felt opportunistic and was grossly overpriced. But not so with the F90 M5. It’s right, real, and marks the return of the Legend that is the M5.

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Not since the E39 have I been this enthusiastic about the M5 however the above-described steering issue haunts the car for me. The same week I had the M5, I was also reviewing a Honda Civic Type R, and allow me to confirm that the CTR’s steering was and is, in every subjective and objective way, superior – it should not be this obvious. I’ve also recently driven the new M3 and its Servotronic was perfect.

If I was faced with selecting between an Audi RS 6, BMW M5, or Mercedes-AMG E 63 S, the RS 6 would be the one. The M5 would come next, tied with the E 63 S wagon because long roof. A Servotronic software update would position the M5 as my only second choice.

Finally, the as-tested price of this M5 Competition was $150,250 (Ultimate package, M Performance titanium exhaust, and M Compound brakes.)

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 BMW M5 Competition | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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