What it does especially well is take you from one place to another very quickly and in quite a lot of luxury. If you want to overtake, or filter into faster-moving traffic, the oomph arrives in reassuring surges, so the capability makes it a particularly easy car to rub along with.
But it ain’t a sports car. I hesitate to use the words ‘sports saloon’, really. Nothing of this size really can be, but some do the noises and responses that make you go gooey better than others. And so far there has been an argument that a Mercedes-AMG E63 does that slightly better than the BMW. I’ve felt that the BMW is a more accommodating and easygoing, and ultimately a more capable car all round. But that AMG V8 makes the right noises.
And I think that’s what BMW is trying to address with the Competition. It has worked.
We’ve tried the M5 Competition in two places: first, a very long, very warm race track, half of which comprises corners. Second, on some very narrow, quite bumpy roads around it. Neither is the autobahn or wide, sweeping Germanic country road that would be best suited, you imagine, to an M5. (But they did quite suit the M2 Competition we tried in the same place.)
The surprise, then, was that it was great. I know, I know: you’re not going to take it to a race circuit. But do, just once, please, to be amazed at what it can do.
If there’s another 1900kg-plus car that can seat five people and yet go and stop and corner like an M5 Competition, and come back after six laps and tinkle and ping away in the pit lane like you’d just taken it to the shops, I’ll be amazed. You can have carbon-ceramic discs as an option on the M5 and, usually, given it’s predominantly a road car, I’m not sure I’d bother: they’re seven grand, and unless you stand on the anchors often, they squeak like a dozen hungry guinea pigs. But they resist fade and deal with the tremendous temperatures generated by a saloon that can go from standstill to 62mph in 3.3sec incredibly well.
And the Competition is good fun, too. Not just in reminding you what feats it’s possible to make heavy engineering do. It’s well balanced, it steers quickly and keenly, and its four-wheel-drive system feels predominantly rear biased, but quickly and relatively smoothly pushes power to the front when it starts to slide, to give reassuring, smooth, handling neutrality.