There is, at least, a reasonable amount that separates the M5 Competition from the regular M5 in terms of mechanical make-up, and pleasingly, this isn’t just an engine ECU reflash, a dampers software update and a bootlid badge.
The Competition gets lowered and stiffened suspension springs all round, as well as shorter auxiliary (or helper) springs and retuned adaptive dampers. Other suspension hardware changes include ball-jointed rigid rear suspension mountings, new front anti-roll bar mountings and a revised geometry up front that increases negative wheel camber. You get a 20in forged alloy wheel as standard (up from 19in on the regular M5), but there’s no super-sticky ‘cup’ tyre here and no free upgrade to carbon-ceramic brakes.
Under the bonnet, the Competition overhaul endows the M5 with 616bhp, up from 591bhp, but no more torque (553lb ft) – at least not nominally. Compare the power and torque curves of the two cars and you’ll note they’re identical up to 5500rpm. Just at the point at which the regular M5’s power curve is reigned in and made to flatline between 5600 and 6700rpm, the Competition’s is allowed to keep rising to a true 6000rpm peak on the likes of which, had they found something similar at the top of Everest in 1953, even Hillary and Tenzing might have struggled to stand for that famous photograph.
The freedom to rev that bit harder also means the M5 Competition’s V8 makes peak torque for 200rpm longer than the regular M5. But that, too, seems a bit ‘so what?’ given that the 627lb ft of wallop you get from the Mercedes-AMG E63 S remains such a distant prospect. You do get more rigid engine mounts if you opt for the M5 Competition, though, which not only improve throttle response, BMW claims, but also deliver enhanced steering response by virtue of stiffening up the car’s frontal structure.
So, when you account for everything you’re getting, the M5 Competition is probably not such a bad deal at all for the £6500 premium that BMW asks over a regular M5. And yet BMW UK only expects about one in three M5 owners to plump for it. And if you’re wondering why that might be, it won’t take you long in the driver’s seat to find the answer.
There's plenty of uncompromising focus about the M5 Competition’s ride, which, although comfortable enough on good surfaces, gets quite tetchy and firm, and occasionally hyperactive, on uneven cross-country roads. The car’s adaptive dampers have the familiar Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, and all but the firmest of those keeps the ride civil on smooth motorways and fast A-roads. But even Comfort struggles to cope with the topography of a British B-road, where the M5 Competition seems notably short on wheel travel and manages its bodily mass quite abruptly and aggressively over medium-sized intrusions.
Elsewhere, though, there’s a lot more to like about the M5 Competition’s dynamic makeover. Much as you might say that the regular M5 wasn’t in need of either, there’s even quicker steering response and more instant agility about the car’s handling around tighter bends, junctions and roundabouts. And because it comes hand-in-hand with a weightier and more tactile steering rim, that’s a change that seems intuitive and is easy to assimilate.