BMW M5 Competition, Front view 18 Photos Zoom

BMW M5 Competition in the super test: An explosion of power from the sporty saloon

It's not that a BMW M5 is inherently lacking when it comes to power. And certainly not the 567 HP M5 Competition. Or can the sports saloon manage even more? Super test.

The modern meritocracy – the name says it all – is focused on performance. But what does this performance look like, and on what basis is it actually measured? Commitment, application or simply on the basis of earnings? Perhaps even on the basis of appearance or muscle mass?

The Competition package for the M5 costs an additional 8,800 Euros

TV programmes such as "Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model" and "The Voice" are seemingly all about redefining the principle of performance. Here performance is essentially a property comprised from an entire spectrum of actions and criteria. And according to Wikipedia, "according to existing social conventions or utilitarian considerations".

However, before it get too complicated regarding the definition of performance, for the sake of simplicity we should like to mention the well-known adage from Helmut Kohl: "The main thing is what comes out." Or paraphrased: at the end of the day it is the drive performance,and ultimately the lap times that are decisive in measuring the performance of a sports car.

Viewed in this way, the impact of the Competition package, which BMW M GmbH also offers for the M6 models at a price of around 8,000 Euros is not particularly satisfactory: the drive performance of the current super test M5, fitted with this very Competition package, is practically identical to that of the basic M5 measured a good two years ago (Issue 9/2012).

Now, given the rather impressive physique of the series version of the iconic power saloon, to speculate that an additional injection of power of just 15 HP will have an intoxicating effect, is rather like hoping for a significant health boost as the result of the one-off administration of alternative medication.

The BMW M5 Competition delivers 640 HP

The theoretically possible speed increase at this extremely high level of HP is lost, not only in the continually changing external conditions – key words: temperature and air pressure. Likewise, the control algorithms of the Launch Control and the electronically controlled differential locking only leave a slight amount of leeway depending on the continually changing coefficients of friction. At the end of the day, in this high performance class, it is therefore these features that are crucial in determining the outcome of the evaluation - for better or worse.

Furthermore, when it comes to deviating from the series model, the package seemingly includes some things that car manufacturers from the traditional naturally-aspirated faction who are on the quest for power, could previously only dare to dream of. The blossoming turbo era seemingly makes all things possible. Even at the risk of attracting vigorous objection from BMW, we will allow ourselves to state that the gleaming blue BMW M5 Competition super test candidate with identification number M-WK 9235 produced no less than 640 HP on the test roller.

Mind you, on the test roller of the Maha dynamometer, on which every super test candidate since 2012 has been obliged demonstrate its engine resources. Some hit the mark, while others are slightly below par with regard to the factory specification, with some even slightly overshooting the specified values.

The orgy of power reaches its limit on the far side of the 200 km/h mark

640 HP – according to the test stand log this is 73 HP more than the manufacturer officially intended to breathe into the eight-cylinder biturbo in the Performance trim. In this respect, M GmbH felt no guilt in announcing that, with the help of regular test runs on its in-house engine test stands, it could continually provide evidence that the engine delivered power levels within the tolerance range permitted in accordance with the homologation document.

According to the document, the rated power stated by the manufacturer is only permitted to vary by a maximum of five percent, in either direction. At this point we would rather not re-check the amount by which our BMW M5 Competition exCee’ded the specification in the super test, but would rather delight in its extremely generous and notably refined willingness to perform.

Even though the current measurement values in the standard models, at speeds of up to 180 km/h (elasticity) and 200 km/h (acceleration) barely differ from the previous models: the sheer force at speeds beyond the 200-km/h mark bring tears of euphoria to the eyes – only here does the power orgy reach its limit.

The BMW M5 Competition weighs 1,895 kg

The fact that the magnificent engine, housed in its attractive saloon clothing and delivering more than 592 HP is not unleashed in the first few kilometres, but only in the designated regions and hideaways, is not down solely to the traffic conditions. The conceptual parameters also make their contribution in making it difficult for cars such as the BMW M5 to demonstrate the full scope of their power in everyday driving, least not on a sustained basis.

Even if there is a healthy HP contingent available here: it is known that gains of this kind are known to be neither conducive to the traction of a rear-wheel drive vehicle, and nor can the law of mass – in fact the contrary is true. Even in the case of the BMW M5 fitted with the Competition package there is the same high mass on the assets side– with the same familiar handling results with regard to tyres, brakes and chassis.

The BMW M5 is noticeably friendlier in the limit range

According to M GmbH it is all about "tailoring the chassis technology to suit the performance characteristics of the drive system, down to the finest detail, in order to bring maximum performance into line, with confident response that can be accurately controlled - even in highly dynamic driving situations". This requirement must now be deemed to have been largely fulfilled.

Aside from the additional stabilisation of the chassis - which has been lowered by ten millimetres - by means of stronger stabilisers, more taught damper characteristics, more precisely designed elasto-kinematics and, for the first time ever, a rear axle member that is securely screwed to the car body, it is the careful re-working of the electronically controlled rear axle differential that is to thanks for the fact that the BMW M5 Competition is now noticeably more friendly in the limit range.

Until now, the abrupt effect of the E-Diff stood somewhat in the way of the smooth transition of the drive wheels from static to sliding friction. As a result, the attempts to escape made by the rear of the vehicle took place rather suddenly. The now softer torque allocation to the drive wheel on the outside of the curve, with the simultaneous braking of the wheel on the inside of the curve, facilitates the driver of the BMW M5 in controlling the vehicle and thus indirectly improves traction.

ABS intervenes at a comparatively early stage

Unfortunately, these structural and therefore on the whole beneficial changes do not translate into better lap times. At least not on the short circuit in Hockenheim, on which the tyres plan a more considerable role, in particular in conjunction with the braking system, than for example on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. Upon which we come to a central point of criticism.

The high-performance braking components cannot produce any overriding effect if the braking performance is not transferred in full – either because the tyres themselves are over-exerted and/or because the brake components at the rear axle make an increasingly small contribution to the braking performance on account of stronger dynamic wheel load displacement to the front.

In this case the ABS is left holding the baby: given the high load at the front axle, it begins its work comparatively early, which inevitably results in the considerable lengthening of the braking distance.

No evident progress with regard to braking

The progress that the factory-tuned BMW M5 can generate through improved handling in the limit range, and potentially also through the additional increase in HP, is completely exhausted in the braking zones. Even in the standard brake measurements, the need for improvement is clear. Given the added cost of the visually highly impressive carbon ceramic braking system with huge, yellow brake callipers at the front axle, the braking performance of a maximum of 10.7 m/sÇ is no ground-breaking step forward, that much is clear.

But as said before: the brakes themselves are not to blame. The reason is rather to be found in the brake balance and in the unsuccessful adaptation of the ABS to suit the technical tyre specifications.

On the vast Nordschleife, which is known to reflect the conditions of a country road rather than that of a modern Grand Prix track, the phenomenon observed in Hockenheim barely makes an appearance – for one simple reason: with regard to the lap times, proportionally speaking the extremely hard braking zones don't play as big a role as in Hockenheim.

The BMW M5 Competition - conquers the Nordschleife in 7:54

Lo and behold: the lap times in the super test only fall slightly. The model with the Competition package undercuts the fastest lap registered to date for the current M5 in the super test – 8:05 minutes – by eleven whole seconds: 7:54 minutes. The drivability, or rather the driver's trust in the handling, diminishes much later than in Hockenheim.

On the Nordschleife BMW M5 Competition is permitted to show the full force of its power: at a speed of 262 km/h heading towards the Schwedenkreuz section, 230 km/h up the Kesselchen and just under 300 km/h on the climbing Döttinger Höhe – and this is by no means purely according to the tacho, but recorded to the very decimal point using GPS data.

As a biturbo eight-cylinder with great ambition, the drive system propels the weight of the car- including the crew we are talking a good two tonnes - around the ring with ease, as if reduced by half. The feeling sets in, in similarly impressive form, on the motorway – with the familiar results: the vehemence with which the M5 crew can zoom towards the horizon, is both addictive and frustrating in its nonchalance.

However, the frequently arising question, as to why then, given the fast approach, no-one wants to move aside for you – or better yet: settle in calmly and safely along side you – is not a question that is exclusively limited to M5 drivers. But with 600 or more HP at your right foot, the frequency of this question also increases exponentially among M5 drivers.

Horst von Saurma



Rossen Gargolov


28 March 2015
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