2021 BMW M5 Competition: Reigniting an Old Flame

Published on October 18, 2021 in Test Drives by Miranda Lightstone

Sometimes when a connection is made, it doesn’t matter how much time passes between meetings; it will remain forever potent and intense. As if not a second has passed, that same passion and excitement immediately rise to the surface. Memories trigger emotions and sensations and each party falls back into that rhythmic harmony.

This is exactly the sensation and emotion the BMW M5 extracts the moment I sit behind the wheel and press that bright red start/stop ignition button.

The first time I got behind the wheel of an M5 was very nearly two decades ago, and within seconds, I fell in love. There was no denying this was the absolute perfection I craved and needed in a vehicle in every sense of the word. And even as I’ve driven different versions and generations, that connection and love has yet to waiver.

It’s often difficult for us auto journalists to profess love and admiration for one vehicle in particular - but we all have that one. Well, this is mine.

Photo: BMW

M-Power is M-agnificent and M-indblowing

BMW’s lineup of M-Powered vehicles is nothing short of spectacular. The German manufacturer took driving dynamics and experience to a whole new level. With each new generation, they just seem to get better, more balanced and more impressive.

This particular M5 is no exception.

Equipped with a Twin-Turbo V8 that produces a staggering 617 ponies along with 553 lb-ft of torque, the 2021 M5 even boasts AWD (with a rear-wheel bias, of course, for those perfect track-day moments). With the power handled via an 8-speed automatic transmission, the BMW M5 is as smooth as it is quick.

The last M5 I drove was in 2018 and the 600 horsepower back then impressed me and left my front-seat passenger gasping and feeling sick to her stomach after a particular launch control from a dead stop (I did try and warn her…). So, when I discovered that the Competition version was going to add 17 more rearing equines to the mix it only added to the M5’s appeal.

Photo: BMW

Now, we have to admit that piloting one of the Bimmer’s fiercest competitors, the Audi RS5, is just as pleasurable (there seems to be something about the number 5 … ) the M5 continues to impress and just be that much more enjoyable and solid on the road.

There’s something truly addictive about the exhaust note and the seemingly effortless pull the engine has - despite being equipped with a turbo there is little to no lag, at all. The power feels linear and almost instantaneous. Pumping it up to M-Sport level with all the bits and pieces set to full sport/track mode just livens it all up that much more.

And yet, if you want to just have a nice quiet drive through the suburbs on a Sunday afternoon, the BMW M5 can do that, too. Simply deactivate the open exhaust (make it slightly less bark-y), and set the vehicle to full comfort mode and you have a gorgeous tourer that is just as quiet as it is comfortable.

That’s the beauty with the M5 - it plays both sides so very well.

Photo: BMW

M-esmerizing M-ultiple Personalities

Honestly, that may be the best part about the BMW M5 - its duality. We were able to do school drop-offs and trips to the skatepark as easily as we were able to drop gears and explode forward on the highway or drive spiritedly through twisty country roads.

And we can only assume that the M5 would have proven just as sure-footed in the winter as it is in the summer months since it’s fully equipped with BMW’s all-wheel drive system. Plus, with the M5’s close-to-perfect power to weight ratio, handling and stability is sure to be on point as long as the power is kept under control and the driver decides to practice self-restraint with that right pedal.

Enjoy Every M-oment Behind the Wheel

Truthfully, every time I sat behind the M-Sport steering wheel it was a fabulous experience. From school drop-offs to delivering the father of the bride to his daughter’s wedding to casual jaunts to the country, the BMW M5 continued to impress and perform.

There’s something perfectly balanced and harmonious about the M5. While, of course, the M3 is a beast to drive and the M8 is just incredible, the M5 strikes that ideal spot between the two combining drivability and interior space with dashing good looks and comfort.

Which is what really sets the M5 apart.

Going on about the interior is rather useless because you already know it’s fabulous - it’s a top-level BMW after all. The two-tone leather bucket seats were extremely comfortable and also form-fitting enough to keep everyone well positioned and safely in their seats no matter how many curves the beastly sedan ate up on the road.

Photo: BMW Canada

As Close to Perfection as they Come

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There is something visceral and real about driving the M5. Where some sports performance cars will feel slightly disconnected and too “controlled” via onboard systems and computers, the BMW M5 manages to maintain that raw feel, despite all the onboard luxuries and coddling.

That’s what makes the BMW M5 such an incredible machine from nose to tail, and one that I will continue to look forward to driving no matter how many times the keys are handed to me.

Test drive report
Test model 2021 BMW 5 Series
Trim level M5 Competition
Price range $63,500 – $122,000
Price as tested CA$122,000
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 16.0 / 11.0 / 13.2 L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Audi A6, Audi A7, Genesis G80, Jaguar XF, Maserati Ghibli, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Volvo S90
Strong points
  • Great drive - on and off the track
  • That V8 growl
  • Plenty of interior space and cargo room despite being a performance car
Weak points
  • Cost of gas will have you driving it well below its capabilities
  • Neighbours will hate you for cold morning starts
  • You'll WANT to push it everywhere all the time
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 2.5/5 It's a V8 - we didn't expect it to be great and the average was right in the middle
Comfort 4.0/5 The interior is great and plushy, but the ride can be a bit harsh, especially on rougher roads and in M-Sport mode
Performance 5.0/5 We rarely give a perfect score, but the M5 is so beautifully balanced in every sense it was hard not to
Infotainment 4.0/5 BMW's iDrive has improved so much over the years and is a joy to use and very easy
Driving 5.0/5 Here's another perfect score just for the sheer joy of being behind the wheel
Overall 4.5/5 There is very little to find wrong with the M5, and it's abundantly clear the moment you get behind the wheel
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