Stealth Bomber : 2021 BMW F90 M5 Competition LCI Driven [review]

By davidkhoo, 01 April 2021

JW Marriott South Beach, Singapore - You wouldn’t have thought it looking at BMW’s executive express, but our quick drive of the M5 Competition LCI (Life Cycle Impulse, BMW-speak for facelift) during the recent BMW M Power Days revealed it to be quite the sleeper hit.

Of course you’re probably thinking, “How can a twin-turbo V8 with 625hp/750Nm not be a hit?” Rather easily… especially if you’re the sort to confuse ‘fast’ with ‘fun’, which made the M5 Competition’s finesse such a pleasant surprise.

The M5 Competition’s visual cues are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary like the new G80/82 M3/M4, but the sweet, mad music it is capable of unleashing is surprising… and very unexpected.

(Click HERE to read our First Drive of the 2021 G80 M3 Sedan Competition in Singapore)

What’s a ‘Competition’ model in BMW M lingo? Well, sometimes the engineers squeeze out a little more oomph from the engines, but driving enthusiasts will tell you that’s never the be-all-end-all – it has to be a holistic approach to the update.

The M5 Competition gets bespoke engine mounts that are stiffer than the regular M5’s, while the chassis is also stiffened-up.

The M5 Competition also sits 7mm lower than the regular M5 and it rides on the M8 Competition Gran Coupe’s shock absorbers, with variable damping that has been recalibrated to suit the car.

As far as we’re concerned, it is the sharpening of the chassis that is far more critical than giving the car more juice, because this transforms it from being merely a fast car… to a genuinely fun one.

First-off, it gets plenty of high-gloss black trim on the outside (kidney grille surround, mesh on the M gills, wing mirror covers and boot-lid rear spoiler), as well as the discreet ‘Competition’ tag - in addition of course to the LCI’s new head- and tail-lights.

At rest, it broods menacingly and exudes a quiet confidence that will easily transform into motoring mayhem the moment your right foot stokes its flames.

There’s a bump in engine output to 625hp (up from the standard M5’s 600hp, but it’s identical to the pre-LCI M5 Competition), but torque remains unchanged at a mega 750Nm.

(Click HERE to read our First Drive of the 2018 BMW M5 Competition)

The LCI model’s cockpit is comfortably appointed with bigger 12.3-inch centre screen and a new iDrive 7.0 operating system, yet the driver’s important points of contact are perfectly designed for fast and comfortable driving.

The seats provide a snug grip, yet are well-padded for long distance comfort. The perfect driving position is easily reached thanks to the fine adjustability offered and there’s great visibility from behind the steering wheel to precisely place the car when you’re pressing hard.

The M5 Competition doesn’t drive like the 1.9-tonne kerbweight behemoth you’re expecting, nor does it look ‘sporty’ in the conventional sense so it’s stealthily low-key (and just how we like it!).

It’s fabulously light on its feet and you’d be amazed at how nimble the car is and how much you feel from steering wheel and seat-of-pants.

It’s not one of those effortlessly fast yet numb sporty lux-limos, but a real live-wire that responds eagerly to prods of the throttle and incisively to helm inputs.

With that much torque, it’s probably safer for most the M5 Competition is all-wheel drive (it became M xDrive AWD with this F90 generation), albeit with the possibility to toggle between a few modes including rear-wheel drive.

Like the new M models from the M8 to the M3/M4, there’s now a one-touch ‘Setup’ button to directly access the powertrain configuration screen, which you can then customise and pre-set to the M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel for quick access.

(Click HERE to read our drive of the 2020 BMW M8 Competition Coupe)

Hugely complex at the start, but we like to think you’ll only need to do this once... For brisk road use, we left the drivetrain in 4WD Sport, which serves up playful responses with a broad ‘safe-space’ – don’t forget, 750Nm available from just 1800rpm, damp roads and rear-wheel drive can make for a huge handful to the unwary.

Despite its engaging drive antics, the M5 Competition is a balanced athlete that delivers a nicely composed, pliant ride that never rubs driver or occupants the wrong way, yet offers plenty of control to the committed helmsman.

It’s fantastic in the city and even better on the highways, so we can only imagine how well it’ll acquit itself on high-speed long trawls on derestricted highways.

Stealthy, sports sedans like the M5 Competition still hold plenty of appeal for a niche group, especially those who eschew the latest, loud and lairy offerings that pander mainly to the ‘Gram, yet want something equally capable of delivering an explosive payload... such as the BMW can.

PHOTOS Penoramic Publishing

BMW (F90) M5 Competition LCI
Engine 4395cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 625hp/6000rpm
Torque/rpm 750Nm/1800-5860rpm
Transmission 8spd M Steptronic auto
0-100km/h 3.3secs
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically-limited)
Fuel Consumption 10.5-10.6l/100km (combined)
CO2 239-242g/km

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