2019 BMW M5 Competition: First impressions after 24hrs with the F90

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Since this is a legit luxury/executive saloon, I’m going to review it in context. It’s not an all-out sports car like the 458, M2c or GTS. So I guess it’s safe to say that driver/passenger comfort and amenities are the primary criteria to when choosing a car like this. If it performed wonderfully but had the discomfort quotient of an Elise, it would make no sense to own one. Fortunately this is not the case. I’ve never been in a car that has this many comfort and driver aid features:

  • Front seats with multiple massage modes (exercise and sports)… check!
  • Parking cameras ubiquitous enough to creep problem out… check!
  • Automatic steering correction for bad lane swerving drivers… check!
  • Ability to control the infotainment system with hand gestures and user-configurable gang signs… check!
  • An absurdly dynamic B&W audio system capable of shattering ear drums and boiling drums of water… check!

I haven’t been given a walk thru of all the features because I didn’t have AN HOUR to spend with the salesperson. Maybe I’ll actually read the manual sometime.

How it drives: Within the first 100 yards of driving the M5C, I immediately noticed how similar it was to my M2C in many subjective areas. Steering feel and weight are similar. The way it carries its mass into a corner is similar. The tightness of the chassis which contributes to quick reflexes is similar. Basically, it is nice to see that the two latest M cars share so much of the same DNA. It comforts me to know that BMW didn’t just luck out with the M2’s greatness. The new team at BMW’s M division not only know how to make a captivating car but also are able to work with the bean counters and desk jockeys so it is not diluted by the time it reaches production.

A few things jump out immediately: The steering ratio is surprisingly quick. And since the chassis is so rigid, the fast turn-in response doesn’t induce any creaks or rattles. Nor does it spring load the chassis as it did in the F10 M5. Instead it just takes an immediate set and diligently obeys your mid-corner intentions.

Brake pedal is firm and braking force is progressive. The car is not lacking in this department. Can’t say how they will hold up under track use but I’m not sure how many people will take a 2 ton luxosedan to the racetrack. Certainly no complains for aggressive street use.

Ride quality is what you expect from an M car running 20 inch wheels and low profile tires. It’s reasonably compliant in his comfort setting. Sport plus and sports settings are actually usable depending on situation and road surface quality. It still doesn’t come close to the compliance/handling compromise of the Ferrari 458 on my bumpy test road but it’s quite good considering the weight and mechanical grip of the car. I’m really impressed on how hard you can drive this car on tight technical bumpy roads with it never really getting out of sorts as you would expect from any 4000+lbs midsize sedan. In fact that is what separates current M cars from other sedans with sporty pretensions. It’s that last 2/10th of the performance envelope that make current M cars unique. Where as other cars become sloppy at the limit, the current M cars retain their cornering balance and steering precision. They didn’t have to do this with the M5 but I’m glad they did. If the current M2 and M5 are any indication of where BMW is heading, the new M3/4 is going to be killer.

Engine Power: It’s good but it could certainly be better. You can tell the the calibration team purposely limited the rate of torque rise with respect to pedal demand. Power rolls in smoothly instead of the in-your-face torque punch you would expect from a 4.4l twin turbo engine run its considerable boost pressure. This does lend to the almost NA-like power delivery but it does leave you wanting more. This is really obvious at times when the ECU determines that it is reasonable to give you the full, unmetered beans. When that happens, it’s as fast as you would expect a high 10s 1/4 mile car to be. But when not engaging in behavior that the ECU could interpret as instrumented testing (0-60, 1/4 mile, etc) it does seem to leave some on the table. It’s never anything less than impressively quick but those few times it’s incomprehensibly quick tends to raise expectations every time your right foot goes to the floor.

AWD/RWD: This is the area that interested me the most. Will the car behave like a typical poorly balanced AWD drive car that gets dynamically rescued by the all wheel drive torque distribution. Or will it feel like a real drive car with just that extra bit of forward traction when needed. I am happy to say that it’s the latter. In fact at anything up to aggressive driving it’s hard to distinguish between rear wheel drive and all wheel drive modes. Even in rear will drive mode the car exhibits a better balance in superior for traction than the F10 M5. So that extra drive from the front wheels is not a Band-Aid. It’s an enhancement! It’s clever in that it never tugs the steering wheel from your hands. It never suddenly changes yaw. The whole experience just feels very natural, forgiving and eminently drifty. Which is what an M5 is all about, no?

More to come as I accumulate more seat time 🙂

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