2021 BMW M5 Competition – Incognito Super Sedan
By Greg Riley
July 30, 2021
As a kid growing up, I literally lived between the tracks and the river with everything that implies. As a youngster all our neighbors drove good old American iron, except for one family on the corner who drove a frog-eyed Citroen. My father would look out the driver’s window of his Impala at poor Mr. Lee constantly tinkering on his French-fried car like he was an alien.
I got my driver’s license in 1978, a time when muscle cars were unwanted relics of a recently bygone era, sort of like disco in the 1980’s. Every car crazy kid I knew was suddenly driving muscle cars, because they were dirt cheap, when you could find gas for them. I drove my mom’s ’73 Dodge Polara ‘cause that’s what we had.
At 15 I got my first automotive related job at Henry Court’s Westend Texaco as a pump jockey, wash rack attendant, and porter. Court’s Texaco was owned by a retired Army chopper pilot, and recently retired Vietnam veteran. He was meticulous fellow with a reputation for giving cars the full detail treatment years before that became a thing. More importantly for me, the station was in the affluent west end of town home of all the cool cars.
During my 18 months there I got exposed to all sorts of amazing machinery. One of my jobs was delivering detailed and serviced cars to their owners, and I got to drive all sorts of great cars I had never seen in the pages of Hot Rod Magazine. I drove countless Cadillacs and Lincolns, a first-gen Riviera GS with two-four barrels, various Audi’s, and the occasional Mercedes. One local surgeon frequently brought his Porsche 930 in for detailing, but I never go to drive that one as Henry personally handled that client and car.
By <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="https://www.flickr.com/people/8058098@N07">nakhon100</a> - <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/8058098@N07/8458474973/">BMW 2002 Tii</a>, CC BY 2.0, Link
Another frequent flyer was a couple of seasons old BMW 2002 in a sort of lime green. The owner was fussy, and had the car washed weekly and serviced regularly, which meant I got to drive it often. What a revelation that car was. It was nimble, alive, and felt sold as a vault compared to the Coupe Deville’s and Continentals, we saw every day.
Up until that time my friends and I had sneered at all such imports as “snob-rods” which we deemed inferior to muscle cars in every way. Truthfully, we were just uninformed and perhaps a bit jealous. Remember this was the height of the malaise era and the hottest new car among the rich kids were screaming chicken 220 horsepower Trans-Am’s. At bench racing sessions with my hot-rod high school buddies I tried to explain the Beamer, but they looked at me like I was Sprechen Sie Deutsch.
Fast forward to 1984 and I just got my first real job and spanking new ’84 Pontiac J2000 Sunbird. That car was also a revelation…as to how totally crappy an American car could be. My job required a suit and tie, and I looked affluent enough in my J.C. Penney suit and Florsheim’s to snag test drives in almost any new car I wanted. So, on Saturday’s I made the rounds from Houston dealership to dealership getting as much free seat time as the over enthusiastic salesmen would allow.
In 1985 BMW introduced the 325 series, and I immediately wanted to drive one. The local BMW dealer was more than happy to allow a likely looking prospect a quick drive. The BMW shared the three-box styling, silver paint, blue interior and manual transmission with my sad little Pontiac. There was no other comparison. The BMW had a silky smooth inline six, and slick shifting five-speed transmission. The Pancho had a thrashy OHV inline four and a four-speed manual that seemed to have been adapted from a tractor, and enough torque steer to jerk the wheel out of your hands. Oh, how I wanted that BMW, but before long I married and started a family and BMW’s were once again a thing of fantasy.
Over the last 30 plus years there have been all sort of interesting BMWs, but truthfully as father of five I didn’t pay much attention to them as unattainable pipe dreams. A few years ago, I was invited to join the Texas Auto Writers Association and my automotive universe opened to galactic proportions. Over the last ten years or so I’ve been privileged to drive the best cars on the planet.
In the recent past BMW loaned me an 850i X-drive convertible, and a M235x X-Drive Gran coupe. The 850i was an amazing conveyance but not exactly my cup of tea. Too little interior room and practicality for my personal taste with a back seat barely large enough for a Gucci bag or purse puppy.
The M235 was much closer to my kind of car. It was slightly reminiscent of that old 2002, but with modern tech and an interior that must be seen to be believed. But like Goldilocks, neither of them were just right for me.
A short time ago it was my turn for a week with the 2021 BMW M5 Competition. I was tangentially aware of this car but hadn’t really done a deep dive into what it’s all about. I’ll just state right now this is the most amazing car I’ve ever driven in my 40+ years of automotive insanity. FULL STOP. There is no reason to even consider one of those swoopy Supercars except for the snob-appeal. This thing does virtually everything those cars will with ten times the practicality and comfort at half the price.
The M5 is the epitome of what we used to call a sleeper. It looks enough like those “regular” BMW’s that the uninformed barely notice it. Ah, for those in the know it is very different. Yes, the tires are wider, and the brake rotors and gold-plated calipers are sized for a 747, and there is an almost imperceptible rear spoiler, but most civilians won’t even notice those things. Other than a teeny-tiny “Competition” badge on the front fenders, and a somewhat larger “M5 Competition” badge on the rear deck it could pass for just a regular run of the mill model.
My bride and I drove the M5 to Galveston, and gentleman about my age in a ZL1 Camaro pulled alongside at a light. He had the look of a CEO, brain surgeon, or mega-yacht owner. He looked at me nodded and we exchanged thumbs-up. Thirty years ago, we both knew what we would have happened next. When you’re pushing sixty and driving the ultimate in automotive big-sticks we had nothing to prove to each other or mere mortals. We tipped our caps and rumbled away.
That same afternoon we were visiting a local waterpark, and a fifteen-year-old boy nearly dragged his mother over to see the car and talk to us. She seemed completely baffled about that all the fuss was about. He was bubbling with enthusiasm and quoting specs exactly like I did all those years ago at Courts Texaco. If he had been a neighbor kid, I would have asked him strap in and taken him for a ride HE would remember decades later.
A couple of days later we were at Tractor Supply loading the trunk when some young mean pulled up in an older 5-series that was seriously slammed, radically cambered suspension, with custom wheels, neon under-lighting, and an exhaust as loud as a freight train. Same deal. Those guys knew exactly that it was and couldn’t believe there was one in the parking lot of the Tractor Supply in College Station with some old guy loading dog food in the cavernous trunk.
I don’t claim to be an automotive tester like those guys at the major car magazines. I’m an enthusiast like you, storyteller, and someone that has somehow earned the privilege of loans from manufacturers of incredible cars. I’m going to defer to BMW and those magazine guys for the specs:
4-Passenger All-wheel-drive sedan
Twin Turbocharged 4.4 liter V8
617hp @6,000 RPM - 553 lb/ft of torque at 1,800 RPM*
MPG 15 city, 21 highway, 17 combined
0-60 2.8 seconds
0-100 6.7 seconds
0-130 11.4 seconds
0-150 16 seconds
Top speed electronically limited to 190 mph
As impressive as those numbers are they can’t convey my amazement at this car. Performance is on par with the best from Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini for about half the price and you can get it serviced at any BMW dealer. Heck I bet you can get and oil change at your local Jiffy Lube, or even Court’s Texaco just like that old 2002 the brakes are so powerful that it took practice to use them. I’d get on them like a normal car and find that I had gone from triple-dipple warp speed to a crawl in about the time it takes you to read this. There is also room for four in superb comfort with this most powerful air-conditioning system in any car I’ve ever driven.
There are some amazing roads near our HQ in the Sam Houston National Forest. I can put most performance cars through our local twisties at impressive speeds. The M5 just invited me to go faster and faster. In fact, it scared me, not because of a lack of performance, prowess, or loss of control but rather at the speeds I found myself travelling. I thought “you’ve got to slow down.” Then I just wanted to go faster and faster, and it was as addictive as the automotive equivalent of a schedule 1 controlled substance.
I don’t often find myself at a loss for words, but I’m grasping for superlatives. This car does everything amazingly well. Accelerates like a fighter jet off a catapult, brakes like a funny car deploying a parachute, and handles like something off the Formula 1 circuit. There is plenty of room for your partner and the kids, and enough trunk space for your golf-sticks and a weeks’ worth of groceries (or dog food.) Also capable of running triple digit speeds cross-country hour after hour in superb leather/alcantara-ensconced air-conditioned comfort and the Bower & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound will have you thinking your sitting at Konzerhaus Muenchen in Bavaria.
Enjoy your McLaran’s, racing green Brits, red-headed Italians, Fiberglass Chevy's,and BMW’s other Deutsche cousins. The car I most want to own and drive everyday out of anything at any price is the M5. FULL STOP. Watch below to ride along in what I agree is The Ultimate Driving Machine.
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*Note peak torque at a stump pulling 1,800 RPM!!