Behind the Wheel

2021 BMW 5-Series M5 — Fire-Breathing Monster in Sheep’s Clothing

2022 BMW M5Model tested: 2021 BMW M5 Competition Sedan

Engine: 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V8

Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/paddle shifters

Horsepower: 617

Torque: 553 lb.-ft.

EPA rating: 25/city, 32/highway, 27/combined

Base price: $103,500

As tested: $136,045

Overview: The 2021 BMW 5-Series M5 Competition is a midsize, high-performance, luxury sedan that combines serious horsepower with European opulence. The 5-Series is comprised of five models — 530i, 530e, 540i, M550i and M5. Our test driver was the M5 Competition version, and this review focuses on that vehicle only.

Walkaround: Now in its seventh generation, the 5-Series has been refreshed inside and out. The hood has been lengthened to accommodate the new mild-hybrid system in some other models, while the familiar kidney grille is noticeably taller and wider. The new LED headlights are narrowed and splayed by the wider grille, with a pair of L-shaped daytime running lights doubling as indicators. The taillights are new and the exhaust outlets more daring.

2022 BMW M5Interior: Cabin occupants are bathed in quiet serenity — and technology. Two 12.3-inch screens dominate the dashboard, while leather and wood abound. One 12.3-inch screen is a digital gauge cluster that customizes driver preferences. The other runs the infotainment system, which features voice commands that are natural and reliable, including things like raising and lowering the windows. Audio is courtesy of the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround System. Of course, there’s wireless charging, additional USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot and more. Seating is quite comfortable for four passengers, with 20-way adjustments, thigh extenders and headrest recliners. The heated and cooled front seats automatically bolster, syncing to the drive mode. Rear head and leg room is adequate, but the heated rear seat isn’t wide enough for the middle passenger’s comfort. The rear armrest drops down to reveal a pass-through to the long, narrow 14-cubic-foot trunk.

Behind the wheel: The 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 in the M5 Competition puts 617 ponies to the pavement, doing the 0-60 drill in an effortless 3.1 seconds. The enhanced M suspension features a lower ride height and added grip on larger tires, with AWD standard. The optional Driving Assistance Plus Package adds a surround-view camera with parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, an emergency setting that can stop the car on a highway shoulder — plus hands-free driving up to about 37 mph on clearly marked divided highway with a lead vehicle present. The 5-Series feels secure on its 20-inch wheels and handles exactly like you’d expect. It cruises comfortably on the open road — but engage sport mode on a winding two-lane blacktop and it becomes quicker, turns sharper and handles much firmer.

Bottom line: The 2021 BMW 5-Series offers something for everyone — a base luxury sedan, a plug-in hybrid, a turbo-6 or twin-turbo V8. However, the M5 Competition is for serious performance aficionados only: Drivers who demand state-of-the-art technology while swaddled in luxury at any speed, on any road, anywhere — and who don’t suffer sticker-shock to have it.