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The BMW F90 M5 is more than a big M3

The BMW M5 Competition is the most powerful production BMW to date. But what's missing isn't under the hood.


Automotive publications love to tout that they are without bias. Please don’t believe them, because you can’t love cars and not have any preconceived notions. Like meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first time, you have opinions of him before he ever crushes your hand as he shakes it. That’s what it’s like to review cars as well. This is after all, a BMW M5 Competition, with a reputation that precedes it. But is that reputation accurate? Let’s find out.

Get one:

Extremely well-balanced for what is a small 7 Series. Strapping on that V-8 and breaking the sound barrier. Saying “Flawless Victory” in your Mortal Kombat voice after every stoplight.

Don’t get one:

Tells you how to have fun. Must push it to limits not achievable on public roads to feel a soul.

Soul Score: 9

The best sports sedan currently made, if you drive by the Cadillac dealer.

The 2022 BMW M5 Competition overview

The LCI version is a big improvement, which isn’t always the case.

What’s inside an M5’s DNA? Just like its little brother the M3, there’s never been a set rule. It’s had a straight-six, a naturally aspirated V-8, a V-10, and then back to the V-8, now with turbos breathing heavily into it. It’s had manual transmissions, SMGs, DCTs, and now an eight-speed automatic. The next generation will be adding hybrid power.

All this suggests that BMW M is married not to a single layout or design, but rather whatever is technologically feasible at the moment. Regardless of the powertrain, an M5 is always big, fast (the fastest BMW in the showroom), highly capable, and refined. But do you want this F90 generation, especially since an M3 isn’t really that much smaller?

Performance score: 9. Infinity Gauntlet

Nothing launches off the line like this M5.

If you’re a Marvel fan, consider each technical point of the M5 as an Infinity stone. Add them all together, and you have something so powerful that you pretty much just need to snap your fingers to reach triple digits. Blip. Weren’t they just here a second ago?


While BMW M fans lament the passing of great naturally aspirated V-8s like the S62 and S65 (and they are amazing), they would have no business in this modern M5. Too slow, too “old school”. What you want is turbo torque, and it’s here in spades. This might be BMW’s best engine, ever. Stop looking at the screen like that.

Press the red start button, and the S63 wakes up with a sharp rumble. Call it a shumble. After the roar common to BMW M cold starts calms down, the M5 settles into a quiet idle that’s perhaps a bit too quiet from the inside. This being the Competition model, there are 17 more horses under the hood from a standard M5, bringing the total to 617, while torque remains at 553.

Though down from the Blackwing recently tested, that’s still a huge amount of power, and combined with the lighting-fast shifts of the automatic and traction from four-wheel drive, this M5 simply explodes off the line. Keep your foot in it, and you’ll be well over triple digits in under 10 seconds. You can hand Vin Diesel the keys now, because this is a 10-second quarter-mile car.

It’s an extremely flexible engine. The S63 is so eager to rev, and thanks to turbos set up in the V bank of the engine, lag is nonexistent. Every engine has a power band, this one IS the power band. Peak torque happens from 1,800-5,690, and there’s never a let down.

If the M5 has a soul, it emanates from under the hood. It is simply relentless.


Turbos are a “sin” to the BMW traditionalist. So is anything but a manual transmission. Now, BMW has even taken away the DCT, which offered extremely fast responses and shift times.

To be blunt, all of that is crap. This might be the same ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that’s in every other BMW, but rest assured it’s up to the task here. With six available shift patterns (including some that hang onto revs a bit too long), this car behaves just like one with a DCT. If I sat you down in the M5 and never told you it was a slush box, you’d never know. It’s that good.

While regular Series BMWs simply push forward or reverse, M cars continue the DCT way of going up and to the left for reverse.

Put the transmission into Sport +, hold it in second, then let off the gas for a very yummy burble. Too bad it won’t really do it in another gear. It’s kind of silly to cruise down your street in second gear at 4,500 RPMs, letting your foot on and off the throttle just to hear the booms and snaps. Silly, but fun! Still, M5 doesn’t have time for shenanigans.

In fact, the M5’s got it, dude. Acceleration happens so quickly that using the paddle shifters is an afterthought. It’s much smarter than you, and it knows how to have fun without you. Just leave it in “D” and go.


Let’s keep the purists annoyed by adding all-wheel drive to the mix. This complex system has three modes. Normal, Sport, and two-wheel drive for awesome drifts and burnouts.

Having driven the F90 on track, I can tell you that the limit to understand the difference of each mode is far beyond the reach of civilian roads. What you will notice is the amazing ability to put the power down anywhere, anytime. Turn a corner, and with your steering wheel off-center, give it some beans. Yes, you really did feel a tiny twitch of torque steer through the wheel.

m5 drifting
Just put the M5 in “2WD” mode, and you can do this all day long.

Adjustable dampers allow you to choose from Comfort, Sport, and Sport +, like in my G80 M3. And like in my G80, the firmest setting is too firm for daily use. Take the time to find the right balance for yourself, and you’ll probably never need to touch M Mode again. Leave everything in comfort mode, and it’s an amazing grand tourer that’s as comfortable as any other 5 Series.

There’s minimal body roll, an amazing feat considering this car’s 4,300 lb curb weight. Pushed to the limit on track, the weight does make itself known. But tracking the F90 M5 gives you a new perspective. It’s not a track car, but if your track car breaks down that morning, the M5 is just as capable.

Steering feel? Typical of any modern BMW. I couldn’t tell you the difference between any one I’ve driven over the past few years, and it’s a long list by now.

But it’s here that the dents in the armor start to show. The limits are so high, so fast, that the M5 is simply bored with your daily commute. In the Blackwing, there was an element of play. Kick the tail out, and in the Caddy, the traction control would allow you to have some fun. GM engineers know that you’re not always out to set a lap record.

But with the BMW you are, or at least it thinks so. If it could, I get the sense the M5 would simply grab the wheel from you and make a lap time by itself. Imagine that Arnold Terminator voice coming on over the stereo as you enter the on-ramp. “This is not the optimal angle for this road.” Ok big guy, jeez..


The carbon ceramic pizza trays behind the 20-inch 789M wheels are gigantic, and they help to haul down the BMW M5 with incredible confidence. They do not fade. And as someone who spends a lot of time cleaning brake dust off of M3 wheels, the fact that they don’t produce much is a huge bonus. Maybe spend the $8,500 on them.

The brakes match the performance of the resst of the car. CCBs produce much less dust.

Brake pedal feel is not adjustable in this car, and the initial bite is a bit grabby. But once you get used to it, any other car feels flat in its stopping response. Getting back in the M3 resulted in a few minutes of “what’s wrong?” every time  I stepped on the brakes, and that was with the pedal on its firmer setting.

Despite its prodigious history, this F90 M5 is probably BMW’s most capable car ever made, and that’s something to be commended. Should we blame the car for setting the level of performance so high that it doesn’t come alive until it reaches speeds that put you on NORAD’s radar? Or perhaps it’s the fault of the current system of ancient roads in place.

To put it another way, the M5 is Tom Brady playing quarterback at your kid’s PeeWee league game. He’s going to destroy the competition, but do we blame him, or the playing field?

Utility Score: 9. M7

This is a large car, with plenty of room in the beautiful cabin.

BMW never made an M7 because they’ve always felt the 7 Series mission was one of luxury first, and rowdy performance second. But this sure does feel like it’s an M7 inside. The current 5 Series sure is a big boy, and wow it’s really nice.

It’s also appreciably bigger inside than an M3, with a larger trunk and a noticeable gain in width in the cabin. I did own an F10 (528i), and it’s larger inside than that car. It’s also bigger than the Blackwing and AMG GT, which can be nice when it’s used as intended (a daily driver).

The 7 Series might be bigger still, but unless you go for an X5 M, I can’t imagine needing any more cargo flexibility.

Unless you need an X5 M for the room, this sedan has plenty of versatility.

Efficiency: 8. M great

During my time with the M5, I drove over 500 miles in a mix of highway and street rides. I never ever said “nah I won’t hit the gas”, and yet still managed 20 mpg. That’s amazing for a car with this much power.

Over 600 horses, but still 20 MPG.

My M3? 18 (it’s a stick). My X3 M40i? 21. The tank in the M5 is larger, so filling up can be a bit of a bummer. An electric car like a Taycan might be much more efficient, but I don’t think I’d hesitate when deciding on what keys to grab.

It’s a big point to consider in the M5’s favor, because the Blackwing had terrible mileage, and if you plan on using these cars every day (you should), then the gas bill can add up quickly.

I should mention the $1,000 Gas Guzzler tax added on the Monroney label, but that’s still less than I paid on the E92 12 years ago. Progress.

Features and comfort: 10. Throne room.

Let’s all take a moment together to absorb the $139,145 asking price for this 2022 BMW M5. It’s fine. You ok?

We start on the outside, and the not-my-taste-but-still-beautiful Individual Messing Metallic paint. In a world of BMW greys and blues, perhaps going Individual is one of the remaining ways to distinguish yourself. And while I usually don’t comment on styling, the LCI update to the G30 5 Series really made a difference. I think it’s BMW’s best-looking current model.

The Competition model adds Shadowline trim around the headlights.
LCI tail lights help clean up the rear.

Something else to talk about is the Competition Package. For $7,500, you get a “louder” M Sport exhaust system, those beautiful 789M wheels, M Shadowline lights which are darker than the standard model, M seat belts, and +17 horses, among a few other goodies.

Since I’m spending your money, you should only consider the Comp model (remember that the only reason I chose a “base” M3 was because of the stick). I wish there was just one level of M, and then BMW could simply charge more for the base price.

Have a seat

Put the M badge aside for a moment, and you still get one of BMW’s best-equipped sedans.

Some of the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in.

The seats are beautiful and probably the most comfortable I’ve ever sat in. These ventilated seats feature a massage function that’s not quite as good as what Mercedes offers, but it’s still nice to have. Speaking of Mercedes, those adjustable side bolsters that stiffen up in turns was missed, given the M5’s overall ability to crush you with G forces.

Gesture Control is here, but since I’m Italian and talk with my hands a lot, I always turn it off. Also here is the Driving Assistance Professional Package, and it’s probably one you can skip unless you really want the M5 to drive on the highway for you. But I can report that it does an excellent job of staying in the lines and maintaining a safe distance without jabbing the brakes every 30 seconds.

The F90 is in an odd space in the BMW lineup, because it’s due to be phased out soon for a new 5 Series. What this means is you get a mix of old and new BMW, and that’s both good and bad. The start button is on the dashboard, there are (thankfully) still two screens, and actual dials for the climate controls. I’m convinced that these dials are 100% better to use, as oppose to tapping a hard to read button a dozen times to lower the temperature.

I do wish the steering wheel was a bit more unique.

Two things that were disappointing: the stereo and steering wheel. The standard stereo is a Harmon Kardon unit, and it’s simply adequate considering the car’s price. The optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System is much tastier. And the steering wheel is identical to the one in my X3, save for a few additional buttons. No special shift paddles or carbon fiber trim like in an M3. I’d like something a bit more unique.

These are picky things, and a fully loaded M5 will leave you feeling coddled on even the most spirited drive.

The BMW M5 Competition is BMW’s best M car to date.

Actually, I lied. The M5 CS is BMW’s best M car to date. But they are all gone, and this M5 Competition is an excellent consolation prize.


In the world of BMW, this is an wonderful car, and makes for a better M5 than any previously built. It’s faster, more comfortable, more stable, and just as much fun at the limit. The holy grail of M5, the mighty E39, weighed in at almost 4,000 lbs. This larger, wider, automatic, all-wheel drive equipped F90 clocks in at 4,345. Seems silly to still be pining for the “good old days” when cars like this are available.

But the problem is that to have fun at the limit, you need to be able to reach it, something you could do in the E39 much easier. And despite its power advantage, the Blackwing is also a much more willing dance partner.

However, there is one more point in the M5’s favor. I wrote that the Blackwing lacks a bit of an identity. No one knows what it is. That’s not a problem in an M5, and there is an entire BMW community to share in your passion. BMW dealers have always provided me with an excellent experience, something that I’m not sure Cadillac dealers can provide. Cars are never driven (or owned) in a vacuum.

If you want the perfect BMW, the M5 is it.

Events like MPACT show the strong ties the BMW community has. It’s not something other brands can represent as easily.
The M5 left an impression that’s only surpassed by the Blackwing.

Bonus: The F90 M5 vs the G80 M3


I’ve never been a fan of this question. It’s a bit like asking which girl I think you should talk to at the bar. But for the sake of this article, I’ll play along, and use some maths to help.

Referencing weight is an excellent way to measure a car’s overall performance, and in general, the less it weighs, the better it is dynamically. A current G80 M3 with M xDrive crosses the scales at 3,990 lbs. The F90 M5: 4,345. That’s a 355 lb difference, an 8% increase.

Let’s all agree that peak M3/M5 was the E46/E39 combo. The E46 M3 is 3,461 lbs, vs the E39’s 3,957. Call is a 500 lb difference. That’s a 12.5% increase. As you can see, the M3 and M5 have gotten closer in size over the last 20 years.

This suggests that selecting the M5 no longer comes with the handling penalty over an M3 that it used to, and for the most part that’s true. From behind the wheel, the M3 is still the smaller car and it feels like it. On track, the G80 is more nimble, but in the M5, it’s more effortless to achieve speed.

Cars like these are expensive, so if you’re asking your car to be both grocery getter and track animal (as opposed to a dedicated weekend car), than both are excellent. More track days? M3. More long drives? M5.

Yea but what’s better, the M3 or the M5?

M3 vs M5

25-year-old me would never consider an M5. The M3 is more boy racer. Everyone looks at it. You also have to “drive” it more, stick or not.

But as I round the corner to 40 and the wrong body parts become stiff in the morning, the M5 becomes more appealing. I don’t care who looks at the car anymore. Inside, it’s more comfortable, and though you can drive it like your hair is on fire, you don’t need to to enjoy all the merits of the car. Does the M5 look across the showroom and wish it had six-pack M3 abs? Sure, but it never embarrasses itself.

Of course, the M5 is more expensive. Even skipping some of the options from this one will still set you back to the tune of $120,000. This M5 is twice the price of my G80. Is it twice as good? No. But logic isn’t always involved in this kind of purchase. If money were no object, I’d tell you to buy the M5 and never look back.

But you’re on your own at the bar.

M3 vs M5

All press cars prepped with AMMO NYC products.

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2022 BMW M5 Competition

Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear- or all-wheel drive sedan


Base: $103,500;
Price as tested: $139,145


4.4 liter twin turbocharged V-8
617 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
Eight-speed automatic transmission


Wheelbase: 117.4 in
Length: 196.4 in
Width: 74.9 in
Height: 58 in
Curb Weight: 4,345 lbs


Combined/city/highway: 17 / 15 / 21 MPG
Range (city/highway): 301 / 422

I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

Email me at with any questions. Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls

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