Johannesburg - Although the previous (F10) BMW M5 was wild enough to please its traditional fan base and yet sufficiently tame to haul their families in comfort, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t completely ‘domesticated’.

This was an unashamedly speed-hungry beast, ready to devour its prey at the slightest provocation, or in plain car speak an uncompromised super saloon, built for speed and only for speed. Its throttle felt like a machine gun trigger, jolting the car forward at the slightest provocation and as a result it required some concentration in slow traffic.

The new M5, while retaining a twin-turbo V8 with even more power this time around, is a completely different animal in every sense of the word. That trigger-happy throttle, jolty dual-clutch box and rear-wheel-drive propulsion make way for more civilised throttle mapping, a smoother eight-speed torque converter autobox and - shock of all horrors - xDrive all-wheel-drive, albeit with a selectable rear-wheel-drive mode for going hooligan when the coast is clear (and you’re not endangering anyone else’s life, of course).

The best of both worlds, then, and it gets even better when you mash the loud pedal as that all-wheel-drive grip gets you off the line cleanly enough to shave a whole second off the 0-100km/h time versus the previous M5.

And we haven’t even gotten to the Competition version yet, which was introduced late last year, and which is the subject of this test.

Here we’re talking 460kW, up from the standard M5’s 441kW, and even out-powering the 450kW Mercedes-AMG E63 S, although the Beemers have 100Nm less torque on command. Both M5s produce 750Nm, but the Competition has a slightly flatter torque curve, for the record.

Against the clock, the Competition runs from 0-100km/h in just 3.3 seconds, versus 3.4 in the case of the standard version, according to BMW’s completely believable claims.

We could sit and crunch numbers all day, but the bottom line is that acceleration in the M5 Competition is nothing short of brutal. Launch it off the line with launch control, or simply flatten the pedal from anywhere in the rev range and it gathers speed at an almost alarming rate. This really is a super car with four doors and an elephant in the back seat, the M5 Comp tipping the scales at 1865kg, which is not altogether bad for its size.

The engine is meticulously responsive too, but oh-so-smooth, and the gear-changes are barely discernible. It’s like being wrapped in a giant wad of cotton wool and then fired into the stratosphere with a rocket launcher.

There’s surprisingly little drama here, and some might miss that.

Same goes for the sound track. You can liven up the exhaust note at the touch of a button by dialling in the Sport or Sport Plus engine modes, which also make things more responsive, and while you do get to enjoy a more encouraging V8 bellow, it’s not quite a spine-tingling sensation. This despite the fact that the Competition has its own, model-specific version of BMW M’s flap-controlled sports exhaust system.

That said, we do appreciate how quickly and easily this M5’s moods can be changed by the driver. You can adjust the engine, gearbox, suspension and steering, and subdue the exhaust tone, through separate buttons next to the gear stick, and without digging through endless menus. And if you really want to get personal, just pre-set two of your own favourite dynamic setting combinations for easy access through the M1 and M2 buttons just above the paddles on the steering wheel. What’s more, drivers can even influence the torque distribution between the front and rear axles, in addition to the DSC settings.

While we’re talking dynamics, the Competition isn’t just faster than the regular M5, it also handles better and looks a little meaner. The suspension is ten percent stiffer for instance, although that certainly doesn’t result in a hard ride. Regardless of the mode, the M5 Comp traverses regular surfaces comfortably, while the handling is as agile as you could possibly expect for a vehicle of this size as is its stopping force.

Some styling distinguishment comes in the form of high-gloss black colouring for the grille, mirror caps, fender gills, window surrounds and rear spoiler.

You can also tell the Comp apart by its lightweight M carbon roof and 20-inch two-tone alloys shod with mixed-size rubber (275/35 R 20 upfront and 285/35 R 20 at the back).

Interior stylists also avoided going on a kitsch decorating spree, or drowning the cabin with Competition logos, but you will find one in the digital instrument cluster and and there are one or two other easter eggs, like M colours in the floor mats and on the seatbelts. This vehicle ships with M Multifunctional front seats, with built in headrests and active seat ventilation.

Standard cabin features include the Navigation System Professional infotainment system with gesture control, four-zone climate control, BMW’s digital Display Key and electric rear sunblinds, but you will need to pay extra for the semi-autonomous driving assistance systems that BMW offers these days.

VERDICT

At R2 062 306, the Competition commands a R300 000 premium over the normal M5, and while it’s not really worth it in terms of the very marginal performance advantage, it might appeal to those willing to pay for a slight dynamic advantage and the bragging rights that come with having the top dog in the range.

If money is an object go for the regular M5, which is something of a performance bargain considering that in outright performance terms it is essentially a supercar with four doors and a barrage of creature comforts. But we can’t help but feel that in a seat-of-the-pants kind of way, both M5s - as stupendously capable as they are in both the performance and luxury sense - could do with a bit more drama in the way they feel and sound. It’s as if they’ve just become too good for their own good.

IOL Motoring