The 2020 BMW M5 is a pinnacle of car building, a high point of engineering excellence and a ridiculous amount of fun. Plenty of people might look at a Ferrari or something even more exotic and proclaim it’s the best car in the world. But for a third of the price (or perhaps even less) of a look-at-me machine only used on rare occasions, the M5 will deliver a driving experience — day in, day out — of a joy and confidence that’s rare at any level.
Calling this F90 M5 a high-performance, midsize luxury sedan is like describing the Grand Canyon as merely an interesting rock formation. It’s the most powerful and capable M5 ever built and could also be one of the best BMW models ever. And that’s from a company responsible for creating scores of amazing cars.
It breaks with M tradition (with the exception of crossover M versions) by not coming with a manual transmission and not being rear-wheel drive. BMW usually calls its all-wheel-drive system xDrive. This one is called M xDrive. It works in RWD mode most of the time and will even let the driver indulge in tail-out slides, but it can send torque to the front wheels if things get too precarious.
The BMW M5 Competition Sedan.
When all four wheels are sending the M5’s massive power to the tarmac, the result is a remarkable standstill-to-60-miles-per-hour time of 3.2 seconds. Reaching 124 mph only requires 11.1 seconds.
However, straight-line speed is only one attribute. Like every other M vehicle, this one was developed on the Nurburgring’s North Loop, recognized as the world’s most challenging 14.2 miles for drivers and machines alike.
Weight-saving measures include aluminum body panels and suspension components, a roof made of light yet strong carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and brake discs made of a compound lighter than regular cast-iron units.
What’s new for 2020?
BMW’s Connected Package Professional (which includes recognition of natural language commands, real-time traffic updates and concierge services) becomes standard. Wireless charging and Wi-Fi are also now included, while the CD/MP3 player has been discontinued.
A 2020 M5 Edition 35 Years version joins the range. It’s based on the M5 Competition and adds the Executive and M Driver’s packages as standard (see the Standard Features and Options section below), as well as a few cosmetic differences. See the 2020 BMW M5 models for sale near you
What we like
- Power, handling, technology…all awesome
- High-quality interior
- Fantastic front seats
What we don’t
- We’ll have to get back to you
$103,695 to $129,990
A twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 in the regular 2020 M5 generates 600 horsepower and 533 lb-ft of torque. The 2020 M5 Competition has the same engine, but it’s tuned to produce 617 hp. Maximum torque stays at 533 lb-ft.
The transmission is an 8-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a launch control mode. The M xDrive intelligent AWD system is standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption for all M5 versions at 15 miles per gallon in the city, 21 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in combined driving. The engine has a stop/start function to save a little fuel when idling.
Standard features and options
The 2020 BMW M5 ($103,695) 4-seater premium midsize sport sedan comes with 19-in alloy wheels (9.5 inches wide at the front, 10.5 inches wide at the rear), selectable driving modes, M-tuned sport suspension with aluminum components, electronically controlled dampers, active M limited-slip rear differential, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, aerodynamic body additions, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and ignition, heated 20-way multi-contour power-adjustable sport front seats with memory settings, leather upholstery, Alcantara (simulated suede that’s lighter than the real thing) headliner, 12.3-in digital driver information display, head-up display, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, navigation with over-the-air updates and real-time traffic updates, 10.25-in touchscreen, gesture control, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, active blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, ambient cabin lighting, power-operated trunk lid, universal garage door opener, wireless charging, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 16-speaker/600-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system, AM/FM/HD/satellite radio, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, 32GB of multimedia storage and two USB ports.
The 2020 M5 Competition ($110,995) brings 20-in alloy wheels, dedicated suspension tuning, revised engine mounts and a dedicated exhaust system.
The Driving Assistance Plus package brings adaptive cruise control with stop/go function, Traffic Jam Assist (which helps with steering, brakes and acceleration), front cross-traffic alert, evasive steering assistance and active lane-keeping with side-collision avoidance.
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The Executive package adds a self-parking feature for parallel and perpendicular spaces, 360-degree camera system, front and rear parking sensors, a powered rear sunshade, manual rear-side window shades, ventilated massaging front seats, heated rear seats, quad-zone automatic climate control and soft-close doors.
The M Driver’s package is a day’s tuition in high-performance driving on tracks in California or South Carolina. In the M5 Competition, this bundle also raises top speed to 189 mph.
The M5 Edition 35 Years ($129,990) has the contents of the Executive and M Driver’s packages as standard. It’s finished in Frozen Dark Grey II, the brake calipers are painted black, and the interior has a dedicated upholstery scheme.
Other options include carbon-ceramic brakes, 20-in alloy wheels, 16-speaker/1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system, rear-seat entertainment system with twin screens, infrared-based night vision with pedestrian detection system and a powered moonroof.
Trunk space is a commodious 18.7 cu ft.
The M5 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side and full-length side curtain).
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The M5 hasn’t been crash tested, but the regular 5 Series has, earning the top score of five stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with four stars for front impact protection and five stars for side impacts. In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 5 Series a Top Safety Pick Plus.
Behind the wheel
The multi-contour sport seats are incredible, hugging their occupants in all the right places, and the wide range of adjustment ensures that everyone can get comfortable behind the wheel. Interior materials are superb, while the dashboard design is simultaneously functional and classy. The standard widescreen iDrive display is well integrated and helps give the cabin a high-tech feel.
The M5’s thrust is so intense, it almost creates its own weather system. The twin-turbo V8 has enough torque to make gears virtually irrelevant. Let loose at a drag strip, and you’ll find that the M5 is impossibly swift for a 4,370-lb luxury sedan, charging through the quarter-mile at more than 120 mph — fast enough to embarrass plenty of sports machines. The carbon-ceramic brakes are expensive, but they shave 50 pounds from the curb weight and won’t fade.
The M5 Competition is claimed to run from standstill to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, which is 0.1 of a second quicker than the regular M5. However, these are BMW’s numbers, and the company has a history of being conservative in this respect. Even so, three seconds to 60 mph (give or take one- or two-tenths) is still blazing.
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Some retuning of the Competition’s engine not only raises hp but also extends the torque curve into higher revs (from 1,800 to 5,860 rpm). This is close to where peak power is achieved (6,000 rpm), so there’s a linear power delivery that’s also relentlessly muscular.
Handling-wise, the well-balanced M5 is deeply engaging, with virtually limitless grip and poise. The Competition version’s chassis is sportier (as in firmer) but still completely bearable for everyday use. Driving around town may involve playing with the electronically adjustable dampers, but once the right setting has been dialed in, the M5 should behave more like a conventional luxury sedan.
Other cars to consider
2020 Mercedes AMG E 63 S — The E 63 S comes with 603 hp, AWD and many high-tech features.
2020 Audi RS 6 Avant — Just in case someone wants a 592-hp wagon instead, the RS 6 Avant is both practical and insane at the same time, which makes it wildly attractive.
Used Mercedes AMG S 65 — The S 65 is bigger than the M5 and enjoys a glorious 621-hp V12 engine.
It’s always a good idea to have the features in the Driver Assistance Plus package. We can also recommend the superb Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Otherwise, every choice is a good one. Buyers considering the M5 Competition should also check out the carbon ceramic brakes, because wonderful speed needs wonderful stopping power.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.