In two recent comparison tests performed by Car and Driver this year, BMW’s range-topping performance offerings have been the fastest and most capable cars of the lot, but have twice come in last place in terms of the ranking.
So what’s going on?
In a Road & Track article published this month, Senior Editor Kyle Kinard explained how the Competition badge has effectively diminished the everyday usability of the F90 M5, and this is by no means the first time we’ve heard similar complaints. Over recent generations, BMW’s M cars seem to be trending towards the stiffer and unrelenting performance-at-all-costs side of things, and the Competition and CS models—which come at a healthy premium—have been lamented as being even less compliant than their previously more common stablemates.
When it comes to the F90 LCI, more specifically the M5 Competition, despite accelerating significantly faster than the Audi RS7 and the Cadillac CT5 V Blackwing it was pitted against thanks to a 2.7-second zero-to-60 time, it came in last of the three in terms of points. Characteristics such as driver comfort, ergonomics, rear seat space, certainly weren’t to blame, as the BMW tied with the Audi and Cadillac in these segments, and it wasn’t the features and amenities either, as the M5 scored the maximum possible points there as well.
The overall performance of the drivetrain wasn’t at fault either, with the M5 calming the fastest quarter-mile time, the best fuel economy, and tying for having the best transmission. Instead, it was the chassis tuning that Car and Driver found issue with, with the Cadillac earning the maximum possible points, and the BMW coming in last across the board with the exception of chassis performance, where it beat the Audi, but still fell short of the Cadillac. In terms of steering feel, the M5 Competition once again came in last, an unfortunate reality many long-term BMW aficionados have come to accept in the world of electric assist. In terms of being fun to drive, the BMW came in second, and just one point short of the CT5 V Blackwing.
There’s no question that the M5 is still a vehicle that can outperform significantly more expensive and less usable counterparts, but it’s the chassis and suspension tuning that used to position BMW ahead of the pack. Moreover, performance didn’t previously come at a cost of driving pleasure—for cars like the E28 and E39 M5, for example, it used to be the opposite.
It was the same when Car and Driver compared the M8 Gran Coupé with the Audi RS7 and Mercedes-AMG GT63 S. The M8 Gran Coupé is fastest by a healthy margin, but it came in dead last in terms of being fun to drive, and lost to the others in terms of total points by a margin more substantial than that of the M5 Competition.
Can BMW turn itself around and recapture the driving experience of old? With electrification on the horizon for M cars, the answer is anyone’s guess.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]