Ah Vancouver, you a truly a jewel of North America. My first time in the city and you dazzled me with your picturesque waterfront, wow’d me with the nearby mountain views and satisfied me with your incredible local seafood delicacies. However, as my time to leave came – you gutted me with your traffic. Due to a poorly timed decision to follow the in-car navigation and put down the route book, my driving partner and I found ourselves mired down by traffic as we cut west across the city hoping to pick up a sneaky path down to the Vancouver-Blaine Highway thereby wrapping around the city and staying at hopefully a good pace.
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The plan failed – quickly – far quicker than the traffic we were in was moving.
That was the bad news. The good news was I had my hands firmly wrapped around the leather-clad controls of a BMW M5 equipped with the optional ceramic brakes and Competition Package. We easily stood out against the rest of the silver, while and black cars around us in traffic thanks to the beautiful Monte Carlo blue paint scheme with black Merino leather interior.
In addition to looking good, the M5 was quite a luxurious place to sit. I should know considering how much time we sitting in traffic – this afforded an opportunity to take advantage of some of the perks that came with the $5,500 Executive Package such as the active ventilated seats which cooled us down as the sun crept up across the lightly snow-capped mountains. We also took full advantage of the Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker stereo nestled deep within the doors and front of the dash, handsomely hidden behind aluminum plating. If you have to be stuck anywhere for a few hours there are far worse places than the inside of an M5 to spend your time.
Interestingly, if not unexpectedly, I found myself taking full advantage of the Start-Stop function on the M5 as the conditions present were the exact scenario for which the system was designed. With a light lift of the brake, the 4.4L TwinTurbo V8 burbled back to life perhaps hoping it be used to its full potential. God willing, we would have the opportunity on the short dash down Highway 99 to the Canada-U.S. border.
Except we didn’t because of traffic.
Sure enough, we hit the border checkpoint right in the middle of heavy security for what turned out to be very obvious reasons: it was September 11th. After another hour or so of crawling along the checkpoint in Eco Pro mode and quickly dispatching the awkward questions of the border guard, we threw the M5 into manual mode and rapidly approached the first exit after the border for a critical bathroom pitstop as we’d not planned to be in traffic for nearly three hours that morning and we were well overdue – next time I’m stopping at the duty free area bathroom as the cost of a bottle of Johnny Walker or a watch pales in comparison to riding in discomfort.
Finally, relieved to have a notably lighter bladder and seemingly free of the treacherous bonds of traffic, the M5 was let loose to reach the next checkpoint on our route. Turns out the saying “all good things come to those who wait” isn’t just a saying. The M5 managed to rip through miles at a blistering pace and it began to feel as though the M5 would be able to make up the time differential previously lost north of the border to traffic. After essentially doing a 5 minute pitstop for water and to survey what cars were around we opted to hang onto the M5 for the next few hours and finish the route to lunch on the Washington coastline. This proved to be a wise choice as I’d yet to really tap into the reserves of the M5 though that would change as I retook the driver’s seat and we set off across the backroads towards Bellingham, WA.
To my surprise and juxtaposed to the the way the morning went, we encountered nearly empty roads on our route allowing space to edge closer toward the limits of the M5. Our path seemed to be a mix of farmland, tree branch-draped switchbacks and straights of blacktop flanked by craggy creek beds – perfect territory for an M5.
With the addition of the Competition Package to our M5, BMW have boosted total output via a remapping of the boost for a 15HP gain in addition to a tweaked steering rack, revised suspension and upgraded M Active Differential. In practice, I found the setup for the M5 worked well in most cases. The steering proved quick, taut, and predictable with relative ease to plan the appropriate angle going into a corner.
That said, our car was also equipped with the nearly $10,000 optional Carbon Ceramic brakes which, once warmed up, did help to cover up our mistakes when the M5 was pushed too hard into a bend. In sharp enough hairpins, the M5 did begin to show the rather unflattering weight it carries(ringing in at nearly 4,400 lbs) . The problem we encountered was that in a corner-to-corner dash the M5 could accumulate speeds not dared dreamed of in a normal 5 Series. However, we had to get jump onto the brakes for fear that the M5 would push too wide lest we find ourselves in a creek bed.
Overall, the M5 Competition Package is tactile which for me was a revelation considering my previous criticisms of the overall remoteness of the F10’s controls.
Ironically, the M5 in its most base spec probably makes the most sense if it were my money. The 2014 BMW M5 starts at $92,900 before destination and handling, but ours clocked in at a whopping $116,000+ when loaded with the Competition Package, Executive Package and Carbon Ceramic brakes which is a tough pill to swallow given that’s an additional $24,000 of options which puts you into prime pricing real estate for low-optioned M6 Gran Coupe with identical performance.
Coming from an M6 with the Competition Package earlier in the week, I must say the difference in the Competition Package over a stock car felt more omnipresent in the M6 whereas the M5’s seating position, dynamics and character aren’t quite as sporting as the M6 and therefore harder to see tangible benefits of the package. That’s not a bad thing as the M5 does what it does well: a comfortable, stylish sedan that can be used as a daily driver during the week and melt tires on the weekend with its earthshaking S63Tu turbocharged engine. The Competition Package works wonders on the M6 and its more naturally sporting character but given the size and dynamics of the F10 M5 the benefits don’t quite translate.
That said, you’re hard pressed to find a more complete package available in the sub-$100,000 sedan that can hit all of the marks that the M5 manages.