In March 1998, BMW launched the E39 M5. With 298 kW (400 hp) from its 4.9-liter V8, it was as powerful as a Ferrari 360 Modena, and that was a seriously big deal. Fast forward to 2016, and the German horsepower wars have escalated to the point where the E39 looks anaemic. The current M5 makes 412 kW (560 hp) in standard trim, but apparently that's not enough for some, because BMW is now offering a Competition Edition with 441 kW (600 hp).
There's more to the Competition Edition than just a power boost, but it's hard to get over that figure. The 5 Series is eminently practical, with room for five people and their bags, but someone still thought it needed 600 hp and 700 Nm (516 lb-ft) of torque from its twin-turbocharged V8. Whatever's in the water at M Division HQ must be seriously strong, and we'd love to try some.
We'd bet the boost has something to do with the pissing contest that's been going on among German manufacturers. Audi, BMW and Mercedes seem to be locked in an eternal struggle to one-up one another, squeezing more horsepower from their cars in an effort to win the spec sheet battle. Audi has its RS Performance cars, Mercedes has the AMG S spec and BMW has a constant stream of special editions arriving to say "ours is bigger than yours."
The extra power for BMW's Competition Edition M5 comes courtesy of a tweaked ECU, which works in tandem with an increase in boost pressure to liberate 29 kW (40 hp) and 20 Nm (15 lb-ft) more from the engine. Thanks to the power bump, the 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint takes just 3.9 seconds now.
Working with the extra power is a revised chassis setup, with stiffer springs and dampers, a 10 mm drop in ride height and revised software for the M Active Differential working to keep the car tied down at high speeds. These are the same chassis changes fitted to the M5 Competition Pack, a handling package optional on the standard car.
Beside the extra power, Competition Edition M5s can be distinguished from regular Competition Pack cars by the Carbon Black or Mineral White paintwork. Just 100 examples of each color will be built, all of which will be finished with forged 20-inch wheels and a smattering of carbon styling bits around the exterior.
Inside, there's white contrast stitching to offset the black leather, and the carbon fiber dashboard trim is adorned with a special Competition Edition decal.
Pricing starts at €129,500 (US$142,800) for the Competition Edition.