It depends on what you want in both cars

The BMW M5 Competition is arguably the best car the German automaker has on the road these days. It checks all the boxes you’d want in a prized super saloon. Refinement? Check. Class and sophistication? Check. Power and performance? Check. If you want something from a car, the M5 Competition probably has it in spades. Knowing all of that, is it possible that the M5 Competition is too good of a car that when you line it up opposite, say, a Jaguar Project 8, you’d enjoy the much-less refined special project Jag more than the BMW saloon? Veteran auto scribe Harry Metcalf sought to find an answer to that question, and he did so the only way he knows why: driving both cars and seeing which of the two is the better car.

What makes the BMW M5 Competition better than the Jaguar Project 8?

There is a litany of things that make the BMW M5 Competition better than the Jaguar Project 8, and a lot of it starts with the fact that the Project 8 is based on the Jaguar XE, which, by all accounts, is more of a direct rival to the BMW 3 Series. When it comes to refinement and sophistication, the Project 8 doesn’t hold a candle to the M5 Competition. It’s an established truth.

Is the 2020 BMW M5 Competition Really Better Than the Jaguar Project 8?
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A big part of the M5 Competition’s appeal doesn’t revolve around its status as an M car. Nope. BMW made sure that while the M5’s performance roots adhere to the identity of all high-performance M models, it also exudes all the class, grace, and opulence you normally see in a lot of BMW big sedans. The M5 is the golden child of all things BMW. As special as the Jaguar Project 8 is, that’s the kind of status it can never reach.

What makes the Jaguar Project 8 better than the BMW M5 Competition?

Is the 2020 BMW M5 Competition Really Better Than the Jaguar Project 8?
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Ironically, being too perfect can be a bad thing. That goes for a lot of things in this world, and, in many ways, it applies to the BMW M5 Competition. There are obviously some benefits to being an all-everything ride, but the downside to being good to great at everything is the loss of a certain type of edginess that invites excitement. When you’re driving the M5 Competition, you’re always comfortable knowing that you’re wrapped in a cocoon of luxury inside a saloon that can still lay waste to a lot of cars on the road. The familiarity on what the M5 Competition is and what it’s capable of doing is an important asset for the Bimmer. But it can also be a hindrance, especially if you want to have fun and enjoy your drive.

Is the 2020 BMW M5 Competition Really Better Than the Jaguar Project 8?
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That’s what the Jaguar Project 8 provides. It’s an objectively worse car than the M5 Competition in catalogs and brochures, but out on the road, it’s a more fun car to drive. And since high-performance cars are supposed to be fun to drive, the Project 8’s organic performance capabilities is more fun to drive than the polished form of the M5 Competition.

What does Harry Metcalf think?

Is the 2020 BMW M5 Competition Really Better Than the Jaguar Project 8?
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Give Harry Metcalf credit for not blatantly favoring one car over the other. The British auto journalist seemed to enjoy his time in the BMW M5 Competition. He appreciates the lengths BMW took to maximize the M5 Competition’s breadth of ability, and its capacity to be a do-it-all ride for different cars.

But it’s worth noting that Metcalf appears to have more fun driving the Project 8. It’s not as refined as the M5 Competition, and it’s certainly not as fast nor as powerful as its German rival. But none of those things actually matter when you’re out on the road. What matters is the enjoyment you get when you drive these cars. Sure, there’s a level of enjoyment that comes with driving an M5 Competition. But that enjoyment revolves around all the things that you already know about the M5 Competition. There are no surprises there.

Is the 2020 BMW M5 Competition Really Better Than the Jaguar Project 8?
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But with the Jaguar Project 8? You know you’re getting a performance-spec version of the Jaguar XJS, but what you don’t know is how fun and engaging it is until you start driving it. That’s where the surprises come, and if we’re being honest, that’s also when the fun starts.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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