THERMAL, Calif. – “This thing’s a ballistic missile,” I exclaimed to no one in particular after hopping out of the 2022 BMW M5 CS at The Thermal Club’s South Palms racetrack. I came to roughly the same conclusion 20 minutes earlier, having just wrapped up a less tire-squealing session on a canyon road outside of Thermal, Calif. This beast is a lot of car, no matter how you encounter it.
The M5 CS, a one-year-only limited-production version of the M5, is BMW’s most powerful and quickest production car ever. With an official 0-60 mph sprint of just 2.9 seconds and 627 horsepower, speed was expected, and speed was achieved. That said, the totally unlimited-production M5 Competition is nearly as powerful, trailing the CS by just 10 ponies. If you focus too much on that “most powerful” bit, you’ll miss the point of the CS.
Its true purpose is achieved through the multitude of other changes. BMW put it through a weight-saving program, which is precisely what the large and weighty midsize super sedan needed. Outside, the CS gets a carbon fiber roof, hood, front splitter, rear diffuser, rear spoiler and mirror caps. Unique 20-inch forged (and gold-painted) wheels hide behind standard carbon ceramic brakes, saving 51 pounds versus the standard brakes of the M5 Competition alone.
Inside, weight savings come from stealing the new M3/M4 carbon fiber-backed seats — they still have the weird center insert on the seat bottom — and swapping to a four-seat layout with rear bucket seats. We can definitively say that those rear seats are the coolest on any production car today, and they’re legitimately functional at holding you in. Of course, you'll never fit five people in an M5 CS.
All of those efforts add up to 230 pounds of weight savings versus your run-of-the-mill M5 Competition, bringing curb weight down to 4,114 pounds. That’s still heavy, but it makes competitors like the 4,497-pound E 63 S look porky in comparison. It’s even a touch lighter than the manual transmission-equipped CT5-V Blackwing, beating it out by 9 pounds. Not a bad effort, BMW.
The chassis is worked over to give it a slightly sharper edge than the Competition, as BMW says it’s fiddled with the spring and adaptive damper tuning to take advantage of the car’s lower weight. Those gold forged wheels are the same size as the standard M5 Competition wheels, but exclusive to the CS, you can wrap them in Pirelli P Zero Corsa summer tires for no extra charge. Our road and track time was spent riding on the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, but we’d recommend opting for the more aggressive Pirelli rubber — this is the CS after all.
Having recently driven the standard M5 Competition, which sounds like an oxymoron, the CS diet results in a slightly lither M5 that's a smidgen more eager to change directions and a little less heavy on the nose under braking. The difference in acceleration is discernably quicker than its 0.2-second improvement over the standard Competition would indicate (2.9 seconds versus 3.1), but ultimately there’s no revelation hiding behind the CS letters. Considering how good the standard M5 Competition is, a great leap wasn’t exactly necessary.
The CS is better on track for its added stiffness and reduced weight. Continuous beatings of the massive carbon ceramic brakes from 150 mph could not induce any fade or softness to the pedal. It’s not without minor roll or body movement, but the chassis always stays in tight check — that’s no small accomplishment for the M5’s size. Steering feel is similar to that of the standard M5 in that it is lacking. You’re better off trying to listen for tire squeal or sense the Gs loading up to sort out where the limits of traction are, because the tires don’t talk much through the wheel. Lateral grip is plentiful with the Michelins, but again, the Pirellis would theoretically be much better.
Leave the all-wheel-drive and stability control settings in their standard mode, and the car constrains itself on the track, keeping you from getting it out of hand. Once comfortable with the car’s power and chassis, though, M Dynamic Mode (MDM) is where you want to be. That loosens the reins on stability control, allowing you to achieve some slip angle, but not so much that you end up pointing the other direction. Basically, it lets you take full advantage of those 627 ponies on corner exit as you squeeze back onto the throttle to catapult your way to the next corner. If you’d rather ditch all-wheel drive and do smoky burnouts or drifts, the CS allows you to lock all power to the rear axle just like the standard M5s do.
And boy it sure is fun to let out your inner child and go flat-out in the M5 CS. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 gets a new tune to achieve the extra 10 horses, but torque remains the same as the standard M5 Competition at 553 pound-feet. Redline is still 7,200 rpm, but the peak torque band is 90-rpm wider than the regular M5 Competition. Power delivery is just an ounce smoother in the CS than the regular M5, as it moves through the rev band with a touch less abrasion. Launch Control starts shove you into your seat with more immediacy than in the Competition, which could be as much about the lighter weight and stickier tires than the added power. The top speed of 190 mph doesn’t feel all that far off at Thermal, as the engine’s pull past 130 and 140 mph is still wicked-strong.
Even if you’re not on a track, the M5 CS shines. BMW toning down the brutality of the M5’s ride last year isn’t fully lost on this model, as Comfort mode is still sedate and acceptable for highway slogs. Its burbling and roaring exhaust can quiet down to envelop the cabin in silence, as the eight-speed transmission silently swaps through gears. That said, BMW doesn’t let you load it up with extras such as the Executive Package or Driver Assistance Professional Package like you can with the non-CS M5s. It’s meant to be the lightweight driver’s M5, not the luxury car.
And while it’s a hoot to drive, you might have just as much fun staring at it parked. BMW went all-in on the gold accents, applying what it calls a “Gold Bronze” finish to the kidney grille surround and all the badging to match the wheels. It’s accented nicely by racing-inspired yellow daytime running lights. These accents work beautifully in any of the three colors BMW offers: Brands Hatch Grey, Frozen Brands Hatch Grey and Frozen Deep Green. We’re personally fans of the pictured Frozen Deep Green, especially with the gold wheels, a combo exclusive to the CS.
Step inside, and the CS-specific bits are there, but less charming than on the outside. BMW uses a lined, gray trim material that looks a bit like fake carbon fiber. It neither looks nor feels expensive, and it de-classes what is otherwise an expensive-looking, over-the-top, M-festooned interior.
“CS” is imprinted in red on the dash, and the red stitching continues the black-and-red theme seen throughout. On the positive side, using the carbon fiber M bucket seats from the M3/M4 was a good move. You sit lower in the car with these seats, and there’s zero chance of you moving about with the sheer size and intrusiveness of the bolsters. The Nürburgring Nordschleife track map is imprinted on the headrests of all four seats, perhaps suggesting that you should take yourself and three friends for a ride in the CS on Germany’s famed racetrack. Using them to actually navigate whilst on the Nurburgring is not recommended.
BMW also finally gave the M5 acceptable paddle shifters. The tiny, plastic paddles seen on the normal M5 are swapped for giant carbon fiber paddles on the CS. They’re super-easy to reach and are properly clicky — time to apply these paddles across the M lineup, BMW.
Just like every recent CS-badged M model, the M5 CS comes at a great premium over the standard M5. Compared to the base Competition, the CS is $30,900 more. Remove your jaws from the desk now. Yeah, it’s a lot to ask. Equip the M5 Competition as similarly as you can to the CS (carbon brakes, upgraded interior, M Driver's Package etc.), and the gap shrinks to $16,400. That sounds tolerable for a well-to-do M5 enthusiast who wants the absolute best-performing and exclusive M5 they can buy. BMW is only selling the M5 CS for one model year, so you’ll have to buy while it lasts. It’s easily the best-looking and best-driving M5 of this G30 generation, but even if you decide against it, an M5 Competition is going to bring you about 99% of the driving happiness the CS provides.
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