The CS makes the M5 feel special.
BMW special editions are hit and miss. Older models like the E46 M3 CSL and the more recent M2 CS are among our favorite BMW M cars ever built, but the company has plenty of special edition duds like the E36 M3 Lightweight (which didn't have air conditioning or a radio) and the M4 GTS (which requires a water refill with each tank of gas). Knowing the checkered past for specialty M cars, we approached the 2022 BMW M5 CS with some skepticism.
The outgoing M4 CS was our favorite version of the F82 generation car, so we had reason to believe the M5 CS could be the same for F90. During a BMW track event at Thermal Club in California, we had a chance to drive the M5 CS on the track to experience it as the engineers intended. It didn't take long for the CS to finally make us fall in love with the current-generation M5.
Here are four reasons why we love the M5 CS, and one thing we'd change to make it even more special.
Neither the M3 CS nor the M4 CS stood out enough to differentiate them as specialty models. Were it not for the gold wheels, the M2 CS would have suffered the same issue. For the M5 CS, BMW's designers went outside their comfort zone, decking out the car with oodles of bronze accents. Bronze is an eye-catching color, so seeing it plastered all over the kidney grille surround, exterior badging, and 20-inch Y-spoke wheels helps the CS easily stand out over a base M5 or M5 Competition.
For some added drama, the daytime running lights glow yellow rather than white as a nod to BMW's racing history. Combined with the two available matte paint colors - Frozen Brands Hatch Grey Metallic and Frozen Deep Green - the M5 CS is visually jaw-dropping.
It's not just special on the outside, the M5 CS also boasts a unique cabin. Step inside and it's immediately apparent this is no ordinary M5. Any last shred of luxury was painstakingly removed in pursuit of turning the CS into a four-seat race car with the standard M5's rear bench replaced by two individual buckets. Up front, the bucket seats are the same ones available in the new M3/M4; they offer phenomenal support on track, though the bulge on the base is annoying.
Other unique interior touches include an outline of the Nurburgring on the headrests, red accents, CS badging, carbon fiber trim, and copious amounts of Alcantara. We particularly love the enlarged paddle shifters, which are far more enjoyable to use than the ones in a standard M car.
The M5 CS features a series of small improvements that add up to a significant change. It all starts under the hood, where the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 delivers 627 horsepower, 10 more horeses than the Competition model. It's tough to feel that 10 extra hp from the driver's seat, but it's easy to hear it through the sport exhaust system, which is throatier than a standard M5. BMW says the M5 CS hits 60 mph in just 2.9 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the M5 Competition. It's bonkers fast in a straight line, showing perhaps the pinnacle of internal combustion performance.
The straight-line speed is intoxicating, but it's not why we love the CS. This car is 230 pounds lighter than an M5 Competition thanks to extensive carbon fiber use on the hood, roof, and other components. The M Carbon ceramic brakes alone save 51 lbs in unsprung weight, helping the CS feel more nimble around the track. Combined with subtle changes to the steering, suspension, and drivetrain tuning, the CS is the sharpest and most raw F90 M5 we've ever driven.
We wouldn't expect any BMW M5 to be "affordable," and the CS is no exception. It starts at $142,000, plus a $995 destination fee. That's a whopping $38,500 more than a base M5, and $30,900 more than an M5 Competition. Though it's outrageously quick and exciting to look at, it's hard to justify spending the price of an entire 2 Series Gran Coupe on a track-focused car that's less comfortable on the road. If you plan to use the M5 CS everyday as a family car, we'd suggest saving your money and getting one of the lesser M5 models.
If this is a secondary fun car, we can assure you that your investment will be safe. BMW will only sell the M5 CS for one model year, meaning it won't have a large production run. Given the current vehicle market amidst global supply shortages, BMW dealers will likely charge huge markups for the M5 CS. If you can somehow nab one at MSRP, you'll almost certainly have an appreciating asset on your hands.
The only minor gripe we have with the M5 CS is that BMW could have done slightly more to make it truly stand-out as one of the all-time-great modern M cars. In our opinion, the CS should have come with a dual-clutch transmission. The M Division has sadly moved away from DCTs as BMW says they can no longer hold up to the increased power and torque.
BMW's eight-speed torque-converter automatic is one of the best in the business, but it misses some of that motorsport feel we loved from the older DCT. Fitting a different transmission to the CS model was likely too complicated, but short of dropping a manual option in the M5, it's the best way we could think of to give it an "OMG factor."