First Drive: 2022 BMW M5 CS

10 min read

First Drive: 2022 BMW M5 CS

10 min read

Earlier this year, German publication Sport Auto managed to get the 2022 BMW M5 CS on Germany’s famed Nürburgring race track for a closed course session. In the hands of driver Christian Gebhardt, this midsized four-door sedan posted a time of 7:29.57.

Considering the fact that the M5 CS has the Green Hell’s track map embroidered in the headrests of its carbon fiber-backed sport seats, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the big brute can hustle around the 12.9-mile circuit. But let’s put that time into perspective: Even without the benefit of a pro racer at the wheel, this mid-sized sedan outpaced a C8 Chevrolet Corvette and a 992-generation Porsche 911 Carrera S, along with a long list of exotics that have been tested there over the years from the likes of McLaren, Pagani, and Koenigsegg.

Like the M4 CS and M2 CS before it, the M5 CS serves as the swan song for its respective generation M car – in this case the F90 5-Series. But considering the fact that the M5 Competition already offered some seriously potent performance thanks to its twin-turbo charged V8, all-wheel drive grip, and sophisticated chassis tuning, we couldn’t help but wonder what could be done to appreciably elevate the grand tourer’s capability. BMW suggested we find out for ourselves, so they handed us the keys to this Frozen Brands Hatch Grey example and told us to have at it.

The Competition Sport Formula

2022 BMW M5 CS rear quarter

Gold accents, 20-inch gold forged wheels, and carbon ceramic brakes are standard on the M5 CS. The redesigned carbon fiber hood, carbon fiber roof panel, and carbon fiber aero parts are part of the deal as well.

As the first 5-Series to receive the CS treatment, BMW wanted to make sure this one-year-only model would stand out amongst “garden variety” M5s. Available in three hues – Brands Hatch Grey Metallic, Frozen Deep Green Metallic, and Frozen Brands Hatch Grey Metallic – the M5 CS gets an added dose of visual flair thanks to gold accents and matching 20-inch wheels, along with a number of new carbon fiber bits and pieces like the front splitter, rear diffuser and ducktail spoiler, roof panel, mirror caps, and the redesigned hood. Other exclusive touches – like the yellow LED running lights and the stainless steel tips on the revised active exhaust system – also provide subtle external hints that this is something special.

That theme continues into the cabin, where carbon fiber-backed sport seats standard for the driver and front passenger, while rear center seat has been ditched in order to provide two individual buckets for the folks in back. Alcantara and carbon fiber abound, along with plenty of CS badging, while BMW's iDrive 7 infotainment tech is displayed on a massive 12.3-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A second 12.3-inch screen serves as the configurable digital gauge cluster.

2022 BMW M5 CS engine

The M5’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 gets a 10-horsepower bump that brings its output to 627 horsepower and 553 ft-lb of torque in the CS. A carbon fiber engine cover helps to dress things up a bit, too.

The M5 CS isn’t just about aesthetics, though. Under the hood is BMW’s venerable 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, which scores a 10hp bump to bring output to 627 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. The grunt is channeled through an eight-speed automatic transmission and sent to either all four wheels or just the rear two depending on driver preference. Torque vectoring between the front and rear axles and a standard Active M rear differential make sure the power is sent where it’s needed most.

In terms of outright performance, however, the M5 CS’s biggest gains are made in the handling department. It rides 0.2 inches lower than an M5 Competition on springs that are ten percent stiffer, while firmer engine mounts and a beefier rear sway bar are on hand to tighten things up even further. The aforementioned gold 20-inch forged M Sport alloy wheels can be outfitted with Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber as a no-cost option, while carbon ceramic brakes with red calipers come standard. Gold-colored calipers are also available as a no-cost option.

Thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber throughout the car and less sound deadening material, the M5 CS is also 230 pounds lighter than the M5 Competition, though at just over 4100 pounds, it’s still no featherweight. Regardless, the array of tweaks deliver not only that blistering Nürburgring lap, but also an official 0-60 MPH sprint in 2.9 seconds on the way to the CS’s 190 mile per hour top speed. That not only makes the CS the quickest road-going M5 produced to date, it’s also the quickest road car that BMW has ever produced, period.

Behind The Wheel

2022 BMW M5 CS running lights

The yellow LED running lights are a subtle, exclusive touch that add to CS’s racy vibe.

The M Division may derive its performance know-how from its racing efforts, but for decades enthusiasts have known the M5 as BMW’s ultimate high performance grand tourer rather than a hardcore track day machine. Considering its size and seating capacity, that has made perfect sense to all parties involved, and BMW has tuned these beefed-up sedans accordingly.

The CS designation does complicate things a bit, though. Performance tuning is often an exercise in compromise between livability and outright capability, and as you’d expect, the scales further tip further toward the latter here versus the M5 Competition. But there’s also a sense that BMW was keen to retain the M5’s core strengths, and the end result is sort of a mixed message.

For instance, the new front splitter doesn’t hang so low that driveways and speed bumps need to be approached with sports car caution to avoid contact, and the overall aesthetic is a bit more low-key than we’ve seen with previous CS models. The ZF eight-speed still provides smooth, near-seamless shifts whether it’s in its most sedate or most aggressive modes. That all makes perfect sense for an M5.

The cabin is where things start to get a bit blurry. There’s no doubt that the M Carbon Bucket Seats look cool and offer excellent lateral support, but the aggressive thigh bolstering and the totally-unnecessary center horn make it tougher to get in and out of the M5 CS than it needs to be. And when it comes to outright comfort, they’re not particularly ideal for extended stints at the helm.

We’d expect that many will appreciate them anyway, along with the bucket-style seating in the rear, and perhaps the lack of center console storage will add to the sense of occasion. But juxtaposed with the suite of creature comforts that are on hand otherwise, it feels like racecar theater. More importantly, some of these upgrades make the M5 CS less usable on a day-to-day basis while not really improving the experience or its outright performance.

But a lot of that can be forgiven thanks to the way the M5 CS drives. Left in its default state, the tuning of the CS’s brakes, engine, and transmission are all fairly agreeable for everyday driving, and when cruising around town with the suspension set to Comfort mode it’s a surprisingly compliant affair. Although the sound isolation isn’t as vault-like as the standard M5 because of the reduced amount of sound deadening material used, the CS still keeps noise from the outside world at a totally agreeable level.

It’s a welcome surprise to discover that the active exhaust system will cut through if you want it to, though. Sure – it’s willing to quietly hum along in the background at times when you want to fly under the radar. But in its loudest setting, it’s definitely the liveliest factory system that’s ever been installed on a modern M5, offering an authoritative rumble and plenty of snaps, crackles, and pops to go around.

Not so long ago the idea that a two ton sedan with 630 horsepower could feel incredibly balanced when driven in anger might have seemed ridiculous, but the stiffer damper settings provided in the suspension system’s Sport and Sport+ modes, the four-wheel drive stability, and the sharp turn-in of the Pirellis make twisty mountain roads feel like the M5 CS’s natural habitat.

But if you feel like unleashing your inner hooligan, power oversteer is an option as well. You’ll have to sift through iDrive’s labyrinth of menus to find the M configuration screen, but once you’re there, you can make the rear-wheel drive setting part of the M1 or M2 presets, either of which can be triggered at any time via their respective steering wheel-mounted buttons. Be aware, though – 2WD mode requires you to disable traction and stability entirely, so you’re really on your own here.

Those stiff, ultra-sticky tires not only give BMW’s notoriously lifeless steering a new sense of purpose and provide the already-potent carbon ceramic brakes with even more stopping power, they also likely play a significant role in the CS’s improved straight-line performance. At speed the horsepower increase versus the M5 Competition isn’t noticeable, but the improvements in grip certainly are, and that should equate to more consistent launches with less wheelspin to sort out.

So that begs the question: Is the CS package worth it? Starting at $142,000, it’s nearly $31,000 more expensive than the M5 Competition, and our tester rang up $148,995 with destination and gas guzzler tax. If it’s sheer performance you’re after, getting a set of forged wheels and P Zero Corsa tires for a well-spec’d M5 Competition would go a long way toward bridging the gap between the two models while setting you back a lot less dough. You also wouldn’t be forced to contend with those carbon buckets which, for better and for worse, come standard as part of the CS package.

That chunk of change does net you a number of worthwhile upgrades and plenty of exclusively, though, and well-heeled BMW fanatics that are willing to sacrifice some livability probably won’t have a tough time justifying the CS premium. All things considered, we certainly can’t blame them for that.

2022 BMW M5 CS trunk badge


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