2022 BMW M5 CS F90

2022 BMW M5 CS F90

That it’s the most powerful BMW ever is almost a side issue; the CS’s talents run so much deeper than its headline 626bhp. Words by Jethro Bovingdon. Photography By Aston Parrott.

We’ve been here before: more power, less weight, a sprinkling of detail changes to aero and suspension, ‘Gold Bronze’ wheels and a little badge that says ‘CS’. It worked for the M2 and now we get to see if the transformative effect of relatively subtle upgrades is upheld when the basis of the package is an M5 Competition F90. Subtle or not, the gentle massage for the 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 has created quite a headline.

‘Select RWD and you can have an awful lot of fun and an awfully big accident’

The 2022 F90 M5 CS is the most powerful BMW-ever. An eye-watering £140,780 buys you a supersaloon with 626bhp, 553lb and the capability to hit 62mph from rest in 3.0-seconds.

‘Select RWD and you can have an awful lot of fun and an awfully big accident’

It’s easy to get transfixed by the numbers. But you know what? They disappear like dandelions in a breeze when you’re holding on to the Alcantara-trimmed wheel and flicking the long ears of carbonfibre located behind it. Not that you need to, really. The M5 CS will flatten you into the seat from3000rpm, so you could conceivably use only 5th and 6th gears for any of your favourite roads and still set a startling pace. But you won’t. You’ll want to feel the V8 at full force, not just because the thrust is addictive but because of the effect it has on the chassis. The effect you have on the chassis. The M5 CS is ludicrously fast, it’s no featherweight and a carbonfibre bonnet and lightweight seats only work to emphasise the redundancy of a ‘track-focused’ saloon car of this scale and he.

2022 BMW M5 CS F90

But there’s a magic about this car. All that glitters is not gold? Not in this case. The M5 CS is something truly precious. A supersaloon with nuance as well as black-out performance, with playfulness to layer on top of its sheer cross-country speed. Oh, and charisma. Bucketloads of the stuff.

Visually, the M5 CS is distinguished by those Gold Bronze embellishments, a 7mmdrop in ride height (compared with the standard M5 F90), new cooling channels cut into the carbonfibre bonnet, an exposed carbonfibre front splitter, rear diffuser and wing mirrors, plus a little flick of the light weight material on the bootlid. The suspension adopts adaptive dampers originally developed for the M8 Gran Coupe and revised here for the CS and itsmore hardcore dynamic remit. Although they offer greater wheel control, BMW claims that they’re also more compliant than the items fitted to the M5 Competition. The sparkling 20-inch wheels are usually wrapped in P Zero Corsasmeasuring 275/35 and 285/35 front and rear respectively, but our car was delivered on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber. And given the leaden grey skies that’s probably a good thing. For some the M5 CS will look too ‘ordinary’ and its 5-series roots will always be too large an obstacle to overcome for a car priced above the Porsche 911 Turbo 992 and very close to a Bentley Continental GT. I get that. Yet I find the aesthetic of the CS irresistible. M5s have always been subtle but had a powerful, almost sinister aura about themand this latest version honours that tradition. The Gold Bronze kidney grille sounds tasteless but works beautifully and, in combination with the thin-stemmed alloys and the barely-there ride height, particularly at the rear, the CS looks deliciously no-nonsense. You don’t want to look it in the eye for fear of the reprisal. Which is just the way it should be.

2022 BMW M5 CS F90

Swing open the door and, strangely, you get a sense of an extremely light car, which is at odds with the reality. Thank a very clever door mechanism with feathery resistance rather than any trick light weight materials. BMW claims the CS weighs 1825kg, some 70kg less than the Competition, a big chunk of which (23kg) comes From the standard-fit ceramic brakes. The M Carbon bucket seats are lighter, too. They’re the chairs available in the new M3/4, with hollowed out backrests and a significant carbonfibre hump separating your thighs, but the shape and support works perfectly for me and they gain extra cool points for the Nürburgring logo embossed into the head restraint. Or should that be cringe points? You decide. They also free up rear passenger space. Useful, as everyone you know will want their turn in the individual rear buckets.

The rest of the cabin is pretty straightforward BMW5-series stuff with a few nice CS extras, most notably the lovely carbonfibre gearshi paddles taken from the new M3 and M4.

Incidentally, the CS is only 95kg heavier than the M3 Competition. And that’s reduced to a scarcely believable 45kg if you specify the xDrive version of its ‘little’ brother. The steering wheel itself is a shade on the large side, but the Alcantara rim isn’t overstuffed and generally there’s an inherent rightness that, for me at least, overshadows any concerns about the CS being too conventional to make sense at this stratospheric price. It’s business-like but the playful touches elevate it just enough.

Playful. A key word that pretty much defines the M5 CS. At speed it really is remarkably agile for a car of this size, but more than anything else it’s fully in thrall to your commands and seems to have multiple personalities, too. Initially you’ll drive it as you would any hugely powerful supersaloon – circumspect on entry in deference to its size and the big engine up front, laying into the torque once you spot the apex and then indulging in the sense of the rear wheels locking you on line. Do that and the CS feels impregnable. Irresistible. It has that old supersaloon ‘unstoppable force’ thing in abundance. But there’s so much more still to discover.

Before we get there let’s explore the other dynamic facets of the M5 CS. As we recently discovered with the M5 Competition, the 4.4-litre ‘Twin Power Turbo’ V8 isn’t blessed with much aural drama if you’re accustomed to or gravitate towards AMG’s more visceral take on the theme. In fact, if you open the carbonfibre bonnet at idle (you should, just to enjoy the underside artistry) the engine sounds spectacularly ordinary. A rather thin concoction of taps and whirs with no bass or depth at all.

Circle around to the rear of the car and a generic flat boom is emitted from the sawn-off tailpipes. Inside, things are a little more exciting. Not just because the engine has quite staggering energy, but because the new, stiffer engine mounts transmit just enough of its intent into the CS. Balancing the refinement required for this type of car with the attitude and edge appropriate for the most powerful M division model ever built must have been a tricky path to navigate, but I think it’s finely judged. In combination with the uncompromising seats, the firm ride and the decisiveness of the eight-speed automatic gearbox, there’s no question that this is a very special 5-series.

What of those new dampers? They’re transformative. At low speeds the CS has a ride quality that’s just on the right side of acceptable even in Comfort-mode, but immediately you sense more control than in the Competition and greater sophistication, particularly at the rear. Bumps that would trigger a rapid deployment of traction control in the Competition are absorbed with quiet calm, and as speeds rise the difference in composure only grows. I’m not going to say that the CS ever morphs into a Conti GT – the ride is always aggressive and at times passengers will not be impressed – but the wheels trace the surface brilliantly, which in turn provides superb steering response, mid-corner tenacity and traction. This car delivers so much confidence. It feels smaller than it is, too. Like a wildly powerful M3 rather than a pared-back M5.

Finding your perfect CS is not the work of a moment as there are so many settings from which to choose. The easiest decision is to go for 4WD Sport and MDM-mode for the traction control on your M1 button. But then what? Comfort suspension is great for everyday driving so another no-brainer. Then perhaps Comfort for the steering, Sport for the engine and maybe D2 for the eight-speed automatic ’box. Configuring M2 is even more fun. Sport dampers rein in the body nicely and, for me, actually improve the ride on bumpier lanes. Tick. Sport steering also adds a bit of weight, useful when there’s little texture coming back. Another tick. I’d stick to Sport for the engine too, as Sport Plus is a little binary. DSC Off works for me. Now comes the real agoniser. Should you stick with 4WD Sport or go RWD?

Surprisingly the answer couldn’t be simpler. Select RWD and you can have an awful lot of fun and an awfully big accident. There’s just too much torque. The V8 is fantastically powerful and picks up hard from as little as 2000rpm. In cold, damp conditions this means the CS will easily light up its rear tyres in, say, 5th gear from3000rpmat 80-plusmph. Even in the dry the rear tyres are in a losing battle way up towards motorway speeds. Amusing but ultimately distracting. So stick with 4WD Sport. Now you can attack.

The revelation comes quickly. You’ve been driving the CS like any other supersaloon and enjoying its slow-in, fast-out approach. Maybe even with a little flourish of oversteer on exit. But soon you realise there are more options. Carry speed in. The front is accurate and faithful. Don’t wait. You can lean into the torque early and the CS will hold its line and haul onto the next straight with ferocious force. The acceleration never lets up and the ’box has such short ratios that every upshift barely seems to dent the dizzying rush. It’s like some sort of supersized Caterhamin that respect. The shifts themselves are fast with a nice touch of brutality but it remains a disappointment that the M5 no longer has a dual-clutch gearbox. The auto gets close but can’t match the clinical speed of M DCT.

It’s a fleeting disappointment as the next corner approaches fast. The carbon-ceramics are maybe a shade too aggressive when they first bite, but there’s no question of fade, and this time I throw the CS at the apex as I might, say, a GR Yaris: fast steering input, off-throttle and right at the limit of what I think the front tyres will take. Another layer is peeled back. The CS locks cleanly onto line, the rear slips just a few degrees wide and the angle stabilises as the torque once again loads the rear wheels. Correction is simple and although there’s just a tiny hint of the 4WD system’s work as the car straightens and snatches ever so slightly as it does, it’s a small price to pay for such confidence, stability and free and easy access to the wonderful balance this car possesses. The M5 CS doesn’t just tolerate being driven in such a combative style, it positively relishes it.

In truth, I’m more than a little awestruck by the M5 CS. It is, of course, absurdly fast, extremely expensive and it’s no lightweight purist’s car.

Yet, for all that, it has character and a sense of purpose that’s rare. Moreover, we’re witnessing a phenomenon where many sports cars are trying to be all things to all people. They’ve grown bigger, heavier and more useable. Most have torque rich turbocharged engines that sound pretty ordinary and sometimes it’s easy to forget they’re sports cars at all. The CS starts from a much less promising package and yet manages to feel special and alive on every journey. Nevermind the fantasy three-car garage, the M5 CS makes a strong case that just the one will do.

  • Engine V8, 4395cc, twin-turbo
  • Power 626bhp @ 6000rpm
  • Torque 553lb ft @ 1800-5950rpm
  • Weight 1825kg (349bhp/ton)
  • 0-62mph 3.0sec
  • Top speed 189mph (limited)
  • Basic price £140,780

+ Outrageous performance; sparkling, indulgent chassis

— DCT would add even more sharpness; it’s a bit pricey

Drives rating 5/5

Below: M5’s suspension has been comprehensively reworked and it shows in its steering response and composure at speed; CS also feels smaller than it is. Lefft: MCarbon buckets seats are superb; rear seat passengers get their own individual buckets, too; standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes save 23kg

‘The M5 CS is a supersaloon with nuance as well as black-out performance’
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