TEST DRIVE: BMW M5 CS — The M5 Goes Out with a Bang

The BMW M5 CS is the end of an era, one final swan song for internal combustion M5s

BMW M5 CS Test Drive 2 of 40

There I sat, on the runway at Princeton Airport, in the driver’s seat of the brand-new BMW M5 CS. My Racebox was on and ready, my cameras recording, and my neurons firing faster than my brain could keep up. The weight of the moment — the fact that I was about to launch the most powerful production BMW in history down an airport runway — wasn’t lost on me. I had just finished two previous runs but neither worked properly and I was only allowed one more, so I had to get it right. Adding to my anxiety was a plane preparing for takeoff, so I only had another minute or so to launch. It was now-or-never.

With the finicky launch control system engaged, I saw the checkered flag in my head-up display, grabbed the wheel with both hands, dumped the brake with my left food, and held on. The rear tires struggled for grip for the briefest of moments and the M5 CS fired off the line harder than I’ve ever felt in a car. I looked over at the Racebox, waiting for the quarter-mile time to come in so I could lift and slow down, as I didn’t have enough runway to wait much longer than that. But that’s when I saw it — 0-60 in 2.81 seconds and the quarter-mile in 10.80… Many superlative expletives followed.

BMW M5 CS Test Drive 5 of 40
Best Looking BMW Today

0-60 in 2.81 seconds

Two point eight one seconds to sixty?! Ten point eight zero in the quarter-mile?! I was elated. I honestly couldn’t believe that not only did I get the chance to record a proper quarter-mile time in one of the coolest BMWs since the E46 M3 CSL but that I recorded a simply ridiculous time, the fastest I’ve ever seen from a production BMW. I was gobsmacked, completely lost for words. Still am, honestly. The BMW M5 CS is the most incredibly fast car the brand has ever produced and it’s not even close. But the absolute best part about the M5 CS is that its straight-line performance isn’t the best part.

As incredible as its straight-ahead performance is, the M5 CS is so much more than a drag-strip numbers machine. The moment you contort yourself into the M5 CS, you realize you’re in something special. The M Carbon Fiber bucket seats don’t hurt. Well, figuratively they don’t hurt. Physically, they actually can hurt.

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Carbon Bucket Seats

Stunning Carbon Fiber Bucket Seats

Getting in requires some maneuvering over the tall thigh bolsters and plunking down into the seat, which isn’t very graceful even for me and I’m only 5’9″, 165 lbs. Someone larger will have some trouble. Additionally, the lack of lumbar support made even my back hurt after several hours and I’m only 31. Older folks might struggle over time.

That said, the seats are sensational, otherwise. For performance driving, this ass has never felt a greater chair. They support in all the right places, hugging you where you want to be hugged. Which you’ll need in the BMW M5 CS, even more so than in the M3 and M4, which get the seats as optional extras. The g-forces possible in the M5 CS are enough to dislodge even the heaviest of rumps from a standard seat, so you’ll need the grabby thigh and shoulder supports of the CS’ carbon buckets.

Hilariously, BMW also added sport bucket seats to the back. Rather than a traditional bench seat, the BMW M5 CS has two bucket seats, sculpted into the rear bulkhead. They both look incredible and feel awesome. In fact, the back seats might be the best seats in the house. From them, you get to see the cool carbon back of the front seats, while also getting to go for the ride of your life. The fact that you can take four three friends in your M5 CS to the race track and everyone have a blast makes the M5 CS one of the coolest cars on the planet.

Sure, you can do that in almost any super sedan but the M5 CS is the only one to give the three other passengers their very own racing seat. During my week with it, everyone that saw the car was enamored with its back seats. My son isn’t even four yet and he wanted to hang out in the back with me because even he thought the seats were that cool. Good dad moment, for sure.

Pirelli Tires Designed Specifically For The M5 CS

BMW made an interesting switch from Michelin to Pirelli, for the M5 CS. Typically, I’d prefer Michelins but the bespoke Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires, designed specifically for the M5 CS, are mega. Grip levels are insane, as the CS will hang onto corners at speeds that simply defy the physics of such a heavy car, if you’re careful with the throttle. However, if you want to be a hoon, the M5 CS will slide as easily and progressively as an M2 CS. It’s a remarkably duality that I don’t think BMW has ever pulled off before.

Still, though, that’s not the best part. One turn of the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel — which itself is so much better than any other BMW wheel, with a perfect diameter and skinnier rim than usual — and I realized that the M5 CS is a different beast than the standard car.

TEST DRIVE: BMW M5 CS — The M5 Goes Out with a Bang
Sporty Interior Design

If you’re a cynic, thinking the M5 CS is marketing gimmick to sell some high-dollar profit-makers, think again. It feels significantly sharper than the even the M5 Competition; with some actual steering feel to be felt, and additional precision never before seen on an M5.

It just feels right, too. For CS-duty, BMW M swapped out the M5 Competition’s adjustable dampers for the set found in the M8 Gran Coupe, stiffened the spring rate by ten percent, increased front-negative camber, gave it stiffer ball joints, and fit it with a stiffer anti-roll bar. All of those tweaks, along with its reduction in weight — carbon fiber hood, carbon roof, and less sound deadening — combine to create a near-perfect driving experience.

Best Driving BMW Today

On a section of typically-deserted back roads near my house, I uncorked the M5 CS — to the best of my abilities, that is — and I think the grin is still attached to my face. The CS’ combination of precise steering, mega grip, and explosive power made it unstoppable on those piney New Jersey back roads. The M5 CS is still based on the 5 Series, making it quite a big car. But it shrinks around you, like a two-ton, 626 horsepower glove.

Acceleration out of corners is frankly stupid. Its front end isn’t quite as razor sharp as the M3 Competition’s, without that almost freakishly immediate response. However, it feels better. There’s more communication through the wheel in the CS and its weighting and steering ratio both feel more natural. There’s a progressiveness to the steering that provides consistent confidence in the front end, which helps it feel far more precise than its size would suggest. It also proves you don’t need a hyper-fast steering ratio to make a car feel precise.

TEST DRIVE: BMW M5 CS — The M5 Goes Out with a Bang
Perfect Proportions

Not only is it sharper but it’s barely any stiffer on the road than the M5 Competition. If anything, it’s actually more comfortable because it feels more in control. So while it’s a touch stiffer, it feels more stable, more planted, and less disturbed by imperfections in the road.

The louder cabin helps with the fun, too. While the quiet, almost serene nature of the standard M5 and M5 Comp is welcome for many customers, some enthusiasts complain that it isn’t exciting enough. The M5 CS fixes that. It’s louder inside, with more engine and exhaust noise (though, I don’t know if there’s any additional speaker trickery), along with more wind and road noise. That sort of NVH increase might seem like a detriment to the experience but it isn’t. It makes the M5 CS feel more alive, more visceral, more exciting.

I didn’t even discuss the way it looks yet. My test car wore a Brands Hatch grey, which is a cool color but not the one I’d get on the M5 CS. I’d go for the killer green, to compliment the stunning gold wheels and the sensational yellow headlights. It may sound trivial but seeing the yellow headlights welcome me as I unlocked the car everyday made me giggle like a child. Those little things make all the difference when buying a special car like the M5 CS.

If I had one complaint, it’d be with the exhaust. Not that it sounds bad, it just sounds like an M5. If BMW made any changes to the exhaust, I couldn’t tell. On a car as special and as incredible as the M5 CS is to drive, it’s a bit of a bummer that it doesn’t sound it. Though, it’s still loud and sounds like a BMW V8 should. So it’s only a minor complaint.

Priced Just Right

Hell, it’s even priced well. The sticker sheet that came with my test car had a price tag of $143,000 and some change. In my humble opinion, that’s an absolute steal. The standard BMW M5 is $103,500 to start and I think the $40,000 premium for the CS is well worth it. Factor in the fact that it’s going to be worth probably closer to $200,000 in a couple of years’ time and the M5 CS is damn bargain.

TEST DRIVE: BMW M5 CS — The M5 Goes Out with a Bang
Classiness All Around

Without a shadow of a doubt, the BMW M5 CS is my favorite BMW right now and quite possible my favorite BMW of the last two decades. I’ve never driven an E46 M3 CSL, nor an E92 M3 GTS, but those are the only two Bimmers I can think of that could potentially change my mind. Even the fantastic M2 CS falls just short of the M5 CS’s overall brilliance.

One Like No Other

The BMW M5 CS is a very special car, one I’ll likely never drive again. There will also never be an M5 like the CS again. After this, the M5 is almost certainty going to have an electric drivetrain. Whether that will be a hybrid of fully electric, remains to be seen. And while that’s the right move for BMW and we’re excited about the idea of an EV M5, something as raw, as visceral, as loud, and as thrilling as the M5 CS will never be made again.

The BMW M5 CS is the end of an era, one final swan song for internal combustion M5s, and it sends its era out with a loud, violent, obnoxiously fast bang. I’m thrilled I had the chance to drive it.

2021 BMW M5 CS

Exterior Appeal - 9
Interior Quality - 10
Steering Feedback - 9
Performance - 10
Handling - 10
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 10
Price Point - 9

9.6

The BMW M5 CS is a very special car, one I'll likely never drive again. There will also never be an M5 like the CS again. After this, the M5 is almost certainty going to have an electric drivetrain. Whether that will be a hybrid of fully electric, remains to be seen.