BMW M5 CS: A spectacular driver’s machine but at a pretty spectacular price

Potent V8 is a future classic – but at nearly €250,000 it would want to be

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Year: 2021
Fuel: Petrol

It's the yellow headlights that get you. Well, they get me, and might have been made expressly for that purpose. Although the new BMW M5 CS gets the Munich brand's ultra-bright "Laser Light" LED units (which can throw a main-beam for 650m, setting fire to trees and wildlife as they pass), when you just have dipped beams or "auto" lights on, the little LED daytime running strips glow a rich yellow.

This is not, as you may think, a tribute to 1960s Citroens. In fact, it's because of BMW's heritage in GT racing – Le Mans GTE rules used to stipulate that the road-based cars in the great 24-hour race ran yellow headlights, so that one could identify passing racing machines at night. The fitting of yellow lights to the mightiest M5 ever is, then, an affectation, but a wonderfully emotive one. Well, it suckered me right in, anyway.

The M5 CS is the fin de siècle (that’s French for “the back of your bicycle”. . .) V8 petrol M5. If the rumour mill is to be believed, this twin-turbo, 4.4-litre, eight-pot monster will make way for all-electric power in the next M5, due around 2024.

Well, it may have a V8 plug-in-hybrid version too, but the way legislation is going, I wouldn’t bet on it. If the electric M5 does come to pass, it will have at least 1,000hp from its washing machine motors, which would by quite some distance make it the most powerful M-car of all time.


In the meantime, this M5 CS will have to make do with a mere 635hp – which currently makes it the most powerful M-car of all time.

To put that in perspective, in 1993, the original McLaren F1 – the greatest supercar of all time, and the fastest production car in the world for 20 years – used a 6.1-litre BMW S70/2 V12 engine, specially built for the car. It had 627hp . . . Of course, the F1 weighed just over a tonne, and this M5 CS weighs a stretchy-waistband 1,900kg. That’s what four doors, four seats, acres of leather, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and a hefty, switchable four-wheel drive system adds.

Mind you, BMW has also taken away 70kg compared with the standard 625hp BMW M5 Competition model. That’s partially thanks to items such as a carbon-fibre bonnet (with some extra-snorty vents built into it), and a lightened rear seat that only accommodates two people. Well, that’s one less sick bag you’ll need . . .

There are some delicious styling touches. To match the yellow headlights, there are gold 20-inch forged alloy wheels and a matte-gold finish for the radiator surround. Sounds gaudy, but actually, when offset by the Frozen Deep Green Metallic paint, it looks weapons-grade gorgeous.

Inside, are high-backed bucket seats lifted from the M3 and M4 (with a slightly tacky outline of the Nurburgring race track stitched into the headrests) but aside from those and the modded back seat, the interior is much the same as you get in the regular M5, which is to say dripping with quality, a little over-styled, and hugely comfortable. Even in the figure-hugging bucket seats, this is a car with the sort of refinement and comfort that would make a quick spin to Milan for milk pretty easy.

A little too refined, perhaps? Certainly, burbling out of the pitlane at Mondello Park race track, there's little of the bassy aural drama that you'd get from a rival Mercedes-AMG product, or a Maserati Trofeo, nor even the deliciously crisp six-cylinder sounds of the original 1980s M5. Ah well, if the M5 CS can't pummel your ears quite so effectively as it might, then it sure has one or two other tricks up its gold-trimmed sleeves . . .

That 635hp, aided by 750Nm of torque, slams you back firmly into the bucket seats with the merest movement of an ankle. This car has serious potency – 0-100km/h in 3.0 seconds, and a top speed of 305km/h if you tick the right boxes and sign a few waivers. That’s 0.3 seconds faster than the M5 Competition, but has an extra 10hp really made that much difference?

No, it hasn’t. But the suspension and steering mods have.

The suspension has been designed, almost entirely, around the Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres which wrap, watch-strap-like, around those gold rims.

It may sound hilarious to describe a 1,900kg luxury hyper-saloon as being designed for the track, but that smile is replaced by giggles of the best variety as soon as you hit the first, tight, hairpin corner at Mondello.

With the huge ceramic-carbon brakes shedding speed, you turn the steering wheel – helpfully wrapped in Alcantara suede to wick away nervous sweat. What you don't get is buckets of feel and feedback – a Porsche Panamera has a much chattier wheel – but you do get light, delicate weighting and instant turn in. Somewhere between braking and apex, the M5 has surreptitiously shed about 900kg, and feels light as a feather when you turn in.

Compared with the sledgehammer-like M8 Competition we drove last year, it feels as if that sledgehammer has been taken to a master blacksmith and wrought into a scalpel. It’s agile, biddable and fun.

Even when all of that torque, all of that power is coming on strong – which really ought to overwhelm the experience – the M5 CS’s chassis dances around the edges of control, leading you on a twinkle-toed tour of what driving should be like.

So, the M5 CS is boisterous. Ballistic. Balletic. But equally, bifurcated – in its personality, switchbacking seamlessly between race track rambunctious and relaxy-taxi. A slow-down lap, with all the switches turned away from 11, shows that it’s as comfy and refined as you’d expect a 5 Series to be.

Given how little enthusiasm we were able to dredge up for the recent M4 Competition and its mighty nostrils, the M5 CS renews our vows of conjugality with BMW’s M-department. Clearly, while they knocked off the M4 and the M versions of its SUVs in an afternoon, hours, days, weeks, nay years, were dedicated to perfecting the CS.

Okay, so the badge is a misnomer – CS stands for coupe sport in BMW lore, and the M5 is definitely not a coupe – and the price is beyond daft. At €241,415 it’s battling with Bentleys and even Aston Martins. Would you? Could you?

Well, I could, I reckon, if the six numbers came up. The M5 CS is one of those all-too-rare cars that makes you wish you were 10 again, and could find some space on your bedroom wall for a poster of it.

It makes zero financial sense, it’s true, but that just makes it more appealing to me. It’s not an investment tool for a bored millionaire, looking to make a killing by flogging it on in six months. It’s a proper, real, honed, wonderful driver’s machine. With yellow headlights, so they’ll know you’re coming.

BMW M5 CS: The lowdown

  • Power 4.4-litre turbo V8 petrol engine plus putting out 635hp and 750Nm of torque with an eight-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive.
  • CO2 emissions (annual motor tax) 258g/km (€2,350).
  • L/100km (MPG) 11.1 (25.4)
  • 0-100km/h 3.0 seconds.
  • Price €241,415 as tested; BMW 5 Series starts at €53,475.
  • Verdict One of BMW M's best cars of all time. A future classic, and at that price it would want to be . . .
Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring