BMW has reworked the M5’s suspension pretty widely, adopting the dampers developed for the 2020 M8 Gran Coupé, which lower the car’s ride height by 7mm, and then picking new spring and anti-roll bar rates to match. It has also stiffened the engine mounts significantly, which has the effect of stiffening up the whole of the frontal structure.
What a difference that makes. Despite having less apparent wheel travel within its arches, the M5 CS rides twice as well as the M5 Competition. Comfort damping mode conjures up plenty of outright compliance and also a fluent, stable fast B-road ride that banishes the memory of the often fussy, reactive, camber-sensitive feel of the regular M5’s ride. On smoother surfaces, Sport damping makes the M5 CS tauter and a shade more composed over long-wave inputs; but even here, vertical body control never feels overbearing.
The steering shows a matching improvement. It has none of the muted, slightly rubbery feel of the regular M5’s rack and, on the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres of our test car, even filters a useful amount of contact patch feel back to the driver where the old rack managed so little.
And so, with a front-end so much more tactile and feelsome than the regular M5’s and a rear axle that feels so much better-connected to the road, the M5 CS is a significantly more effective driver’s car than its lesser relations. It shines a real spotlight on the predictability and feel that have been missing from the F90 M5’s dynamic recipe thus far.
It has the same versatility and adaptability of the regular M5, but it’s capable of greater driver reward when you simplify its character, disengage its front driveshafts and start feeling for its limits. Those limits are high but not unbreachable on the road; and so the car can be really interactive and playful at road speeds, which is the last thing that you might expect a modern BMW Clubsport model to be. It’s not hardcore, but it is tactile and special; not particularly overblown or misguided and all about qualitative improvements to the driving experience rather than objectively measurable, quantitative ones.
What’s more, when you get used to negotiating the car’s driving modes using the M1 and M2 quickfire shortcut buttons on the steering wheel (rather than by individually tweaking a suspension setting here or a steering mode there), you feel like you can get more out of the car as the road ahead of you changes. In this respect, the M5 CS isn’t any different from the M5 Competition or even an M3 or M4. But the way that BMW has learned to make the complexity of the driver-configurable systems in these cars so manageable of late really is impressive. For us, it’s beginning to lift the appeal of the cars above their rivals by a clear margin all on its own.