BMW M5 review
The BMW M5 is a ferociously fast, yet practical and comfy saloon in Competition or more hardcore CS form. However, the much cheaper M550i is a more complete package.
What's not so good
Find out more about the BMW M5
The BMW M5 is a bit like Elvis Presley – when he was alive at least. You see, it’s ‘the king’ of practical, useable performance cars and has been so for several decades, but it’s got larger and heavier over the years. However, it can still put on one heck of a show.
Anyway, the Munich monster is renowned for packing supercar pace into an executive car package, and the latest version is no exception. Although (whisper it) there’s something better out there. Yes, there’s a better car than the BMW M5 Competition. The good news is that it’s the BMW M5 CS, which is the M5 turned up to the max.
The BMW M5 Competition features an improved version of its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, packing 625hp. But then BMW has gone on to trump itself by introducing the M5 CS, which produces 635hp. Both generate 750Nm of torque.
The four-wheel-drive systems mean both cars are serious dragsters, too, although they’re far more than just straight-line monster. Both grip the road and feel lighter to drive than they should. But the M5 CS is by far the better, helped by the fact it’s 70kg lighter than the M5 Competition.
All from a car that will seat five adults comfortably (four in the M5 CS) too thanks to plenty of head- and legroom in the back row, while retaining the core 5 Series roots means there’s 530 litres of boot space too. The M5 CS has four individual carbonfibre-backed buckets seats to hold everyone in place when things get a bit brisk. Indeed, the front two are electrically adjustable and heated, and are exceptionally comfortable.
The M5 Competition comes very well equipped, but if you can't decide on its options, just go for the £19k Ultimate Pack which adds pretty much all of them all!
Hop inside and BMW’s already excellent infotainment system has been upgraded to feature both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through a wireless connection. There’s still the usual M-branded trimmings too, with M5 badging appearing on the mats and door sills, with seatbelt trimming to match the M colour scheme included as well. The CS adds a huge CS badge between the rear seats, and another on the dashboard, plus CS badges on the sills.
Watch our BMW M5 CS video review:
On paper, the BMW M5 sounds perfect, right? In reality, no. With a starting price of over £100k, the super saloon will make your eyes water on the forecourt and becomes hard to justify when the M550i xDrive exists.
As a side note, that starting price doesn’t include adaptive cruise control either – with that feature part of the £5k Technology Plus Pack. When a car like Toyota Yaris has that as standard, it’s borderline daylight robbery from BMW. That’s just scratching the surface of options too, with a fully kitted out M5 Competition nudging over £120k.
If you simply must have the more hard-edged driving experience the M5 Competition offers, you’re still grabbing yourself an absolutely fantastic car that can offer everyday usability without kicking up a fuss. Given the choice, though, we’d take home the M550i xDrive and use the change to add a few more extras.
The case is much less clear where the M5 CS is concerned, despite the fact that it has a price north of £140k. It is so very good, so special and such a huge step up from the M5 Competition, that it’s worth paying the extra for. Think of it as a Porsche 911 GT3 next to a standard 911 and you’ll get the idea. If that’s you, head over to our deals page for the very best prices.
Watch our Mercedes-AMG E63 v BMW M5 group test:
The M5 Competition isn’t much less practical than a normal 5 Series, which is great. But the CS only has two rear seats
Both the BMW M5 Competition and M5 CS have excellent seating positions and comes with plenty of adjustment to help you get comfortable. The aggressive-looking front bucket seats in the CS are far more comfortable and supportive than they look.
The rear doors open nice and wide so it’s easy to jump in the back. There’s absolutely loads of legroom and even the tallest adults won’t be left wanting for headroom. There’s more shoulder room than in a Mercedes E-Class, especially in the CS, which has only two rear seats. Again, they are incredibly supportive.
In the M5 Competition, a third passenger won’t be particularly comfortable on long trips.
The cabin comes with plenty of handy cubbyholes. Both the front and rear door bins are large enough to hold a big water bottle and there’s just enough room in those upfront to tuck in a second, smaller bottle as well.
There are two large cupholders in the front and two in the back that flip out of the folding rear armrest. The front armrest splits in two to reveal a large storage bin and there’s a slot under the dashboard for a phone or your car key.
The glovebox will easily hold a large bottle too, and there’s a small storage tray between the front seats for passengers in the back to put bits and bobs.
Both the M5 Competition and CS have a 530-litre boot, which is identical to any other 5-Series, and only a smidge less than the Mercedes E-Class. However, while you can fold down the rear seats in the M5 Competition, you can’t in the M5 CS – the seats are fixed.
With the seats out of the way, the M5 Competition’s boot is big enough to carry a bike if you remove a wheel first. Unfortunately, the M5 CS requires you to dismantle to the bike almost completely.
Monstrous straight-line pace in all models. The lighter, more powerful CS is faster still, yet much more engaging in the bends
Sitting under the bonnet of the BMW M5 Competition is an improved version of its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which packs 625hp. But the CS trumps this with 635hp. Both produce the same 750Nm of torque.
The M5 CS is also 70kg lighter than the M5 Competition. This is because it has items such as carbon-ceramic brakes and those carbon-backed bucket seats as standard.
We timed the M5 Competition from 0-60mph in just 2.9 seconds, but the CS was slightly quicker, at 2.8 seconds.
Both versions are far more than just straight-line monsters. The four-wheel-drive system allows them to grip the road and feel lighter to drive than it should – much more so than those alternatives.
The M5 CS is even better, helped by the fact it’s 70kg lighter than the M5 Competition. This is because it has items such as carbon-ceramic brakes and those carbon-backed bucket seats as standard. The weight loss makes quite the difference, so the CS takes all the M5 Competition’s good work and makes it a whole lot better. It steers more quickly, stops faster, corners harder and is loads more fun.
The suspension is firmer, but also more supple – BMW has clearly mastered witchcraft.
If there’s a very slight downside, there’s a bit more road and wind noise than you might ideally like.
The M5’s cabin is superb; it’s comfortable with a premium look and feel, and the CS has lovely carbon-backed bucket seats.
BMW M5 colours
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.