Sales hampered by a shortage of chips notwithstanding, it hasn’t been a bad 12 months for new cars.
And yet the list of those that have narrowly missed an emphatic fivestar road test rating from Autocar – among them the searing Porsche 911 GT3, blistering Ferrari SF90 Stradale, technologically bold Toyota Mirai and breakthrough Hyundai i20 N – makes the achievement of the one new car that did hit the jackpot seem all the more remarkable.
The BMW M5 CS is the supersaloon to rule them all. More importantly, it’s the archetypal and defining example of the breed returnig to the height of its powers.
When the first M5 arrived in 1984, the template was set for the modern high-performance executive car: not a motorsport homologation exercise or a flamboyant garage queen but a fast, desirable, practical fourdoor that you could use daily, as if it were any other BMW 5 Series, but get more out of in almost every relevant way in the process.
There have been many great BMW M5 cars since that very first, over six model generations, but none since the mad V10-engined days has made a really convincing play for legendary status.
None until the M5 CS. The way that it overlays so much muscular aggression on the entirely normal bones of the 5 Series might be a high-water mark for super-saloon design. It’s the perfect execution of the ordinary made extraordinary; the polar opposite of so many doomed attempts to put four-door usability on a coupé silhouette.
It being “the ultimate M5”, the positioning of the M5 CS gave BMW permission to skew the time-honoured template towards the expensive and outlandish. So it comes with a 626bhp turbo V8 that revs beyond 7000rpm, various carbonfibre-polymer lightweight body panels (the underside of the bonnet is gorgeous), lightweight forged wheels and carbon-ceramic brakes all as standard. And at the time we tested it last summer, it also cost nearly £40,000 more than the ‘normal’ BMW M5 Competition.
So when we performance-tested it at MIRA Proving Ground one day in July, the pressure was certainly on. M5s generally don’t do so well on circuits. Over the years, they’ve been a bit under-braked and lacking in outright grip, stamina and body control, but we’ve often forgiven them for much of it as road cars first and foremost that excelled in their intended environment.
The M5 CS excels on the road too, with greater tactility in its controls, sophistication in its damping and accessible thrill in its handling than any F90- or F10- generation M5.
But on the circuit, it went harder, faster and better than any four-door we had ever tested previously, hitting 60mph from rest in 3.0sec flat, then 100mph in less than 7.0sec and becoming our first saloon with a sub-70sec benchmark lap time on the dry handling circuit. It set that lap time, by the way, on its standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, not the optional Pirelli P Zero Corsas, which are likely themselves to be worth at least another second around a lap.