BMW added its latest control regime for driving modes (which is marshalled via a grid-style touchscreen menu for its various suspension, steering, engine, driveline and electronic governance settings) as part of the M5’s mid-life facelift in 2020.

There’s a lot of choice to contend with among all of the options for configuration, needless to say. But your chances of finding and accessing particular combinations of settings that are to your taste, and that seem to prepare the car ideally for particular types of roads, weather conditions or styles of driving, are boosted enormously by BMW’s ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ toggle switches on the steering wheel hub.

The CS probably represents only a 10% gain to the grip level of an M5 Competition on perfectly smooth Tarmac, but on choppier surfaces it’s a much more composed car. Feels like a turning point for the F90.

You use these not only to save particular combinations of settings (with one long press), but also to dial them back up again really quickly and easily when you need it (with two short presses). And being able to do that feels like gradually bringing to heel the complexity of the car’s driving experience, and refining the character you want from the car, in a way that few of BMW’s rivals have yet mastered.

It helps, of course, that there is simply more to enjoy about this M5 than there has been about its F90 predecessor models. The CS’s suspension specification conjures much smoother and more settled vertical body control for it than a regular M5 Competition has.

Despite having less wheel travel than other M5s, the CS rides with more compliance and dexterity over bumps when you leave the dampers in their softest setting, staying level and composed over B-roads that would have made the regular car an excitable, hyperactive tussle.

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Sport-mode suspension is usable on smoother roads, too, and brings in a real tautness about the body control, which is made all the more compelling by the improvement in steering feedback that you can perceive through the Alcantara steering wheel rim. Also, by the more predictable and benign way in which you can probe away at the adhesion level of the rear axle, and the angle of attack of the chassis, when you’re using the drivetrain’s 2WD mode.

At all times, the M5 CS’s handling feels truly agile and immediate, and finely balanced, given the car’s size and weight. An M5 Competition’s does, too, you might say. But the way the CS better communicates its limits, and feels so much better tied down and more consistently connected to the road surface, makes it a significantly more special driver’s car.

Track notes

On a circuit, there’s a super-linear, never-ending feel about the way the M5 CS’s engine hauls its way up through the gears, but there is real weight to the steering, and some body movement under hard braking and cornering, keeping you in touch with the physics going on around you.

The car much prefers smooth, deliberate inputs when you’re right on the limit. It’s remarkably controlled if you oblige it that way, but disturb its composure with steering input when braking, or try to haul it into an apex too suddenly, and it shows its weight.

It’s monumentally quick, though: the first saloon we’ve tested to go under 70sec on the MIRA dry handling track, no less. The carbon-ceramic brakes don’t have great initial bite but resist fade well. Our car’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres didn’t stand track use quite so robustly, overheating after five fast laps, even after a pressure bleed. Those with track use in mind would be well advised to take the standard Pirelli Corsas.

Comfort and isolation

There is a small price to be paid on cruising refinement for the extra driver focus of the M5 CS relative to other super-saloons, and to executive cars in a wider sense, but it’s not nearly so high as you might think.

This is a remarkably comfortable-riding car, considering its positioning. It’s smoother over bumpy, uneven B-roads than any other current M5 and only at all tetchy or aggressive-riding at low speeds, when bigger, sharper inputs work their way through its limited wheel travel. You could use it as a daily car just as easily as any other big, fast executive saloon, assuming your body is compatible with the shape of those sports seats (and only the heaviest of our test jury had any compliant about that at all).

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The car’s noise levels do show the evidence of M division’s sound-deadening cull, though. While the regular M5 recorded in-cabin noise levels of 65dBA at 50mph and 68dbA at 70mph in 2018, the CS registered 69dBA and 73dBA respectively. The difference is noticeable and made up of a mixture of road roar and engine noise. It doesn’t make the CS hard to tolerate on a long cruise, but your passengers might want their headphones or earplugs in over longer trips.