CS. The name means something to the BMW faithful, and BMW recently revived the badge to place on the top trim of its modern M fleet. It stands for the best. The fastest. The most racy. But does the extra money and speed get you actual prestige? I take the latest pair of an M2 CS and M5 CS, and compare it to my shift-for-yourself G80 M3. Does it stand a chance?
While the F80 M3 CS would have been nice, we’ve already established where that car sits in the hierarchy of M Power, so we’ll focus on cars that are a bit more modern. Here we go.
Third Place: The BMW M2 CS
Get one: Old-school M feel and nimble handling. You think the M2 Competition is too tame and you hate armrests. A greatest hits of M2 and F80 M3.
Don’t get one: A lot of money for a car based on a $35k coupe. Tight inside. Even if the parts are good, it’s still a parts-bin car.
I’ve shot more M2s than any other BMW, so clearly they’ve been doing something right. And there’s a lot to like in the M2 CS.
Let’s start with what’s so special. Gold wheels, a carbon fiber roof that you can’t get on any other M2, carbon fiber body bits and Adaptive Dampers from the F80 M3 turn the M2 into that juiced guy at the gym. You can tell, but do you really want to mention anything?
Speaking of things carried over, here the S55 gets 444 horses, up 39 from the Competition and again matching the previous generation M3 and M4. The S55 is an excellent motor, but next to the S58, it’s starting to show its age. I find it funny that most every M2 owner pines for the sound of the original N55-powered M2 Coupe, and it sounds rough here.
Inside, it’s got M3 seats, an M3 Alcantara steering wheel and other M Performance-like goodies. I’m familiar with the regular M2 equipped with M Performance parts, and while this isn’t the same as that, it’s awfully close. The seats have never been fully comfortable, with the driver canted a bit toward the center of the car, and the A-pillar tends to get in the way on a track.
A track is where you’ll want to take this car though, because it’s the best-equipped one here to tackle switchbacks. The steering is a little better than in the F80 with more feedback, and a smaller wheelbase and less weight ensures quicker turn-in responses. It’s a blast to drive. And painted in Misano Blue, it’s certainly better-looking than the G80.
The problem is what you pay for those looks. This is a true parts-bin car, and while it’s the best M2 ever made to date, I’m not sure its $30,000 better. Get a regular M2 Comp, and use the rest for track sessions or an E46 M3.
Second Place: The G80 M3
Get one: The cheapest M here. The best inline-6 engine BMW has ever made. The most practical one of the group.
Don’t get one: Looks a bit like the village idiot parked next to the CS pair. Not as special. Not as fast.
You know how I feel about my car by now, so let’s focus what works and what doesn’t vs the other cars here.
This being a “regular” M3, it’s not outfitted with special parts like the others might be, but that just highlights the fact that you don’t really need those things. The G80’s interior is on par with the M5, a car costing twice as much, and makes the M2 look downright spartan inside. It’s also the cheapest by a significant margin, never a bad thing.
Because it has a manual, this M3 might not be as fast (A DCT in the M2, an automatic in the M5), but it’s by no means slow. Choosing the Comp model will rectify this issue…quickly.
It’s not as sleek-looking as the other BMWs here, but if I haven’t won you over yet, then it isn’t going to happen. If the M3 CS were available, it might have won this comparison. But the M5 CS does something the other two cars here do not.
First Place: The BMW M5 CS
Get one: The fastest BMW ever made, and one of the coolest. Special inside and out. Looks the business.
Don’t get one: Expensive. Good luck finding one. Doesn’t sound as good as a regular M5 Competition.
The M3 might be the icon, but fast BMW sedans started with the M5. This M5 CS is the fastest, most powerful car they’ve ever produced in 100 years of history. That’s saying something.
This M5 CS wins because it has things you can’t just swap in. Carbon buckets from the M3 are here, but otherwise, it’s totally unique. Check out the yellow angel eyes, or the bucket rear seats (no babies). Nurburgring track outlines on the seats are a subtle reminder to the car’s development. Even the Frozen Deep Green paint job and gold accents stun.
But there’s more to this car than just looks. It’s over 200 lbs lighter than a standard M5, and with 10 more horses, the car is seriously fast. I’ve no doubt that a Tesla is faster still, but I doubt you’ll be cross-shopping these.
There are a few niggles. The disconnected feel of the regular M5 (and the M3) still exists. It’s expensive, and you’ll probably never find one for sticker price anyway. And the exhaust is slightly different from an M5 Comp due to euro regulations, so it’s not quite as deep. This can be fixed with the help of the aftermarket.
You can take this M5 to the track. You can take it for a road trip. Put snow tires on, and you can use it all year. The other cars here can do those things too, but the M5 CS is the one that makes you feel most special doing it. And special is why we’re here, isn’t it?
M2 CS and M5 CS Gallery
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