THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: It has 4 doors, comfortably carries 4 people, and will hang with a Porsche 911.
- What’s Worst: Almost all 1200 examples are spoken for.
- What’s Interesting: This is the most powerful M3 ever made.
The first thing you need to know about the limited-run BMW M3 CS is that you probably can’t have one. Canada will only get 50 copies, and most of those are already spoken for and that’s all a bit sad.
Sad because the second thing you need to know is that the M3 CS is sublime and easily the best example of this current generation, a swan song if you will and a perfect example of what BMW can do if they really try.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like you get much: some tacked on carbon bits, 28 more horses and different wheels; you begin to wonder where the extra money required to buy the CS has been spent.
How much extra? Try $36,000. That’s almost enough to buy a brand new 230i or 3 and a half Nissan Micras and that can be hard to justify. Yet slip into the super supportive two-tone merino leather seats, grip the Alcantara wrapped steering wheel, push the bright red start button and the familiar 3-litre twin-turbo straight six snarls to life, settles into a gravely idle and makes you begin to forget about things like money.
One of just three available options, that steering wheel is super thick—almost too thick—but also super grippy with a perforated centre stripe on its 12 o’clock position. Steering effort is heavy, but laser sharp with fingertip messages coming through loud and clear. The M Servotronic steering retuned specifically for the CS has to be the best electric rack fitted to any current BMW, and really had me rethinking the merits of hydraulic steering.
Other options consist of M Carbon Ceramic brakes and a choice between the Michelin Pilot Super Sport or Cup 2 tires the latter being worth their weight in gold. Just keep in mind that they really don’t like rain and are best suited for autocrossing or track days, although with vigilance they are very good on the street too.
My tester was fitted with the standard M Compound brakes, but equipped with 15” rotors on the front axle there is no shortage of stopping power. They can be grabby at low speeds and require a light touch but offer a firm reassuring bite that you can depend on all day.
If you’re looking for extra goodies in the cabin you might be disappointed as they have actually deleted equipment that comes standard on a base model 3 series.
The climate control, for instance, is rudimentary in comparison with no temperature display and only a single zone. The front armrest and rear passenger vents have been chucked, replaced by grey contrast stitched Alcantara fabric tightly covering what remains of the central console, all in the name of weight savings. Perforated CS badging set in the same suede-like material is a reminder that this not your typical M3.
It was hard not to like the leather-covered dash with grey stitching, and matching grey and black seats; adding a little more exclusivity to the otherwise Spartan interior.
Further weight saving measures include a reshaped and vented carbon hood that’s 25 % lighter and forged lightweight DTM inspired rims that are staggered and measure 20 inches in the back and 19 up front.
BMW claims to have trimmed the fat to the tune of 50 kilograms (110 pounds) and the resulting curb weight of just under 1600 kg (3527 lbs) makes the already lightest in class M3 feel even more nimble through the corners.
The engineers have fettled with the S55 3-litre twin-turbo straight six which now squeezes out 453 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque (+37 lb-ft) peaking at 4000 rpm and staying flat to 5380. That’s enough to make this the most powerful M3 (not counting the bonkers, water-injected M4 GTS) to ever leave the factory, able to sprint to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds. Top speed is now 280 km/h, good news if you live in Germany, but rather meaningless almost anywhere else.
The rims, front carbon splitter, and distinctively shaped carbon rear spoiler are easy ways that aficionados and fanboys alike will be able to tell this M3 apart from its lesser brethren, save for the CS badging on the rear decklid.
Sitting on those big wheels and Cup tires, dipped in the fabulous Lime Rock Grey Metallic paint the M3 CS looked ready to tear up any sinewy back road.
Back in the driver’s seat, and on one of those back roads the CS felt alive. Instantly noticeable is the how much better the car sounds. Thanks to a new sports exhaust, the characteristic straight 6 rasp finally comes through, screaming at the top end and repeating the sonic goodness with every successive gear.
The current M3/M4 always lacked in this department, emitting a gruff, sound with a disappointing crescendo that never peaked; a trait endemic to many modern turbo engines and one that has thankfully been cured on the CS.
Turning up all the chassis settings to maximum, full throttle runs were impressive with relentless acceleration all the way up to the 7600 rpm redline. Turbo lag was non-existent and the retuned 7-speed M-DCT fired of rapid shifts that were accompanied by a healthy kick to the lower back.
The CS feels refreshed, sharper, and less filtered with much more information coming through the seats and steering wheel giving an accurate report of the road surface, increasing your confidence behind the wheel.
While the ultimate limits of this car far exceed my own, it’s accessible and dangerously easy to go around corners way too fast.
With all that power it is easy to overwhelm the rear Cup 2s, especially when cold, requiring judicious use of the throttle. MDM (M Dynamic mode) allows for a surprising amount slip angle before tightening the reins, allowing for novices to explore the handling envelope a little more. Fully defeating the stability control is only recommended for pros and should never be done on a public road.
Stiffer than a normal M3 but never uncomfortable and with specific CS tuning for the stability control, adaptive suspension, differential, transmission, and steering, the overall feel is hard to put into words.
Even short drives to the store and putting about town at low speeds made for a memorable occasion that had me longing for the next. Handing the keys back to BMW at the end of the week was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.
A Competition spec M3 is almost $30,000 less, offers 90% of the performance the CS does and is a car I would gladly put in my own driveway. But there would always be that tiny bit of regret for not doing everything possible to have the CS on it instead, assuming of course that I had the kind of money to buy either of them.
Considering the M3 CS costs far less than a base 911 GTS, offering similar levels of performance with ample space for four and all their luggage makes it a relative bargain.
Whether or not it’s worth the sizeable price increase over its sibling is a pointless thing to dwell on, because the limited run of 1200 is nearly all gone, meaning each and every one of those customers didn’t bat an eye at the price tag, and it was worth it to them.
This is a lust-worthy car where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and proof that less really can be more.
Photos © Kunal D’souza
2018 BMW M3 CS
BODY STYLE: 4 door, Rear-Wheel Drive, Compact Luxury Sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, Rear-Wheel Drive
ENGINE: 3.0 L twin turbo inline-6 (Power: 453 hp @ 6250 rpm; Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 4000-5380 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 7-Speed M-DCT Double Clutch automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 340 litres
FUEL ECONOMY*: (Premium Gasoline ) 13.7 L/100 km city, 9.1 L/100 km highway, 11.7 L/100 km combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 12.7 L/100 km
PRICE: $113,500 (base) $114,100 (as tested)
WEBSITE: BMW M3 CS
*Standard BMW M3 fuel economy numbers given as CS specific numbers were not available at time of writing.
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