Track Test Review: 2024 BMW M3 CS

A race car in sedan clothing.

By Dan Heyman Wheels.ca

Aug 24, 2023 5 min. read

Article was updated a month ago

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You’re coming around a bend, and all of a sudden, you’re dropping into a downhill left-hand sweeper that feels like the first half of the famous “Corkscrew” at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Next, you’re around a right-had sweeper that may remind you of turn 1 at Mosport and then it’s up towards a blind crest with a left-hand kink that recalls a number of similar turns at Virginia International Raceway or Mid-Ohio.

All the while, you and the car are so in sync that while you only vaguely recall these corners, you feel like they are conquerable because the suede-clad wheel you have in your hands is connected to one of the most supreme track-special efforts we’ve seen from a manufacturer that knows a thing or two about building race cars and track specials.

While this all may seem like an Inception-style fever dream – you know, not sure where you came from, not sure where you’re going—it’s not. This is Area 27 Motorsport Park in British Columbia, Canada, a glorious stretch of tarmac surrounded by the vineyards and sprawling estates of the province’s Okanagan wine region. It is a world-class facility designed by none other than triple-crown winner Jacques Villeneuve. If that name and the number “27” seem familiar, it’s because they are; that’s the number Jacques’ late father, Gilles, used for his Ferrari F1 racer throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s. A stylized image of his car sits above the bar in the facility’s social hall, while watercolours of him along with other greats such as his Ferrari teammate Alain Prost, Stirling Moss, and Jackie Stewart can be found sprinkled all over the facility’s walls. It’s not quite a shrine, but the dedication is obvious.

2024 BMW M3 CS

2024 BMW M3 CS

You know what else is obvious? The BMW M3 CS we’re here to sample. The bright Signal Green paint, carbon roof and mirrors, lightweight gold wheels and of course the yellow-tinted DRLs leave little to the imagination. It may not have the carbon trunklid or rear seat delete that its M4 CSL twin does, but there’s no question that the intentions of this particular M3 are just that: hardcore.

Inside, the theme continues with microfibre suede and carbon draped over pretty much everything, and top-drawer leather over the rest. The red band atop the steering wheel is an indicator that this is something special whether the car’s switched on or off, while the iDrive infotainment system’s specialized M displays (which allow you to pair your preferred chassis and powertrain settings with two wheel-mounted M buttons) are a great window to the performance underhood once you fire up the CS’ TwinPower turbo 3.0-litre inline-six. I also love the real carbon fibre finish on the shift paddles, which are almost magnetic in their response.

2024 BMW M3 CS

Speaking of underhood; more than just the power within, the ultralight carbon hood also shrouds an engine bay filled with strut tower braces and other chassis reinforcements. It all points to this CS being a performance sedan that should be taken very seriously not just as an on-road wizard, but a car that feels at home on-track, too.

While underneath all that aerodynamic addenda and bright paint the CS is still a saloon car with four doors, that’s where the similarities with any other 3 Series – M3 Competition included – end. Power has been bumped to 543 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, up from 503 hp on the M3 Competition, though the torque figure remains the same. When set to its most aggressive settings, acceleration from stop is intense to the tune of 3.4 seconds to 100 km/h and just over 11 seconds to 200 km/h, which is absolutely manic. And the noise and touring car-like drama associated with the M3 CS makes for quite the event. The CS feels unlike any M3 before it, including the V8-powered M4 GTS. Which, by the way, was slower to the 100 km/h mark by about a second.

So you’ve gotten yourself to over 200 km/h on the long straight after turn one, and now it’s time to rein things in, which is where the CS really starts to strut its stuff.

2024 BMW M3 CS

2024 BMW M3 CS

The standard xDrive AWD system will shuffle power to wherever you need it, on-the-fly. If you really want to go all-out, you can lock out the front wheels and have it drive as a RWD car, but you do sacrifice traction, so the drifts are going to get a little leerier if you don’t watch it. I left it in AWD mode; the power delivery is such that it never gets in your way, and you will be faster on the track in that configuration.

We had the $10,900 ceramic brake option on our car and the stopping power is phenomenal, allowing the driver to focus on the track ahead, nail turn entries, apexes and exits and get on with it. It’s fantastic; the power of the brakes allows more focus on steering inputs, which are met with a response more akin to what you might find in a GT3. The nose goes precisely where you want it to with the more aggressive drive modes (or traction settings) allowing the tail to follow suit with just a little bit of slip right behind you. All the while, the comprehensive suspension tuning and chassis reinforcement keeps everything nice and neutral, the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber providing the kind of grip you’d expect for a car that’s a cage away from going racing.

The M3 has always been a car that punches above its weight class but this is another level for the model. The main takeaway was just how similar it felt to much more track-based specials such as the 911 GT3, or a track pack-equipped Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE. I wasn’t ready for that, but a few minutes in, and it felt perfectly natural.

2023 BMW M3 CS

BODY STYLE: Four-door performance sedan

DRIVE METHOD: front-engine/all-wheel drive
ENGINE: 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder, 543 hp, 479 lb-ft of torque


TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic

Cargo Room: 480 litres

Base MSRP: $148,000




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