Words by: Adam Allen
When we learned that BMW was going to bestow the sacred ‘CS’ badge (Club Sport, for the uninitiated) onto the current M3- and that only about 50 of them were coming to Canada- it was time to start begging BMW Canada in earnest with the hope of securing some seat time. With our pleas thankfully answered, we were chomping at the bit to unleash our inner Bruno Spengler- this is, after all, as close to a race car as you can get with licence plates in the current BMW lineup. Upon spending some time in its Alcantara trimmed confines, we learned a few things that we think you should know.
It costs more, but you get less stuff.
This is taking a play straight out of the Porsche playbook- look no further than the new 911 Carrera T (and many others) as a perfect example of this ethos. With an as-tested price of $114,100, this is the priciest M3 you can get. Like all racy special editions extant you’re asked to pony up more dough while doing away with some creature comforts and other equipment that would have otherwise come as standard issue. On the surface, some people will wonder why you would spend more to get less…but do you really? While it may lack some of the expected bells and whistles as a regular M3, the CS is so much more. It takes what is widely regarded as one of the most prolific performance cars of all time and turns everything up to 11 (literally- it’s deliciously loud and sounds spectacular.) Besides, we’re not sure there will be any worries about moving all 1,200 M3 CS units easily; in fact, there’ll probably be a lengthy and eager lineup of people crying “Take my money!”
You want a more raw, visceral M3? You got it.
BMW doesn’t mess around when they add a CS badge to one of their cars, so you’d better be prepared. It feels like every nut and bolt has been cinched down to as tight as can be to within a hair of their maximum tolerances. So often cars are built with a veneer of sound deadening and electronic trickery meant to isolate drivers from all the sensations that may be deemed unpalatable or too unrefined, but not this car. You feel every change in surface and every detail of what’s happening at the four contact patches is served up in startling clarity. The M3 CS gives you a stream of feedback that is broadcast to your hands and keister at full volume. It’s refreshing to drive something that doesn’t try to take the edge off the proceedings, and it’s ironic that there is technology in play to help deliver an analogue experience- and it all works. Despite the great lengths BMW has gone to deliver the race car with licence plates experience, yet there’s not much of a penalty in terms of livability, and it generally feels just like a regular M3 that’s more stiffly sprung. You could truly use this car as a daily driver, but only the those serious about performance should apply.
BMW has given the twin-turbo inline six a pharmaceutical grade dosage of Vitamin HP.
The base M3 is no slouch, and its engine makes a robust 425 horsepower and 406 pounds feet of torque. For CS duty, BMW has extracted more power to the tune of 453 horsepower and an eye opening 443 torques. Those increases may not sound like a huge difference, but Jiminy Crickets this thing is quick. Perhaps the crowning achievement of the S55 engine is that despite being twice turbocharged, it feels like anything but. It’s so linear and makes power everywhere in the rev range that you might mistake it for a much bigger, naturally aspirated engine. Mated to the buffed up powerplant is the only transmission choice, BMW’s M DCT. We have driven cars with the gearbox before and have never left feeling underwhelmed, save for maybe some clumsiness at low speeds around town. The M engineers must have fettled with it, because the way it responds to requests for upshifts and downshifts in the CS is incredible- even its low speed behaviour seems more polished. Cruising in 7th gear, the CS still makes astonishing power so that there’s no need to downshift to squirt past slower traffic. Still, we couldn’t resist dropping a gear or two and relegating dawdling left lane hogs to a mere speck in the rear-view mirror.
It can be surprisingly efficient, though you’ll likely be too busy having fun to care.
Just for fun, we set the M3 CS up in the most relaxed configuration it offers and set off on a trip of mixed highway and city driving being careful to drive it as though a police officer had taken sudden interest in us. In that context, the car was able to achieve fuel economy numbers that would be more commonplace for a family sedan- we saw 9.9L/100km. Driven as it should be, it is much thirstier but still respectable; check out our observed fuel economy over the extent of our Road Test. We lack the willpower to restrain ourselves from goosing the throttle whenever we could- you’ll likely have the same problem.
They paid equal attention to the chassis, too.
No one has ever called out the M3 for being a creampuff, but the CS builds on an already capable chassis. First, the M3 is shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires in staggered widths and wheel sizes- the wonderfully swollen rear fenders can barely contain the 20” rolling stock. This endows the CS with the same grip levels as flies on stink and works in tandem with all the suspension upgrades to serve up dizzying adhesion. With a treadwear rating of 180, they’ll wear out quickly and they don’t much care for soggy tarmac, but if you’re gravitating towards the CS that shouldn’t bother you. Back to the suspension upgrades- BMW has ditched some of the stock components in favor of some bits that ensure the car has the same taut-as-piano-wire feel you’d expect, but the highlights are links and wheel carriers made of forged aluminum and the rear subframe being bolted directly to the structure all with the intent of giving you, the driver, a more hardwired connection to the chassis. You’ll feel it too; the M3 is alive and it writhes and twitches in tandem with the tarmac surface and your inputs in the best possible way. To cap it all off, BMW fits the CS with a carbon fibre roof and a hood that’s 25% lighter and features a gaping functional vent for cooling.
The interior looks like just the place to get down to serious business.
But those seats though! Once you get over how great they look, getting into them is a surprising revelation in how comfortable are. You’d expect racy thrones like these to offer excellent lateral support to hold you in place under serious cornering loads and they do- but that they’re all day comfortable comes as a pleasant shock. Oh, and they offer a perfect relationship to the controls which operate with laudable precision. There’s lots of Alcantara trim, including wrapping the steering wheel and great swaths across the console and dashboard. That console doesn’t come with an elbow rest and the storage associated with it- all in the name of lightness, of course. Perhaps that’s why the M3 CS does not come with cooled seats (understandable, the hardware for that isn’t light at all) or keyless entry (huh?) The latter is likely adding in the smallest of modules which wouldn’t adversely threaten the dedication to shedding pounds, but it’s a little strange walking up to a $114,100 car and having to remember to actually unlock it manually each time. Ah, the times we live in. Those in the back have decently comfortable environs should your M3 CS be tapped for road trip duty, and the trunk is the same commodious size as the basic M3. Again, it might not be the cushiest, but you could use this car as your daily driver.
Consider building a racetrack for it in your backyard.
OK, so that solution for enjoying the full bandwidth of the M3 CS’s limits is but for 0.001% of the population and is a pipe dream at best for the rest of us. This is a car that you cannot, and must not, attempt to probe the limits of on the street. The way the CS gathers speed is gobsmacking and the chassis is probably better than you are, therefore you’ll need the proper venue to unlock this car’s true dynamic delights. During our Road Test, we didn’t have the luxury of a road course at our disposal. Despite a few carefully indulged acts of juvenile outbursts, we managed to keep our thirst for the CS’s prodigious speed in check for the sake of ourselves and our fellow motorists. Yet to have the CS’s prow pointed at the clouds in the sky on the approach to Turn 2 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park while preparing to fully uncork the magnificent S55 on the Andretti Straight would have been a dream. But when no-one’s looking, and you maybe find yourself on your favorite onramp, you won’t be able to keep yourself from grinning as you pin the throttle- it’s truly a special experience. Is it worth the extra $66,000-ish dollars over a base M3? That’s for you to decide. But when you experience just how much the CS takes the M3 to the next level (not to mention the bonkers resale market of special edition cars these days), we think it just might be.
2018 BMW M3 CS– Specifications
- Price as tested: $114,100
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger Sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
- Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
- Engine: 3.0 litre twin-turbo inline six, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 453 @ 6,250 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 443 @ 4,000 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,585 kg (3,494 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.8L/100km (19 mpg)