With more power and some chassis revisions the new M3 CS is certainly the sweetest driving M3 of this generation… but at a high price
This is the new BMW M3 CS – the brother to the M4 CS that BMW launched last year – and it’ll be this generation of M3’s glorious swan song with production ending later this year. It has more power and torque and is the most powerful road-going M3 ever produced. With suspension tweaks, Cup tyres and set of styling upgrades, it may well be the finest example of this generation of M3.
BMW says production will be limited to around 1200 units worldwide and they’re selling fast. We went to the Nürburgring to test the car on the roads around the iconic track to see if it is as good as the hype suggests.
The CS is based on the latest M3 Competition Pack model and utilises the same springs and dampers although for this application the software calibrations have been retuned for the Adaptive M dampers along with those of the Active M differential and the electric power steering.
The aim is to get the absolute maximum out of the new wheels and tyres the M3 CS wears – lightweight forged alloys (9x19in up front, 10×20-in at the rear) which are wrapped in 265/35 ZR19 and 285/20 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres respectively.
Other than tweaks to the car’s underpinnings the M3 CS broadly follows the styling of the M4 CS that was launched last year. There’s plenty of carbonfibre in evidence with a new carbon front splitter, gurney flap rear spoiler and rear diffuser while the front bonnet is also made from carbon fibre and features the large cooling duct first seen on the M4 GTS. Like on all non-sunroof M3s, the roof is also made from carbonfibre. Poking out from the rear diffuser is an M sports exhaust system with M etched into the tips.
Inside, the M3 CS does without the composite door panels of the M4 CS – perhaps reflecting the slightly more everyday nature of the more practical four-door machine – but has the same seats as the Comp Pack cars clad in Merino leather and there are swathes of Alcantara trim adorning the centre console and dash facings. It’s a pretty good place to spend time and has plenty of equipment such as BMW’s navigation and multimedia systems and heated seats.
Engine, transmission and 0-100km/h
The CS uses a tweaked version of the M3’s twin-turbo straight-six endowed with an extra 7kW over the Competition Pack model – now 338kw at 6250rpm – while torque has swelled to 600Nm at 4000-5380rpm, a gain of 50Nm.
There’s only one transmission option, the seven-speed M Dual Clutch Transmission, and thus equipped BMW claims a 0-100km/h time of 3.9sec (0.1sec quicker than the Comp Pack) and a top speed of 280km/h.
What’s it like to drive?
Despite a 7kW power hike and a loss of 10kgs from its kerb weight, you’re probably not going to notice a surge of additional performance in a straight line, but it still feels strong while the additional torque does make itself felt when punching out of corners. It also feels slightly more eager right at the top of the rev range.
It sounds superb thanks to the CS’s retuned sports exhaust – there’s a more organic note to it with less of the augmented sound found in the standard M3. At full chat it rewards with a delicious deep-chested howl and plenty of pops and bangs when coming on and off the throttle or changing gear.
It’s the chassis revisions and the Cup 2 rubber that really make the CS though and the greatest benefit is to the steering which feels more direct and makes the M3 turn in with greater precision and less understeer that before. There’s real bite when committing to a corner – and small inputs are immediately rewarded with detailed movements. At the same time the rear axle is more planted and with that boost in torque the CS will bound eagerly out of corners. The changes BMW has wrought may be minor but they’re very effective in making the CS a thrilling drive, especially in the dry conditions we tested under.
In Comfort mode the suspension is fairly compliant but switch to Sport or Sport+ and there’s far less body roll on offer, allowing the CS to cope far better with dips and crests. It gives the car a seriously planted feeling that inspires confidence when pushing on. It’s at its best on smooth roads though – lumpy Tarmac can still upset it in the stiffer settings.
Elsewhere the M DCT is still pretty effective – if perhaps not quite class-leading any more – upchanges are fine but occasionally a rapid drop down the ‘box can upset the rear axle a little.