Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 19, 2018
BMW nomenclature was never easy. Here is how the M3 stable lines up. At the base is the standard M3 ($77,050 MSRP) with its raspy inline-six and insanely quick 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Then comes the Competition Package ($83,550), which adds more power, cooler looking wheels, some aero bits, and a retuned suspension. At the top lies the CS model ($113,500), the first M3 to actually wear the storied CS badge, and subsequently stands as the most hardcore M3 to date. CS stands for club sport, and represents a host of minute but imperative changes to the overall vehicle. That means more power, less weight, more sound, and racier looks.
In CS tradition, the entire vehicle is put through a diet with an intensive use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic. The front hood itself is 25% lighter and the fixed carbon fibre roof saves another 6 kilograms while also lowering the center of gravity. But what the M3 loses it also gains in other areas with a carbon front splitter, lip spoiler, rear diffuser, newly developed ten-spoke alloy wheels inspired by the design of the BMW M4 DTM racing car, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and some exclusive paint colours like the Lime Rock Grey in our photographs.
The suspension, stability control, driving modes, and steering have all been tweaked (very slightly) but most importantly, they have squeezed out even more power from the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six engine. The M3 CS pushes out a whopping 453 hp, 9 hp more than Competition Package and 28 hp more than base M3. Torque rises exponentially up to 443 lb-ft, which is 37 lb-ft more than the base and Competition Package.
The interior gets spiced up with some CS specific adornments: the light gray and black dual-tone leather is exclusive here, storage cubbies in the center console are non-existent in the name of saving weight, but you do get one USB outlet. The M-coloured seatbelts are a nice touch too. There is Alcantara wrapped around the steering wheel ($900) and dashboard, and lightweight seats are taken from the Competition Package.
Our time with the M3 CS was limited to road driving only without any track time. Regardless, what really stood out to us aside from the added torque was the way the chassis and suspension interacted with the road. No longer was it a broken telephone line between the engine and tires. Now they feel married together and finally communicating in an organized fashion. Traction, which was a notorious sore spot on the current generation M3, seems to have been solved.
Grip is much better this time around thanks to those sticky Michelin tires, and the M3 finally learned how to put power to the ground. Don’t get me wrong though, the M3 CS still struggles and claws for traction at full throttle in second gear and the tires chirp as they struggle from a cold launch, but you can tell the suspension is better sorted this time around and doesn’t wiggle around as much as an excited puppy's tail. The M3 CS is honed, sharpened, not as hairy around corners, and overall a much better car. Want proof of that? 0-100 km/h comes in 3.9 seconds. What more could you want?
While the standard 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (no manual available for the M3 CS) fires off shifts with rifle bolt urgency, the engine wails and churns to deliver such a huge spread of torque and power at nearly all times. Turbo lag is pretty much non-existent, the delivery is hyper-reactive, and the verve and vigour of this straight six is pure brilliance. I was not sure if they could squeeze out any more power out of this powerplant, but where there is a will, there is a way.
The M3 CS comes with a plethora of driving modes to choose from, each with the ability to customize the powertrain, steering, and suspension. Efficient Mode was perfect for the daily and slow commute, offering a surprisingly floaty and serene ride with dulled out power delivery. The M3 CS makes for a suitable daily driver, though the lack of significant cabin insulation does mean a fairly loud ride. Sport Mode was the golden spot, with Sport+ ramping up the suspension to a stiffness that would only go tolerated on the track.
The steering isn’t bad. Electrically assisted, the feedback translating up the wheel isn’t terribly communicative, though there is less guessing work this time around and I found it much easier to place the front wheels where I wanted them. The front end feels sharper, and chassis feedback is where the M3 CS excels above the non-CS models. Rather than being clumsy and all over the map like before, the M3 CS is lithe, athletic, and reacts quicker to mid-corner correctional inputs than the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S and Audi RS 5. Think of it like a larger BMW M2 with two extra doors. The balance is incredible.
The exhaust is much louder in the CS with more pitch and depth to the notes, not that the base M3 was anything to complain about. Sure this straight six cannot match the grumble and growl of a V8, but it is high-pitched and authoritative enough to command its own presence, and that 7,500 rpm howl is nothing short of intoxicating. Furthermore, let off the throttle at speed and the pipes will execute a short choreographed burble of artillery fire. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video above and hear it for yourself.
Here comes the loaded question: are you better off saving $30,000 and just opting for the non-limited M3 Competition Package ($83,550), or does the CS offer enough to justify its premium? The answer is, sort of. Any limited edition model is always a special thing, and with only 1,200 units being produced worldwide and only 52 units coming to Canada, the M3 CS doesn’t seem like a bad investment. Just look at the BMW 1M as an example - those still sell well over their original MSRP. But if you’re looking for a potent sports sedan packed with value and aren’t swayed by slight increases in power or suspension tuning, the Competition Package is the better route to go.
But if you can appreciate the finer technicalities, like how BMW added an extra cover to the magnesium oil pan to limit the lubricant's surging movements during high engine and braking loads, or how they installed an additional oil suction pump to help maintain a consistent oil supply during extreme driving, then the CS and its well articulated approach to perfection just might be for you. Besides, who doesn’t like more power, noise, and curbside presence? Grab them while they last. The CS is what the M3 should have been, all along.
Model: 2018 BMW M3 CS
Paint Type: Lime Rock Grey
Base Price: $113,500
Price as Tested: $114,100
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six
Horsepower: 453 hp @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 4,000 - 5,380 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.5
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2