New BMW M3 CS 2018 review

Hugely focused limited edition BMW M3 CS takes supersaloon out with a bang

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

The M3 CS is a limited-run model that will bring production of the BMW sports saloon to a close. It offers more power and a sharper chassis, as well as bespoke styling, wheels and suspension settings, making this the best M3 yet for the enthusiast driver. The slightly harsh ride and a stratospheric price tag count against it, but as an investment in BMW’s rich M-badged heritage, little else comes close.

The BMW M3 has been with us in its current guise for four years, and while mechanically identical to its M4 Coupe sibling, the saloon has always been the more practical proposition.

It’s not long for this world, though, with production of the four-door M3 due to end in the summer. The M4 will soldier on, but with the 3 Series’ replacement due before the year is out, it doesn’t make sense for BMW to tweak the current car for the WLTP emission rules. Which means that this M3 CS is in effect a run-out model, following a very similar ethos to the current M4 CS.

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We’ll get the unpalatable side of things out of the way first, and that’s a price tag: £86,425, or, to put it another way, £20,000 more than the already very accomplished M3 Competition Pack. There are lots of changes for the M3 CS, not least power and torque increases, with headline figures being 454bhp and 600Nm, gains of 10bhp and 50Nm over the Comp Pack car.

Performance borders on the ridiculous, with BMW quoting 3.9 seconds for 0-62mph (with the standard-fit M dual-clutch gearbox). It features what’s called the M Driver’s Package, so its top speed is a heady and largely academic 173mph.

There’s lots to differentiate the M3 CS from its less extreme brethren, and those in the know will spot the carbon-fibre bonnet with extra cooling vent. Exposed weave carbon fibre adorns a new front splitter, plus the rear spoiler and diffuser surrounding the trademark M exhausts.

Under those bodywork changes, the suspension has been retuned to work with the Michelin Cup 2 tyres, which sit on bespoke alloy wheels. Adaptive M suspension is standard, but the electronic dampers have been tweaked to get the most out of the new rubber.

On the move the CS feels more alive. The steering is more precise and the car turns with more commitment. Grip is excellent in the dry and you need to be aggressive with the throttle to upset the rear axle. The flipside is a ride that can border on choppy, even in Comfort mode, when road surfaces deteriorate.

As the figures suggest, performance is immense, although in a straight line you’d be hard pressed to notice the 10bhp upgrade. The mid-range torque gives a punchier feel, however, and the engine does feel stronger at the top end, with a little more urgency over the last 1,000rpm. This is exacerbated by the new model’s raunchier exhaust, which sounds glorious at full chat, with a less augmented noise than the normal M3.

Inside the M3 CS has the same bucket seats as the Competition Pack cars and, like its M4 CS sibling, the centre console and dash are covered in swathes of Alcantara trim, intensifying the sporty feel. The M3 doesn’t get the lovely composite interior door trims from the M4, confirming that this four-door, five-seat saloon version is intended as a slightly more practical proposition.

All in all, though, the M3 CS is a fitting swansong for one of BMW M’s most loved and revered models. It’s sharper than before and looks every inch the race-track refugee.

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