2018 BMW M3 CS: One Last Brilliant Flash of Speed

Strong points
  • Uprated power and torque
  • More dynamic than standard M3
  • Grip level on dry pavement
  • Adaptive dampers standard
  • "Carbon" look
Weak points
  • Very high price
  • Not very comfortable on less than perfect roads
  • High fuel consumption
  • Tires not well suited to wet roads
Full report

Only 1200 units of the BMW M3 CS have been produced, and only 52 cars were allocated for Canada. Rare and fast? You bet. The CS is a more powerful and more dynamic M3. Its release also signalled the end of the line for the current generation of the 3 Series, code name F30, soon to be replaced by an all-new car, code name G20, to be introduced at the 2018 Paris Auto Show. That qualifies the M3 CS as one last brilliant flash of speed, as it is the fastest and most dynamic variant of the F30 3 Series.

Rated at 453 horsepower, the M3 CS is not that much more powerful than a regular M3 (425 hp) or the M3 Competition (444 hp), but its S55 twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six delivers more torque with 443 pound-feet under your right foot, as opposed to 406 for the base M3 and the M3 Competition. It doesn’t seem like much of a power and torque boost on paper, but out on the road, the M3 CS is a shining star, always ready and willing to rev to its 7600-rpm redline with a great soundtrack from its tweaked exhaust.

As expected, the powertrain settings can be calibrated at the touch of a button, with the Sport Plus mode delivering faster shifts from the dual-clutch, seven-speed gearbox, and the run to 100 km/h it rated at 3.9 seconds. Some purists, who like shifting gears themselves, will bemoan the fact that the M3 CS is only available with a dual-clutch gearbox and not the standard manual, which is still available on the regular M3. A fair point, but the dual-clutch transmission is way faster and the paddles on the M3 CS are a delight to operate. Our observed fuel consumption was 13 L/100 km.

Photo: Caleb Gingras

Dialled up to eleven

Compared to the regular M3, the M3 CS gets the “Nigel-Tufnel-of-Spinal-Tap-fame” treatment in that all its systems are dialled all the way up to eleven. The engineers have re-calibrated the driving modes and the electronic stability control systems to give the car a more direct, edgy feel. The MDM function, which stands for M Dynamic Mode, allows a greater degree of wheel slip, allowing some leeway to a driver who wants to “drift” the car a little. All good fun.

The M3 CS rides on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires fitted to ten-spoke forged light alloy wheels in Orbit Grey that look like the ones used on M4 DTM racing cars. These tires provide plenty of grip on dry pavement, but demand a more cautious approach in wet conditions.

The dampers are also adjustable with settings known as Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. A word of advice: Sport Plus is only advisable on billiard table-smooth pavement, while Sport and Comfort will be your go-to settings ninety percent of the time. Even then, expansion joints will send a pronounced jolt through the car, and if you pay attention during low-speed, bumper-to-bumper commutes, you can faintly hear the kind of driveline noises that a race car makes, a subtle reminder of the irony of driving such a potent machine in heavy traffic.

Photo: Caleb Gingras

Carbon Fibre Bits All Around and Cool CS Touches

The body of the M3 CS gets the requisite performance look by way of the power dome on the hood, flared wheel arches and, of course, parts made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic, such as the roof and rear diffuser, not to mention the very cool-looking Gurney flap on the decklid. It looks like the very serious performance machine that it is without resorting to a boy-racer rear wing or other tacky accoutrements.

The cabin is very similar to that of the regular M3, but the CS can be equipped with an optional anthracite-coloured Alcantara steering wheel that features a 12-o’clock marking, but also the wheel-mounted controls of other M Cars (a $600 option). Also exclusive to the CS is a red engine start button. The seats are of the same design as the ones fitted to an M3 Competition, and are upholstered in an exclusive two-tone combination with contrast stitching. A CS logo adorns the dashboard over on the passenger side and the seatbelts get the subtle light-blue-dark-blue-red stripe M treatment, which adds a very cool touch.

The retail price of the M3 CS is CAN$113,500. Add $600 for the aforementioned optional Alcantara steering wheel and you get to a price of $114,100 for our test car. In Europe, this car sells for the same figure, but in Euros instead of dollars, so it’s a relative steal over here. Very few units of the M3 CS remain unsold in Canada at this time, including our test car, which will no doubt be released and sold as a demo. If you are interested, note that my colleagues and I have already done the break-in for you, so ask for a discount. LOL. The vehicle identification number is WBS8M9C52J5K98986. You’re welcome.

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