Review: Meet BMW's latest lightweight hero - the M3 CS
James Baggott unleashes the twin turbo beast in the new M3 CS
After a strict greens-only diet from a motorsport-inspired engineering division, the M3 has shed 30kg and gained some intoxicating driving characteristics.
Buoyed by a sales surge that saw 80,000 M cars find homes in 2017, BMW is working hard to increase its performance division's portfolio, and this is the latest to hit showrooms. Limited to just 1,200 units worldwide, with just 100 of those in the UK, BMW says it's already nearly sold out - so if you want one, you'll need to be quick.
In an attempt to save kilos, BMW fitted new forged alloy wheels and replaced heavy panels, such as the roof and bonnet, with carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic. The front seats have been thrown out in favour of new weight-saving replacements, and even the centre console has been stripped back and lightened. BMW fans might be wondering why the CS is missing an 'L' in its name - made famous most recently by the E46 M3 CSL. Well, according to BMW's M boss, although the diet for the CS was extensive, it wasn't quite enough to justify the 'lightweight' tag that comes with a CSL nameplate. But don't let that put you off - this is still one very special machine indeed.
What's under the bonnet?
BMW has worked its magic under the bonnet to extract more horses from the already-impressive 3.0-litre twin turbo unit. Power is up 10bhp to 460bhp while torque increases to 600Nm. That extra oomph means the CS will hit 60mph in just 3.9 seconds - enough to furrow the brows of many a supercar owner. Engineers have even ditched the speed limiter, so German autobahns can be navigated at speeds of up to 173mph. And believe us, thanks to a Munich-based test drive, we can confirm the Germans weren't joking. Cautious drivers can expect to see returns of 33.2mpg, although it's unlikely many CS buyers will be cautious types. In reality, you'll be languishing in the teens if you use it as its creators intended.
What's it like to drive?
On road or on the track, the CS is astonishing. Revving to a heady 7,600rpm, the engine is awash with power, accompanied by a noise that sends shivers down your spine like a first love. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are super-sticky, and on a hot, dry track - like that which we were blessed to lay black lines across in Germany - serve only to compose the BMW like a ballerina, balanced perfectly on its toes. The way the CS sheds speed, thanks to huge carbon ceramic brakes, is a close match for a direct impact with a tree, while the seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox is a delight, rocketing through gears faster than an Aldi assistant firing a week's shopping down the checkout. In some driver settings (of which there are many), the steering does lack feel, but it's not awful, and we'd like the seats to be a little more comfortable and easier to adjust.
How does it look?
A pretty carbon-fibre spoiler, wailing quad exhaust pipes, speedbump-kissing front splitter and distinctive matte purple paintwork (one of five unique colours) help the CS stand out from the fast lane-inhabiting 3 Series crowd. Low-slung and aggressive, it's lost none of the M3's imposing road presence.
What's it like inside?
There's an optional BMW M Performance Alcantara steering wheel with 12 o'clock marker that should be considered a must-buy. It's simply wonderful to hold and adds to the CS's drama. The usual BMW smattering of technology can be found too, including the much-improved new iDrive system with connected information services, such as traffic and weather updates, and an impressive Harman Kardon stereo.
What's the spec like?
Adaptive LED headlights, electrically folding mirrors, navigation and parking assistance all come as standard, with the rear-view camera relegated to the options list. Why? It saves weight, of course.
BMW's M division really is on a winning streak, and the CS proves that with aplomb. Just weeks after unleashing the new M5, we get another hit with this - surely a future classic in the making - if you can afford the near-£90k price tag. With a raucous turn of speed, soundtrack to worry a hip-hop chart-topper and driving experience that few cars could even come close to delivering, the M3 CS is almost certainly set to become yet another Munich legend.