As the F80 M3’s life­span draws to a close, BMW re­leases the best in­ter­pre­ta­tion yet

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

THIS is it, the last F80 M3 and, quite pos­si­bly, the last with a pure in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion en­gine … or per­haps not. I quizzed BMW’S boffins on the in­ter­na­tional drive of this M3 Club Sport whether the next M car will fea­ture elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of its pow­er­train, and the an­swer was a jus­ti­fi­ably vague one. I’d wa­ger the G20-gen­er­a­tion M prod­uct will com­bine an in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion power unit with a sup­ple­men­tary boost func­tion, as has sud­denly be­come com­mon in the pre­mium sec­tor.

Those thoughts, how­ever, are far from my mind as I scythe round an­other su­perb moun­tain-pass bend be­hind the chunky wheel of an M3 CS in Spain’s hilly An­dalu­sia re­gion. Of­fer­ing 338 kw and a nicely rounded 600 N.m from the fa­mil­iar 3,0-litre, twin-turbo in­line-six, the lim­ited-run CS nat­u­rally doesn’t quite punch with the fer­vour of an M4 GTS but feels mighty quick all the same. It has more char­ac­ter than the stan­dard M3, too, sound­ing more gut­tural at low revs and po­tent as the rev nee­dle chases the red­line.

So, what turns an M3 into a CS? Well, there’s a Gur­ney spoiler on the boot lid that teams with a re­pro­filed front split­ter and rear dif­fuser to min­imise dy­namic lift. The bon­net and roof are wrought from car­bon­fi­bre-re­in­forced plas­tic (the for­mer is 25% lighter than the stock item), while the whee­larches are filled to the brim with semi-slick Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cup 2 rub­ber re­quir­ing some heat in them to func­tion as in­tended (driven cold, the M3 CS is a slip­pery thing even at high speeds; road-bi­ased Miche­lins are a no-cost op­tion). Un­like the M3 Com­pe­ti­tion Pack, how­ever, the front wheels are an inch smaller at 19 inches for greater steer­ing re­sponse. The rear wheels re­main 20 inches high.

In­side, there’s the same de­light­fully low seat­ing po­si­tion

re­plete with large cut-outs in the front seats for no ap­par­ent rea­son other than they look cool; the same overly thick steer­ing wheel (although a num­ber of CAR staffers con­tend it’s the way all wheels should be); and the same age­ing but solid cabin that’s a dod­dle to use and comes with all the nec­es­sary bells and whis­tles de­spite the CS’ more track-fo­cused mien.

The sus­pen­sion of the CS largely mir­rors that of the Com­pe­ti­tion Pack, with the same light­weight links and car­ri­ers fore and aft to lower un­sprung mass (mak­ing wheel con­trol eas­ier and thereby ben­e­fit­ing dy­nam­ics), as well as the stan­dard fit­ment of Adap­tive M Sus­pen­sion.

The re­sult is un­ques­tion­ably the best-bal­anced M3. When the F80 vari­ant was first launched in 2014, I found its aloof­ness and mi­nor lack of com­po­sure on tricky sur­faces sur­pris­ing fol­low­ing the bril­liance of the V8-pow­ered E92 M3 that had come be­fore. Sub­se­quent edi­tions of the M3 have dis­played more poise (the nicely rounded Com­pe­ti­tion Pack is a per­sonal favourite) and this swan­song M3 is the best one yet.

Spain’s roads are gen­er­ally smooth but they also throw up cu­ri­ous cam­bers and patch­work sur­faces that would chal­lenge any sportscar. The CS, how­ever, shrugs them off once those Miche­lins are warmed through. It of­fers stu­pen­dous front-end grip, so much so that its lim­its are nearly im­pos­si­ble to breach on an un­fa­mil­iar pub­lic road lest you en­dan­ger other road users. The steer­ing is won­der­fully di­rect – although its weight­ing barely changes un­der cor­ner­ing forces – and the rear-end stays its course ex­cept when the throt­tle is used ov­er­en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.

Dial ev­ery­thing back to com­fort, as I did on a 100 km high­way blast back to the air­port, and the ve­hi­cle set­tles into an easy, re­fined rhythm, with only a slight but per­sis­tent fid­geti­ness point­ing to its sport­ing prove­nance. And those odd-look­ing seats are fan­tas­ti­cally com­fort­able.

Only 20 M3 CS mod­els will come to South Africa from a global to­tal of 1 200, and at our print deadline 18 had been sold. It’s an ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cle, sure (a stan­dard M3 can be had for half a mil­lion less), but its rar­ity and sheer tal­ent should see val­ues re­main steady in years to come, es­pe­cially if the next M3 fol­lows the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion route…

clock­wise from top left Seats far more com­fort­able than they look; fat wheel trimmed in grippy Al­can­tara; rear spoiler not just for show and works with dif­fuser (left) to min­imise lift; front wheels are 19-inch­ers for less steer­ing cor­rup­tion; front split­ter all-new.

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