BMW M3 CS M-DCT
As the F80 M3’s lifespan draws to a close, BMW releases the best interpretation yet
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.