The 2017 BMW M4 CS is the inbetweener enthusiasts have been waiting for - a cool look, more power and less weight. The biggest issue will be getting your hands on one.
What’s the going rate on a kidney these days? Good condition. Motivated seller. I think I might need to free up some capital…
You see, the 2017 BMW M4 CS has arrived. A new variant in the M4 line-up that tugs at the emotive, enthusiast heartstrings once plucked by older M3s, without tugging as hard at the purse strings as the track-focussed, and sold out M4 GTS.
We’re still not sure what it will cost locally, nor how many of the 2-3000 limited build run will make their way to Australia, but, just to be sure, it would be nice to have everything in order - should the opportunity present itself.
The CS is the continuation of the strategy that is seeing BMW reconnect with its ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ heritage, and the start of a revival for historically significant nameplates.
This approach, which has worked very successfully for Porsche, takes a key model line and segments it into unique vehicles, which can be targeted at different buyers or markets.
All the cars are fundamentally the same but are specified and tuned to focus on a more narrow band of requirements, without the impact of huge new-model development costs or the compromises that need to be managed for a one-size-fits-all option.
So with this in mind, the CS (which now stands for Competition Series), is aimed unapologetically at the enthusiast buyer.
On the outside, once you get past the lovely new San Marino Blue and Lime Rock Grey paint (you can also specify black or white), the CS is fitted with a carbon-fibre front splitter and rear Gurney-style spoiler, both of which are unique to the model.
The satin grey wheels, 19x9 at the front and 20x10 at the rear, are a lightweight rim and are the same as featured on the GT4 race-car variant.
To help position the CS between the Competition and GTS, it scores the carbon fibre vented bonnet and cool OLED tail lights from the track-special, as well as the Shadowline (black), trim elements and exhaust system from the 'Comp.
Chrome badges are back, though, and they look better for it.
In fact, they could have nicknamed this the M4 ‘Goldilocks’ for the way it finds a not-too-big, not-too-small balance in the range... although I’m sure that idea would have been swiftly crushed in product-planning meeting.
As a style package though, the CS is fantastic. It actually looks more cohesive than the GTS, with the carbon Gurney flap a substantially more attractive aero aid than the adjustable ‘Torreto’ spoiler.
Interestingly, the CS has the same drag coefficient as the GTS in its street setup, the extendable splitter and big rear wing only really coming into play at the upper end of the performance envelope.
The some-of-this, some-of-that theme continues on the inside, where the CS is again a balance of form and function.
Out with the dual zone digital climate control, in with a more traditional air-conditioning knob. Out with the centre storage cubby, in with Alcantara on the console and dashboard face. You even get a nice CS logo woven in above the glovebox.
The seats are lifted from the Competition and score smart tricolour logo stripes, but the power assistance functions are gone.
The door cards are the lightweight, pull-strap items from the GTS, and the back seats are carried over from a more regular M4. The straps are quite cool but can be annoying to reach when closing the door, although they do make handy white-knuckle ‘hand holds’ for passengers.
You get a head-up display, cruise control and 12.3-inch iDrive v6 infotainment system, but there are no driver assistance or active safety features, not even a rear-view camera (this may change on Australian-spec cars).
It is usable and yet targeted. Yes, you are forced to plan a little more for your drive, with storage limited to the glove box and cup holders at the front of the centre console, but the lovely, fat Alcantara wheel with tri-colour stitching and TDC marking reminds you that this car has a focus, and it's out there in front of you.
The M4 CS is the enthusiast M4. A driver's car.
Plus, the benefit of the removal of equipment equates to an approximate 30kg saving in kerb weight. This, when combined with the revised power output, sees power-to-weight improve by a factor of four per cent.
Power comes from the familiar 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder, and while it is essentially the same as the Competition (no fancy water injection system here), power is up 7kW to 338kW, and torque increases by 50Nm to a round 600Nm.
And while peak torque isn’t available until 4000rpm, you get 580Nm from 2200rpm, meaning the CS is sharp and responsive for the majority of the powerband.
Sadly, the CS is available exclusively with BMW’s seven-speed M-Steptronic DCT gearbox, as the technical team deemed that a manual box was not up to the task.
As a compromise, the shift programming has been tweaked to ensure a faster change in sport driving modes, and the system includes a launch control function which allows the M4 to jump off the line to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds.
Helping to keep things running efficiently are a transmission oil cooler that, along with all other oil and coolant components, is rated to work perfectly up to 1.4g loads.
And, like even the GTS, the M4 CS is easy to drive at street speeds. Easy for a sports coupe that is.
Sure, there’s the usual cold-start snarl, and the familiar twitchy throttle while you wait for the car to come up to temp. But once thermodynamics is on your side, the CS has an entertaining character that other M4 models haven’t quite been able to nail.
Use the M-Select preset button on the steering wheel to dial everything up to the M’est, squeeze the throttle and that iconic ‘whump’ echoes off any surrounding structures. Back off again and the quad-tips gargle like blowing bubbles in an aluminium milkshake.
It feels rawer than a regular M4, the footwell vibrates, you can hear stones being kicked up under the guards. It’s might be capable of being docile, but it is itching to run.
In case you were under any illusion, Germany is a fun place to drive a car like the BMW M4. Great roads, diligent and conscientious traffic, and broad-ranging speed limits.
We drop onto the A3 Autobahn and head toward the BMW Technical Centre at the Nurburgring.
The highway is busy but traffic flows. We enter a derestricted speed section, conveniently shown on the head-up display, and casually build up to 200km/h while trailing a Porsche Cayenne. But then the road clears, the Porsche moves right and we start to wind it out.
There’s good response as fourth gear makes way for fifth, the onset of speed is very smooth and there’s no sign of it tapering off.
At 250km/h the wind squeezing through the gap between the mirror and the car starts getting louder. 260. 270.
The CS is electronically limited to 280km/h, which now seems to be a bit more of a guide as we managed 282km/h before having to slow to the upcoming 130km/h posted limit.
And even there, at 6500rpm in sixth gear, the car was still pulling. Hell, there’s another 1000rpm and a whole extra gear ratio to go!
More impressively is how planted and stable the car felt at speed.
The standard Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tyres offer tremendous grip on a dry surface, but by their soft nature also help to manage the overall comfort and compliant nature of the ride.
While the springs and other suspension hardware is identical to the Competition, the dampening rates in all three drive modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus) have been tuned again, and the refinement works well.
Now lets be clear, the ride is still firm and given the removal of some sound deadening, everything is much louder and harsher, but the car, in the Comfort setting, is a decent tourer.
Swtich it up to Sport in the same environment, and the ride is discernibly harder, but still manageable. The exhaust volume increases and causes a real drone and even cabin vibration above 5500rpm, but at least this is real noise and not an augmented or amplified soundtrack like in the Competition M4.
Off the Autobahn and the M4 CS is still an eager performer. Sure, you will be able to push the car harder on a track than on a public road, but even through some winding forest roads around and on the Nordschlife itself, the CS was still a bunch of fun.
With the electronic differential in M-Dynamic mode, the car will wiggle nicely out of turns, but when the tyres are warm the CS offers more grip than the regular M4, and so you can wind on power faster and smoother without the orange TCS light blinking away incessantly on the dash.
The added grip lessens the need for constant steering adjustment mid corner too, the CS giving a much-needed sense of confidence at pace.
Our test car was fitted with carbon-ceramic brakes (and the telltale gold calipers), which worked well on the Autobahn when having to wash off speed quickly. These will be optional fitment in Australia, and while they are always worth considering if you plan to do a lot of track work, the standard 380mm front, 370mm rear setup, has always worked well for us.
The performance credentials from BMW speak for themselves. Since the original press release, where a Nuerburgring Nordschleife time of 7:38 was quoted, the car has managed to clock a 7:35 lap.
That puts the M4 CS among some big names, and shows the potential of the CS package.
As an enthusiast option, even without the manual transmission, the 2017 BMW M4 CS is a very cool model. It has a level of style, character and emotion akin to some of the more iconic M cars of the past and the limited run should ensure a modicum of future collectability.
For us, though, the biggest issue is going to be cost. If the CS price is to be split evenly between the $154,900 Competition and the $295,000 GTS, it will list around $220,000 - which feels much too expensive, especially given the Pure edition will sit at $139,900.
Keep it well under $200k, and the argument starts to swing back in favour of the CS, as the pick of the driver-centric M4 models.
The potential flaws in regard to noise and vibration refinement, as well as the lack of what many see as core equipment, do mean that the CS isn’t for everyone, but that’s what the Competition is for.
The BMW M4 now represents a wealth of choice, rather than a car on its own. A variant to suit a range of buyers with different budgets and needs.
BMW has said that the Competition Series nameplate will feature on other models soon enough, but for a first iteration of the intermediate model, it is a great start, and we’re pretty keen to start saving.
And if hocking a kidney doesn’t work, we could always start a crowd funding page. Who’s with me!
Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward.