2018 BMW M4 CS review: Track test

It's been a long time coming, but there's a new BMW M4 that sits above the M4 Competition and its called the M4 CS. It's quicker, yes, but not by much.

After more than a decade of testing hundreds of cars, there are still only a handful that really stand out, at least, for this tester. The Bugatti Veyron is certainly one, but another is the BMW E46 CSL we were able to unleash at full-noise on some perfectly manicured German B-roads.

But that was in 2009, and ever since, we’ve been waiting patiently for the next edition of a proper hard-core BMW M coupe to arrive. That would be above and beyond the M4 Competition Package, but more affordable than the stratospherically-priced M4 GTS.

That time has finally come. It’s called the BMW M4 CS and it’s positioned smack bang in the middle of the two cars mentioned above – meaning at $211,610 plus on-roads, it’s still a fair bit more than the bargain-priced M4 Pure.

By way of comparison, the entry-level M4 Pure Coupe will cost you $139,900 (plus on-roads), while the M4 Coupe is priced from $149,900, and the M4 Competition will set you back $154,900, still $56,710 less than the CS.

While it’s certainly not as hardcore in the same way the stripped-out CSL was, it is, however, a more potent and more exotic machine than the M4 Competition, with killer looks to match.

The moniker itself pays homage to the CS heroes of the past, like the Bertone-styled 3200 CS of 1962, followed by the 2000 CS in 1965 and the beautiful E9 Series 3.0 CS of 1971. The badge was briefly revived for the late-run UK market E46 Series M3 CS in 2005, but known here as ‘Competition Package’.

Lighter, faster and considerably more exclusive than any of its current M4 siblings, BMW plans to build just 3000 cars, globally. Meaning, the latest incarnation of the M4 CS is unlikely to ever become a common sight on our roads.

Visually, it’s already a winner, especially draped in the stunning San Marino Blue paint our tester was wearing. It looks special. So, too, do the various carbon-fibre bits (beautifully lacquered) including the boot lip spoiler and deep-seated front diffuser, which is bespoke to the CS, while out back, the carbon-fibre rear diffuser is lifted straight from the M4 GTS.

And given our track-day focus with the CS, it was good to see our track car for the morning wearing the fade-free ceramic braking system, easily visible behind the lightweight forged 10-spoke alloy wheels. We’re told these are inspired by an M4 DTM race car.

They’re big stoppers, too, featuring ultra-lightweight discs with six-pot calipers up front and four down back, for what promises to deliver huge performance here at Winton Raceway.

Overall, it’s a lightweight machine, stripping down to just 1580kg. By way of comparison, it’s lighter than the M4 Competition with DCT by 35kg, thanks to the use of more carbon-fibre bits, including the bonnet. We know that because you can lift it with your little finger.

Like the M4 Pure, the M4 CS uses a carbon-fibre roof that shaves another 6kg off a regular metal-fashioned unit. Along with the redesigned headlight bezels, in line with the latest LCI updates, it also gets the same fancy OLED taillights from the M4 GTS.

Climb aboard, and you’ll immediately notice the spiced-up cockpit. We especially like the steering wheel; round, and wrapped entirely in Alcantara, except for the M-coloured twin-stitching and on-centre marker. It’s a breath of fresh air amongst the misguided trend of silly, flat-bottom versions.

There’s more super-soft Alcantara smeared across the dash and throughout the centre console. Even the seat bolsters are upholstered in the stuff, though, the inserts are just plain leather.

The door trim is more interesting; mostly, it’s made from compacted natural fibres, but as well as losing the door pockets, gone too, are the traditional grab handles – replaced by racing-style M-striped door pull straps. They’re cool, too, but unless there’s a hidden storage compartment, you’ll struggle to lock down phones, wallets and keys in the M4 CS. That could make life difficult for those intending to ‘daily’ this go-fast Beemer.

It might be a more serious version of the M4, but the CS is still loaded to the hilt with all the usual creature comforts BMW owners are accustomed to. Kit such as the latest iDrive6 infotainment system, head-up display with M contents, satellite navigation and a specially adapted 12-speaker sound system.

That said, we’re not sure if the single-zone air con system is about weight-saving or margin boosting. Either way, it definitely works well on hot days – as we found out.

Under the bonnet is where things get a little more serious, though, not as much as you might have imagined, given its price premium over the M4 Competition. Effectively, it’s the same twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six engine, but with the benefit of a software upgrade, power jumps a trifling 7kW to 338kW, while torque swells by 50Nm to 600Nm.

Straight-line performance is up, too, though only slightly, with the M4 CS able to dispatch the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint in 3.9 seconds – one tenth better than the M4 Pure and M4 Competition. I know what you’re thinking, there doesn’t appear to be much in it, at least on paper.

But, let’s be fair. It not only matches the $300k M4 GTS, but also lines up with the likes of the $262,250 Porsche 911 Carrera S with PDK (and Sports Chrono), as well as the cheaper $162,115 Mercedes-Benz C63 S AMG Coupe.

The good news is we’ve got an M3 Competition here at Winton for some back-to-back laps with the CS, which is the first cab off the rank.

Even at idle, it sounds more serious than the M3 Comp, thanks to that carbon-fibre bonnet. And there’s more of that boosted straight-six noise finding its way into the cabin.

We’ve dialled up the MDM Dynamic Mode for manual paddle-shifting and set everything to Sport – that’s engine, transmission, steering and suspension, while we familiarise ourselves with the car and track.

But, within half a lap, the Micheline Pilot Sport Cup 2s are warm, and we start to push. Winton is a tight circuit with plenty of corners to test a chassis. Straight up, I like the instant throttle response, and you can definitely feel that extra torque at work. The M4 CS pulls hard from way down in the rev range, and it keeps on hauling.

Flat to the boards down the main straight shifting into fourth at 7200rpm before jumping on the anchors for Turn 1 – when you realise the sheer stopping power available. Next lap, we’ll be braking a lot later.

Initially, we’re still a bit hesitant to get back on the power too early on the exit to Turn 2, given the sketchy handling characteristics of the previous M4 Coupe under power. But, like the updated LCI versions, there’s nothing to fear any more. You can feel the Cup 2s biting into the tarmac, while lateral stability is superb. Same goes for the balance, it feels like a properly sorted chassis now – it didn’t before.

Likewise, the steering. It’s a quick rack, but we can’t say there’s a ton of feedback through the wheel. We’d like more, especially on turn-in, but the weighting is good.

Time to amp it up and switch everything to Sports +, though we’re still a tad worried that throttle response and power delivery might be too sharp for its own good. Not so. While I’m careful not to give it a boot full, too early, there’s a steady wave of torque that allows for fast and furious corner exits. I’m liking this – a lot.

It isn’t long before we start to really push this thing. That’s not about ego, but all about the new-found confidence we have in this new M car. It’s more punchier and even more responsive than the M3 Competition (remembering that is the sedan), but trust me, there isn’t a whole lot in it.

We’re driving both cars hard, over repeated four-lap stints, and apart from the extra torque, stupefying brake performance from the carbon ceramics, and sure-fire grip from the Cup 2 tyres, the M3 Comp’s performance on track is truly excellent given its standard hardware package.

Which begs the question, as sharp as the M4 CS is, and it is that, is it worth the $71,000 – give or take – over an M4 Pure?

Not unless you value exclusivity and rarity (we get that). And remember, those brakes, which we rate so highly, at least on track, are a $15,000 optional extra.

At this point, it doesn’t quite stack up, for as much as you’ll enjoy punting the CS around a race track, it’s a lot of coin for only marginally better performance, though we’re yet to drive it on Aussie roads for a more definitive answer.

Click on the Gallery tab for more photos of the BMW M4 CS.

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