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BMW M3 2018 review: CS

Enter the M3 CS; a track-ready special edition that ups the performance ante across the board. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Add the letter 'M' to the numeral '3', and you have a BMW performance package that's been inspiring go-fast drivers around the world for over three decades.

If you’ve got a thirst for power that would make Vladimir Putin seem benign, you’ll likely find the BMW M3 a little underwhelming, what with its measly 331kW/550Nm and a propensity to spin the rear tyres into rubber-flinging oblivion with each traction control-free prod of the accelerator.

Happily, there's now a solution. Enter the M3 CS (Competition Sport); a track-ready special edition that ups the performance ante right across the board, with more power, stiffer suspension, better aero and the kind of angry exhaust note that sets tectonic plates a-rumbling. 

So, is more M3 never enough? Or is the new CS too angry for its own good?

BMW M3 2018: COMPETITION
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$109,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

At $179,900, the CS sets a new top-price for the M3 family, well above the $146,529 of the Competition version and miles clear of the entry-level Pure ($129,529). And so you might think you get much more for your money, but you would be wrong. In fact, you get much less.

This is a car designed with the relentless pursuit of performance in mind, so expect few extra luxuries - all of which would add weight. Instead, you get more power (of course), as well as a quad-tipped exhaust tuned to sound like the world is ending around you.

  • The massively domed bonnet, the flared wheel guards, the quad exhaust tips - this thing looks wild from every angle. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The massively domed bonnet, the flared wheel guards, the quad exhaust tips - this thing looks wild from every angle. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • The carbon wing is peaked at each end, aiding aero efficiency. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The carbon wing is peaked at each end, aiding aero efficiency. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Semi-slick Michelin Cup tyres, lighter alloys, a race-focused bonnet (which, along with the roof, is made from a carbon-fibre/plastic composite, helping shave 10kg off the curb weight), some clever aero tech at the rear and lighter cabin materials also join the the standard features list.

Outside, expect staggered alloys (19-inch front, 20-inch rear), adaptive LED headlights and keyless entry. Inside, you'll find air-conditioning, navigation and a 12-speaker harman/kardon stereo controlled through an 8.8-inch screen.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

Interesting, you say? Well, just look at it. The massively domed bonnet, the flared wheel guards, the blacked-out roof, the quad exhaust tips - this thing looks wild from every angle. BMW tells us you can actually swap the lightweight roof for a traditional version with a sunroof, but why on earth would you?

  • The dome bonnet is fitted with a massive rear-facing vent that sucks hot air off the engine. The dome bonnet is fitted with a massive rear-facing vent that sucks hot air off the engine.
  • The design across the board is not what you'd call understated, but I think it looks the absolute business. The design across the board is not what you'd call understated, but I think it looks the absolute business.

The dome bonnet is fitted with a massive rear-facing vent that sucks hot air off the engine, while the carbon front splitter emerges from the bottom of the grille as if the CS is forever jutting out its jaw. At the rear, the carbon wing is peaked at each end, again aiding aero efficiency, while four fat and centred exhaust tips complete a pretty angry-looking package.

Inside, it’s the usual M treatment: shoulder hugging seats, Alcantara to shave grams off the kerb weight, plus a clean and functional interior design.

The design across the board is not what you'd call understated, and it likely won't appeal to everyone, but I think it looks the absolute business.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Every bit as practical as any other M3, really, which is impressive given the outrageous performance.

There are some sacrifices made in pursuit of weight loss, of course. There's no centre-console storage (replaced by a strip of Alcantara and a single, lonely USB charge point), and backseat riders lose air vents, power and just about everything else. The good news, then, is that there's space a-plenty back there, with enough head and legroom behind my own 176cm driving position.

  • There's space a-plenty back there, with enough head and legroom behind my own 176cm driving position. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) There's space a-plenty back there, with enough head and legroom behind my own 176cm driving position. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • Boot space is still a claimed 480 litres with the rear seats in place. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) Boot space is still a claimed 480 litres with the rear seats in place. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

But up front, the M3 CS is a comfortable and spacious place to spend time. There are twin cupholders, too, as well as room in each of the doors for bottles. The navigation and multimedia systems are straight-forward and easy to use, as are the performance-focused functions.

Boot space is still a claimed 480 litres with the rear seats in place, matching the storage room in the regular M3.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The M3’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six engine has been tweaked to produce 338kW and a stonking 600Nm of tyre-frying torque. It’s channeled through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and sent to the rear wheels.

  • The M3 experience has been fine tuned, from the thunderous flow of power to the booming exhaust. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The M3 experience has been fine tuned, from the thunderous flow of power to the booming exhaust. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • The 338kW/600Nm outputs are enough for a blistering 3.9sec sprint from 0-100km/h. The 338kW/600Nm outputs are enough for a blistering 3.9sec sprint from 0-100km/h.

That’s enough, BMW says, for a blistering 3.9sec sprint from 0-100km/h, with the CS pushing on to a flying top speed of 280km/h.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

BMW reckons you'll return 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions pegged at 198g/km. But we politely disagree. We drove the CS in the fashion we imagine everyone will - or at least should, and our numbers were a little higher than that. Like three times higher.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

The best performance cars straddle a razor-thin line between exhilarating and terrifying, and the M3 CS definitely parks an axle on either side of the divide.

It's not for the faint-hearted, the CS; it can be an angry, twitchy, rear-grip-relinquishing handful. And not just when you're overly aggressive on the exit of a corner (though also definitely then), but even when you plant your foot on a dead-straight, perfectly smooth and bone-dry patch of tarmac.

As a result, your heart is almost always beating just a little bit faster being the wheel, almost from the moment you slip into the driver’s seat and prod the start button, the exhaust barking into life like a whip cracking in your eardrum.

This is not a car built for suburban exploring, but BMW deserves credit for making its CS feel pretty liveable. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) This is not a car built for suburban exploring, but BMW deserves credit for making its CS feel pretty liveable. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

So intimidating at times, sure. But also huge handfuls of fun. The M3 (and the M3 Competition) experience has been fine tuned to near-enough perfection in the CS formula, from the super direct steering to the thunderous flow of power to the booming exhaust.

This is not a car built for suburban exploring, but BMW deserves credit for making its CS feel pretty liveable when it’s not being driven in anger. The suspension tuning especially, while you’d never accuse it of being overly comfortable, does a surprisingly good job of soaking up corrugations and bumps while still feeling ever-connected to the road below.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

Another victim of the performance goals here, I'm afraid, with everything that can be removed, removed - hell, even the reversing camera has been punted.

Instead, the safety package consists of front, and front-side airbags and a performance-focused traction and braking package. Parking sensors front and rear, active cruise and speed-limit recognition round out a fairly basic package.

The rest of the BMW range received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2012.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

BMW's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty applies here, with a "condition-based servicing" schedule that means you're car will tell you when work is required. You can prepay your servicing costs for the first five years of ownership, spanning $3350 to $8450 depending on your level of coverage.

Verdict

The biggest, baddest M3 is also the very best of the current breed. It's a specialist tool, sure, but if you're in the market for a track-attack sedan that will paint a smile on your face, even while striking fear into your heart, then look no further.

Jump into a BMW M3 CS or wait until next month for the new Merc-AMG C 63 S? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$126,700
Based on 32 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$108,800
Highest Price
$144,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $115,610 – 132,880 2018 BMW M3 2018 (base) Pricing and Specs
30 YEARS EDITION 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN No recent listings 2018 BMW M3 2018 30 YEARS EDITION Pricing and Specs
COMPETITION 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $109,990 – 144,888 2018 BMW M3 2018 COMPETITION Pricing and Specs
CS 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $137,390 – 157,960 2018 BMW M3 2018 CS Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features7
Design9
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving9
Safety6
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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