Special Circumstances. First Drive. It’s not often we end up with two exclusive variants of a BMW M car in close succession. But, with the M4 CS following hot on the be-winged tail of the mighty GTS, Matt Robinson wonders if this second M4 special can win our hearts?
On the road We get to grips with the awesome new M4 CS
In terms of the sheer variety available, there can have been no better time to be a fan of BMW’s M Division than right now. Currently, the fabled letter is finding its way onto the rear of more vehicles in the BMW line-up, than at any time in the past. What’s more, it’s not just outright M cars that fans of the marque can revel in, as there are plenty of M Performance-badged machines out there, too.
Incredibly, BMW is talking about doing an M Performance variant of the 4 Series, but quite how it can shoehorn in one of these between the rapid 440i and the ‘basic’ M4 remains to be seen. Then again, is an M Performance model strictly necessary, when we now have four variants of the M4 itself? That’s right, four. Barely three years into the M4’s life-cycle, and we’ve already got more choice than we ever did with the E46 M3 during its entire production run. You can’t seriously count the unicorn-esque, roadgoing M3 GTRs as applicable, which just leaves the regular M3, the mighty CSL and the late-model CS run-out.
This neatly brings me to the fourth M4, as it shares that final E46’s badge. Following on from the 431hp/406lb ft original of 2014, we first had the 450hp/406lb ft, £3,000 option of the Competition Package (CP). Then came the phenomenal 500hp/443lb ft GTS, with its water-injected engine, supersticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, stripped-out interior, eye-catching aero… and gobsmacking price of £121,000. Despite that, all 700 were snapped up almost immediately.
So here we are with 2017’s M4 CS. It’s almost freakishly developed to precisely slot into the tiniest of M4-shaped holes, between a CP-equipped Coupé and the GTS, as it uses bits from both of those models to produce a specification – and price tag – that neatly straddles the narrow strip of middle ground between them.
‘CS’ stands for Coupé Sport, not Club Sport, as some have surmised. BMW won’t officially publish what the letters refer to but, behind the scenes, reference was made to the legendary Coupé Sport Lightweight badge.
However, given the fact that the M4 CS isn’t light enough to merit the ‘L’ on the end, the choice is Germanically logical!
This model is another collectible M4 that won’t put the noses of GTS owners out of joint, yet is designed to satisfy potential buyers who want something a little more exclusive than an M4 CP. It uses that car as a basis, getting its suspension architecture and underpinnings. But nowhere is the CP’s influence more evident than when you spy those glorious, sports seats – with slotted backrests – that grace the front on the CS’s cabin.
Evidently, BMW has gone to town with the laptop to tune the CS… yes, just the laptop. This new model CS is almost mechanically identical to the CP, save for tweaks to its exhaust system, plus a set of 19in front, 20in rear Orbit Grey, lightweight, forged alloy wheels. These wear the same Cup 2 rubber as the GTS, and are mismatched so that you get better steering feel and crisper turn-in at the front, yet maximised traction at the rear.
NIMBLE AND POWERFUL
It’s the lighter wheels – which reduce the un-sprung mass at the corners of the CS – and stickier tyres, that result in the need for retuned software settings for the variable dampers in the Adaptive M Suspension set-up (as well as its steering calibration), which allow the M4 to make the best use of its enhanced road-holding. While, under the bonnet, the ‘clean-hands engineers’ have worked on the twin-turbo 3.0-litre straightsix too, liberating another 10hp from the CP’s 450hp figure but, more importantly, managing to match the mighty torque output of the GTS.
As the CS only comes with the sevenspeed M DCT transmission, that means its 460hp/443lb ft peaks can propel this 1,580kg car from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, and onwards to an electronically-limited 174mph.
Once more, we’re equidistant between CP and GTS models: the former (with the optional M DCT gearbox) clocks 4.0secs dead and 155mph limited, the latter 3.8 and 190mph limited.
However, other than that, the CS is basically a CP in terms of the hardware. Whether that bothers you or not will largely be determined by the list price, which is a robust £89,130; again, designed to slot between the roughly £64,000 M4 CP M DCT and the GTS’s hefty tag.
Production is limited, but only by both capacity at BMW’s M4-building factory, and time. This means that up to 1,000 CS variants a year could be knocked out before it’s removed from sale in 2019. That means there might be as many as 3,000 of this model on the world’s road by the start of the next decade.
Furthermore, it’s not as if BMW has made the CS obviously a sub-GTS, track-day-leaning motor, as items like the M Carbon Ceramic brakes, the M Head-Up Display and the M Performance Alcantara steering wheel (with 12 o’clock marker) will all be on the optional, rather than standard, equipment list. Fit these and, as the brakes alone are £6,250, you’re going to be looking at an M4 that’s nearer to £100,000 than is strictly comfortable.
So, given all this background, we need to assess some key issues. For a start, is the M4 CS a brilliant performance coupé? Also, is it worth the significant, £25,000 premium over and above an M4 CP with the same transmission? Then there’s the question of whether or not it feels anything like as rare, valuable and enthralling as the GTS? I was hoping that a good drive would provide all the answers.
Approaching the CS for the first time, it looks great. Lime Rock Grey, a new and unique colour for this model alone, is something of an acquired taste, although San Marino Blue – another introduced shade for the M4 (also available on regular and CP variants) – is much more appealing. But both of the colour options allow the CS to show off its bespoke aero addenda, which is one area where it features items that you can’t fit to an M4 CP.
The CS has been given its own design of front splitter, which takes inspiration from the prominent chin of the GTS. At the back, the boot sprouts a ‘Gurney flap’ affair that’s bigger than the lip spoiler of the M4 CP, but not as domineering as the T-bar item fitted to the GTS.
These are both made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), like the roof (standard on all M4 Coupés) and the bonnet – and this again is an area where the CS is in the realm of the GTS.
That bonnet features a single vent at the front, and takes away 25kg of mass from above the front wheels; not to be sniffed at. Indeed, on the subject of weight, BMW says the CS is 35kg lighter than an equivalent spec. CP, although published kerb figures for both cars rather confuse the issue, as the regulations on weight measurements and standard equipment are changing all the time.
The only other thing to note about the CS’ exterior is the design of the rear lamp clusters, which are the Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) items, as seen on the GTS; nice, if a little gimmicky, in my view.
Inside, you’re greeted with lashings of Alcantara, the ‘CS’ logo embroidered onto the passenger-side fascia (similar to the GTS) and a driving position that’s sublime perfection. Honestly, anyone and everyone should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel of this car and, once settled, all will revel in an interior that rightly feels one step above that of the M4 CP.
Our test car was fitted with all the options mentioned earlier, so was hugely beguiling before we’d even fired-up the engine and discovered another major tick in the CS’ ‘Pros’ column. Released from the synthesised sounds of the regular M4, there’s a gritty, baritone tune to the CS’ drivetrain that’s incredibly appealing.
If it weren’t for the race car-like shriek of the GTS at full chat, then the CS’ thunderous cacophony would have us ulogising about it being the best-sounding BMW in many a year. As it is, we’ll happily go on record as saying it’s the most pleasant on the ear of all the ‘attainable’ M4s, and one of BMW’s absolute finest, turbocharged symphonies yet.
And, by crikey, if you do go on track days or Autobahns occasionally, you’ll definitely notice the way the CS hauls extra hard at three-figure speeds. Having driven it in Germany, we can confirm it’ll rip up to 140mph in its middling gears in what seems like an instant, with a beautiful, linear pull of acceleration that totally belies its forced induction status. No M4 is what you’d call slow, but the CS doesn’t feel like it’s that much shy of the outright punch of the GTS, which truly is saying something.
Even better than its pace, though, is the chassis. If you think the M4 CP is good – and it is – then the CS will reconfigure your conceptions. Turn-in is rapier-sharp and consistent, while the CS is blessed with wonderful steering, especially in middle, Sport mode. This allows you to make the most of that front-end grip, and carry huge speed into corners.
What’s more, it’ll have surely built on that pace by the time you’re out of them, because the driven axle is more capable and tied-down than ever. The adhesion of the Michelins in hot, dry conditions contributes to this, yet there’s less of the feeling of nervousness about the CS’ back-end that you might get in a regular – or even a CP – M4. That only imbues more confidence in the driver, allowing you to lean on the M4’s massive tenacity, and push right up to the edge of the dynamic envelope.
The CS won’t be bounced off course by unexpected, mid-bend bumps, nor will it spend most of its time trying to snap into lurid oversteer. But don’t think that it’s not fun to drive as a result of not wagging its tail all the time – instead, the fluid, adjustable and wondrous chassis makes this probably the best all-rounder of the burgeoning M4 family. It’s as comfortable, quiet and docile on a cruise as any other car wearing the blue and white badge, and it’s a far sight more refined than the GTS could ever hope to be.
So, this car is definitely a sensational performance coupé. Whether it’s ‘£25,000 better’ than a CP is harder to quantify, but there’s no doubt it is greatly improved over what we think remains the best M4, if you’re after a road car only. But there’s enough of a sprinkling of the GTS’ magic, to render the CS good enough to take up the mantle of halo product in its be-winged brother’s absence.
Yet we keep coming back to that price and the specification. The CP is clearly the road car, while the GTS is the M4 for the track-day devotee. This leaves the CS a little between two stools – and at £89,000, that’s somewhere BMW would not want its latest M4 to be. It will be a better track car than the CP, but carbon ceramic brakes as standard might have been a clever move.
This lingering hesitance about the CS’ defining place in the world will largely be resolved, one way or another, by how many ultimately get made. Even if the total reaches 3,000, it’ll still be much rarer than the regular cars. However, it’ll be even better if take-up is relatively modest, because then the M4 CS will become much sought-after by M enthusiasts in years to come.
It’s therefore more of an investment gamble than purchasing a GTS was but, one thing that will be no gamble at all is buying an M4 CS simply because it’s a fabulous performance coupé, and one of BMW’s greatest-ever M cars.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2017 BMW M4 CS F82
PRICE: From £89,130
DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre, twin-turbo, straight-six petrol, seven-speed M DCT auto, rear-wheel drive
CO2 EMISSIONS: 197g/km
TOP SPEED: 174mph (limited)
0-62MPH: 3.9 seconds
POWER: 460hp @ 6,250rpm / DIN
TORQUE: 443lb ft @ 4,000-5,380rpm / DIN
The CS has its own design of front splitter, which takes inspiration from the prominent chin of the GTS. It’s almost freakishly developed to precisely slot into the tiniest of M4-shaped holes. Our test car was fitted with excellent M Carbon Ceramic brakes; sadly these are an optional extra that’ll add a whopping £6,250 to the price tag. The interior is a great place to be, made by the gorgeous front seats. An Alcantara-covered wheel is an optional extra. The rear end features the Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) light clusters from the GTS and a ‘Gurney flap’ affair that’s bigger than the lip spoiler of the M4 CP. The new M4 CS shoehorns its way into an increasingly congested M car model range. The engine’s 460hp is enough to push the car to 62mph in just 3.9 seconds; the M4 CS is no slouch. ‘CS’ stands for Coupé Sport, not Club Sport, as some have surmised.