The BMW M4 CS is a storming, if expensive, performance coupe.
This is the BMW M4 CS, another exclusive edition of BMW's defining performance coupe. It comes hot on the heels of the super-pricey GTS model of 2016 and fits between that halo vehicle, limited to a maximum of 700 examples, and the excellent M4 Competition Package, which retails at around £64,000 with a DCT gearbox.
It wears CS badging that has been used on older BMWs in the past, most recently – and relevantly – on the E46 M3 CS, which took bits of the super-pricey and limited production (see a pattern developing here?) M3 CSL to create a semi-collectible M3 at a slightly more affordable price.
To some extent, the M4 CS does the same thing, but you have to retune what ‘affordable’ now means. With 460hp and 443lb ft, it matches the GTS for torque, but is down on power by 40hp. Conversely, it’s 10hp and 37lb ft up on an M4 Competition Package.
But the price for the CS is £89,130, about midway between the Competition Package’s £64k and the £121,000 you’d have needed to bag one of the 30 GTS M4s that came to the UK. So is the CS worth the significant premium on the Competition Package, and if not, does it feel almost as special as a GTS to justify the asking price?
There are visual amendments to the CS (stands for Coupe Sport, incidentally), which cannot be fitted to either a regular M4 Coupe or the Competition Package car. It has a front splitter in exposed carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and a lovely little ‘Gurney flap’ CFRP spoiler on the boot, although the latter item stops some way short of the towering T-wing you’d find on the GTS. In the wheelarches reside forged lightweight alloys finished in Orbit Grey, which are 19-inch items front and 20s at the rear; this improves traction on the driven axle and yet maintains sweeter steering, according to the chief engineer of the M4 CS.
These wheels are also wrapped in the driving enthusiast’s current tyre of choice, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, which helps to further promote grip and give the car a serious track-day bent. Further exterior details include two new colours, which are the luscious San Marino Blue and the rather less luscious Lime Rock Grey, which is exclusive to the CS, while it gains the eye-catching Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) rear light clusters of the GTS.
Still sticking with what you can see that’s different about the M4 CS, inside it borrows the GTS’s CFRP door cards with looped fabric pulls to close them, and much more Alcantara for the dashboard and (optional) M Performance steering wheel. So it does feel special to sit in it, albeit – again – not as dramatic as a GTS with the full Clubsport Package of harnesses, half-roll cage and fire extinguisher. However, that’s as it should be; the CS is about £30,000 cheaper in ‘basic’ trim than the GTS was when it was on sale last year.
Moving on to the items that aren’t visible to the naked eye, a software remap for the engine lifts peak outputs from the 450hp and 406lb ft of the M4 Competition Package to 460hp and 443lb ft here, while the vented bonnet is made of CFRP to save mass. Indeed, the whole car is said to be 35kg lighter than a comparable M4 Coupe, although BMW M chiefs were keen to stress that EU and DIN regulations mean comparing weights of cars can be a fluid and frustrating process.
Although it comes with a desirable specification for its £89,000 outlay, the CS does still have an options list and on there are items that a track-day enthusiast is going to want, like the Alcantara wheel with a 12 o’clock marker, an M Head-Up Display and, priciest of all, the circa £7,000 M Carbon Ceramic brakes as fitted to our European test car. So it is likely that many UK CS M4s could well turn out to be six-figure machines…
How does it drive?
In essence, then, apart from its fancy wheels and tyres, and a slight modification to the exhaust, no hardware is changed for the CS from the Competition Package; it’s just clever software trickery that differentiates it from its cheaper stablemate. And thus the robust asking price takes on a greater significance when trying to assess the brilliance, or otherwise, of the CS.
Dynamically, it’s superb. We happened to drive it back-to-back with a GTS and the CS feels every bit as sharp at the nose as its exalted sibling, slicing into corners with real vigour. The steering is excellent too, although in Sport+ mode it is slightly too weighty, which robs it of feel. Thankfully, toning it down to Sport strikes a happy medium that doesn’t diminish the front axle’s keenness.
And the revised damping gives the driver added confidence in the M4 CS’s abilities on bumpier roads, because the rear is even less skittish than it is on the Competition Package. There is still a sensation of excess weight transfer at times, but it’s a negligible influence on the way the M4 handles, as the chassis adopts a neutral cornering stance that will only transition into oversteer with severe provocation. So the CS is rabidly quick, mainly because cornering speeds are generally higher than in a regular M4 due to the added reassurance for the driver.
There’s also a wonderful timbre to the exhaust, the CS having a much more gravelly voice overall than the Competition Package, which negates some of the criticism that can be levelled at the M4’s rather bland and overly synthesised forced induction engine noise. The CS is also considerably quieter and less dramatic than the GTS, so it better straddles the line between fast road car and track special. And the standard-fit seven-speed DCT gearbox is a belter, working as intuitively and rapidly as you would hope of one of these twin-clutch units.
So there’s no doubt the driving experience is magnificent, but is it ‘£25,000 better’ than the Competition Package? No, probably not. An M4 Competition Package, loaded up with plenty of desirable options and the Exterior Carbon Package, comes in at about £70,000, which is still a considerable saving over the CS – and it feels almost every bit as good to drive on the road as the newcomer. It won’t be as collectible, of course, and it lacks for the star appeal items of the CS like the bespoke CFRP aero, OLED lights and interior trimmings, but a Competition Package will more than satisfy most buyers.
Looking in the other direction, sadly the CS is nothing like as special to be in or steer as the GTS, even if that latter car is compromised, ridiculously pricey and hard to get hold of. BMW has engineered the CS to fit into a gap in its ever-growing M4 line-up beautifully well and, in isolation, it’s a borderline sublime performance coupe, but the reality is the vast majority would be better off with an M4 Competition Package with a few toys fitted instead.
Should I buy one?
Definitely yes, if you have the money – and that’s the key issue. For the people who can afford a car like the M4 CS in the first place, its premium over the Competition Package will be no barrier and it becomes even less of a problem when comparing the gap in monthly PCP payments. It should also prove a sound investment, given it is limited production (the CS is only on sale until 2019) and therefore a car that will likely be an appreciating asset in the mid-term.
We can’t help feeling, though, that four variants of the M4 in such short succession is almost a tacit admission than BMW has never quite got the base car right. The standard M4 is unresolved, the GTS frighteningly costly and the Competition Package, potentially the ideal M4 road spec, needs a £3,000 input at the showroom to make it so. The CS is undoubtedly another fabulous M car in the canon of such things and people who buy one will be very happy with it, but it doesn’t feel massively more special than an M4 Competition Package, with which it shares so much.