Bonding with a car, particularly one you want to drive quickly, is every bit as important as simply ‘wanting’ it. A relationship needs to be formed. Achieving equilibrium between car and driver is paramount.
Given the notoriously spiky nature of early F80 BMW M3s, it was somewhat calming to learn that the hardcore CS version we’d taken delivery of hadn’t been run in. Our instructions were clear: no high, sustained rpm and no pushing the limits. This relationship had to get off to an amicable start. Our chance to properly exploit the CS’s wares traversing Lake Mountain would come on a solo run weeks later.
Such is the reputation of some F80s that it seemed the M3 was keener to make you an ex rather than a plus one. The CS is different, though. Its remapped twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline-six is not only more powerful (up 7kW) and more muscular (up 50Nm), it’s also less peaky, with the 600Nm coming on strong in a linear fashion.
Then there’s the weight saving (10kg) with carbon fibre-reinforced plastic used on the bonnet, roof, front splitter and rear diffuser, which lowers the centre of gravity.
Other additions include Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber with a chassis tailored to optimising the extra grip, as well as tweaks to the stability aids and electronically controlled adaptive dampers to utilise the extra traction. It’s a serious bit of kit, one that wouldn’t look out of place at a racetrack.
The muscular exterior silhouette, staggered wheels and all (19 inches up front, 20 at the back), induces animalistic grunts of approval from onlookers. The stance is just right and the bulging rear guards are amply filled.
Fast forward, and a bedded-in CS returns to MOTOR HQ. Now it’s time to see what the more focused M3’s really like. Such is the unrelenting nature of the power delivery, the verdant Lake Mountain surroundings flash by at an alarming rate – 338kW tends to do that when hauling 1585kg.
The robust torque curve results in staggering pull out of tight bends, with the S55 revving cleanly to more than 7000rpm. Its sound, bolstered by a CS-specific exhaust, is polarising. Yet its raspy nature alludes to E46 ancestry and the overrun burbles induce child-like chortles. It’s far from forgettable.
When hot, the semi-slick, track-focused Cup 2s savage the tarmac. The back axle hunkers down and digs in its heels as the Active M differential and 285-section rear boots find astounding amounts of purchase.
MDM mode – essentially the fun button, which slackens the electronics – allows for progressive yaw movements and myriad reassurances that it isn’t going to snap into oversteer. Up front, turn-in is sharp as ever and the chassis feels taut, tied down and immediate. It’s not all solely down to the grippy Michelin boots.
Ramped up to its most aggressive mode, the seven-speed DCT is brutal. Full-throttle upshifts whack you in the back while the gold calipers clamp the carbon discs with alarming force. Driving the CS quickly is as engrossing as it is theatrical.
It all sounds like a ticket to a Diamond anniversary, but there’s prenup fine print. Those sticky Michelins have a narrow operating window – precipitation isn’t your friend.
The ride quality, while surprisingly compliant for what the CS is, can be far from supple in the CBD, meaning this M3 doesn’t quite make the perfect daily despite its four-door practicality and 445-litre boot. The steering also never truly returns natural tactility and, well, there’s that $179,529 bill... sans options.
However, those who make the CS commitment probably won’t see these limiting factors. As a driving tool it makes an emphatic statement: it pushes you to drive it well and keeps you on your game. You’re never going to tire of figuring it out... the reward for merely trying to is the icing on the cake.
The M3 CS is as good as the F80 gets – a true driver’s car with a sense of occasion that renders it a fitting farewell to the generation.
This is not a comparison, this is a Celebration of Driver's Cars
2018 BMW M3 CS
BODY: 4-door, 5-seat sedan
ENGINE: 2979cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v twin-turbo
BORE/STROKE: 89.6mm x 84.0mm
POWER: 338kW @ 6250rpm
TORQUE: 600Nm @ 4000-5380rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
SUSPENSION: struts, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
TRACKS: 1579/1604mm (f/r)
STEERING: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES: 400mm ventilated/drilled carbon-ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm ventilated/drilled carbon-ceramic discs, 4-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 9.0-inch (f); 20.0 x 10.0-inch (r)
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2; 265/35 ZR19 (f), 285/30 ZR20 (r)
PRICE: $198,929 (as tested)
PROS: Impressive performance; high grip levels; engaging dynamics
CONS: Needs the ‘right’ conditions; price over M3 Comp; steering
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars