Which way is the new BMW M3 CS going to go? Its bigger brother, the BMW M5 CS, is perhaps the greatest M car of the current era, a super-saloon that set new performance standards while retaining everyday usability. On that basis, much the same recipe in a smaller package opens up a path for another modern great to emerge.
Yet the M3 CS also shares much of its hardware with last year’s BMW M4 CSL, a fine car but not the icon of the duo of CSLs before it, the fact it was extreme neither here nor there.
Rest assured that the M3 CS “is the little brother to the M5 CS”, insists BMW M development boss Dirk Hacker, who says his team looked to simply “repeat the philosophy” that served them so well with the bigger car. The only real difference, he adds, is that one has eight cylinders and the other six.
A relief to hear, though you don’t have to drive too far yourself to realise that this is another monstrously capable car that seeks to serenade rather than scare you.
A disclaimer to start: we didn’t actually get to drive too far ourselves as this was the shortest of first drives in BMW’s first demonstrator, and we covered barely 30 miles. Still, even over this short drive a superb driver’s car was able to reveal itself, one that returns some of the deftness of M3s of old that’s always been lacking in the current-generation BMW M3 Competition.
With that in mind, you’ll recall we’ve been here before with M3 CS. When BMW last put a CS badge on the M3 at the end of the previous generation, a power boost of just 10bhp made the billing of it as a new version seem a bit arbitrary, and the type of special to shift the last bit of production at the end of a car’s life. Yet it was about more than the power: in becoming a CS and the numerous other chassis tweaks that went with it, it helped turn that M3 into a more playful machine.