What is it?
The taut, indigo form before you represents the end of line for the F80-generation M3. It’s called the Club Sport, and it uses the clout of internal combustion alone to drive the rear wheels.
That’s obvious, though, isn’t it? Since its conception in the late-eighties, every 3-Series breathed upon by BMW Motorsport GmbH has been the same: propelled mainly by six cylinders, but occasionally four or eight, but always pushing and not, heaven forefend, pulling.
But that might soon change. When the G20-generation car arrives in a couple of years from now, it could well employ an electrified powertrain to reliably take total output closer to 500bhp while allowing BMW’s red-hot junior saloon to more easily conform with a stricter new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure. Following in the footsteps on the latest M5, the successor to the F80 might also deliver drive to its leading axle, changing the habit of a lifetime.
Nothing is certain, of course, but these would represent wholesale changes to the M3 recipe. Neither is it any stretch to imagine how popular, or otherwise, such a development might be with those who considered even forced induction a deplorable departure following the gloriously free-revving atmospheric V8 of the E90. M Division boss Frank van Meel talks about how an M3 will always feel like an M3 no matter the hardware, but commercial and regulatory objectives mean he has little time or need for nostalgia.
Autocar readers might just feel differently, warmly referring on occasion to the last ‘proper’ this or that. That’s where this car comes in, because as far as the M3 is concerned, the Club Sport could be ‘the one’.
It means this lightweight, track-ready saloon is significant before you even get to the nuts and bolts, the composites and aerodynamics – and before you consider how uncommon a sight it will be on the road. The M4 coupe will remain in production for some time to come, but the last M3 of any description will go down the line in June, its tenure lightly truncated by the WLTP test cycle.
The M4 was always intended to last a little longer and will benefit from a new particulate filter to facilitate that. The upshot is that no more than 1200 examples of M3 CS will leave BMW’s Regensburg plant, and there’s also a price tag sure to cement its rarity. You’d have to wholeheartedly buy into what is rather a niche corner of the automotive world – the one inhabited by factory-prepared trackday saloons – to stump up the best part of £90,000.
What you’ll get in return is the same black-accented aesthetic formula you’ll find on the M4 CS released last year. The body features a wickedly profiled carbonfibre Gurney flap to match a similarly aggressive front splitter.
Painted on top but naked underneath, so too is the bonnet wrought of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic – it’s 25 per cent lighter than that of a standard M3 – and if you sidle up to an M3 CS eventually a broad, sunken vent ahead of the brutal powerdome will reveal itself. It gives the car’s snout a DTM-style rake, something of a rictus snarl.
And forget a finger: you could barely get even a cigarette-paper between the rear wheelarches and the semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. They’re wrapped around lightweight forged alloys wheels of 20in at the rear and 19in at the front. On a Competition Pack M3 – until now the most focussed variant – you’ll find the larger wheel size at the front too, though the CS dials down the glamour for greater steering response.
Even so, not since the M3 CRT of the noughties has the spiritual cornerstone of M Division’s operations held such deliciously serious visual appeal.