Thursday 20th July 2017
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First drive: BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.

First drive: BMW M4 CS
Can an 89,000 BMW M4 that isn't top of its tree convince us of its merits? Over to you, CS...

 



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BMW M4 CS

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

BMW, clearly keen to cash in on people who wanted an M4 GTS, but who missed the boat on the 700 examples built, has decided to give us another special M4 in short order. This one's called the CS and it's based on an M4 Competition Package, plus some extras inspired by said GTS. It'll be limited in terms of the time for which it is built and it's not exactly what you would call an inexpensive car, but there's plenty of good news to delight in when it comes to dissecting the CS - the fourth M4 in the space of three years, incidentally.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW M4 CS
Pricing: M4 from 58,635; M4 CS from 89,130
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, seven-speed M DCT dual-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door, four-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 197g/km (1,200 VED first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 174mph (limited)
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Power: 460hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 4,000- to 5,380rpm

What's this?

The BMW M4 CS, which - if we can get this out of the way early doors - apparently stands for 'Coupe Sport' and not 'Club Sport', the two-letter badging coming from the third-generation of M3, which had a late run-out model based on the CSL of the time (hence Coupe Sport Lightweight, but without the Lightweight bit). However, the new CS is a bit lighter than a standard M4, around 35 kilos, due to the use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP).

You'll find it on the roof, which isn't unusual for any M4 Coupe, the bonnet (this single-vented and 25kg-lighter-than-the-M4's item is lifted straight from the 2016 M4 GTS - and bits of the exterior aero. Such as the front splitter, inspired once again by the GTS's jutting chin addenda, and the 'Gurney flap' upright boot spoiler, which is a design feature we really like. Also borrowed from the GTS are the tyres, which are track-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, these being wrapped around 19-inch front, 20-inch rear lightweight forged alloys in Orbit Grey. New colours for the M4 CS are San Marino Blue and Lime Rock Grey, the latter being a unique shade for this model, and at the back it features the Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) lamp clusters of the, yes, you guessed it, GTS. The M4 has always looked pretty damn fine; the CS only takes that theme and runs a bit further with it. We love its appearance.

More GTS influences can be found in the Alcantara-drenched cabin, as the thinner door cards with the oh-so-motorsport tricolour-banded fabric door pulls make it into the CS (cue unusual stereo sound in-car, as there are only speakers in the back of the interior) and the 'CS' logo is stitched into the dash in exactly the same place and font as the 'GTS' legend found in the 500hp M4. The CS doesn't get the glorious one-piece carbon chairs of the GTS, though, but the Competition Package's slotted-seatback leather buckets are an admirable substitute. It also has rear seats, which is clearly something for which the GTS lacks, and a driving position that is the very definition of 'spot on'.

So that covers the visuals. Now for the mechanical upgrades. And, er... well... there aren't any. Well, not beyond those aforementioned wheels and a freer flowing exhaust, there aren't. Everything that differentiates the way a CS drives when compared to an M4 Competition Package (CP) is done using software updates. BMW tweaks the steering and the electronically controlled variable dampers of the Adaptive M Suspension of the CS to make the best use of the increased grip levels and reduced unsprung weight at all corners, afforded by those Cup tyres and their attendant wheels. And then someone flashes the ECU to give the CS 10hp and 50Nm more than an M4 CP, its 460hp and 600Nm outputs placing it a little below the GTS on power (500hp, as already mentioned), but level pegging for torque. The resulting performance thus sits in the extremely narrow schism between an M4 CP with the optional M DCT dual-clutch gearbox fitted (it's the standard and only transmission on the CS, by the way) and the ultimate M4, the GTS. Running from CP via CS to GTS, the 0-62mph times are 4.0-, 3.9- and then 3.8 seconds, while the top speeds (all electronically limited) are 155-, 174- and 190mph. Can you see how neatly the CS has been designed to fit a specific and tiny hole?

At which point, we need to discuss the M4 CS's price. It'll start from 89,130. That's a heck of a lot compared to a standard M4, it's a good 25 grand above the 64,000 starting price of an M4 Coupe fitted with both the CP and the M DCT gearbox and, worse yet, the CS doesn't even come with every conceivable extra bolted onto it. Items, all fitted to our German test car, such as an Alcantara M Performance steering wheel with a 12 o'clock marker, the M Head-Up Display and the M Carbon Ceramic brakes, will all be cost options here in the UK. Cost options, in the case of the last of these three, that will relieve you of another 6,250. Ahem. And given people who buy this car must be intending tracking it at some point, then equipping all of these bits and bobs to the CS is going to push its windscreen sticker perilously close to, if not beyond, 100,000.

If that cost sounds like a liberty for a remapped M4 CP with a different wheel/tyre package, then bear in mind the CS is technically a limited-edition model. We say technically, mainly because - unlike the GTS - we can't give you a number for how many will be built. BMW is going to sell it between now and 2019, and it will build as many as are ordered in that time, with the only cap being the factory's 1,000 units-per-year maximum capacity. That means something like 2,500 to 3,000 CS M4s could be built, depending on take-up, although even at the higher production figure, that should make it a reasonably sound investment for buyers who want their BMW to appreciate in value, instead of depreciate.

How does it drive?

Put aside for the moment, if you will, the whole concept of the price of the CS and where it fits in the pantheon of M cars and why it's only marginally different to an M4 CP and its lack of visual clout compared to the GTS and all that bunkum. And then you can revel in what is an utterly glorious driver's car BMW has served up here.

We're of the opinion that the Competition Package is transformative for the BMW M4, turning what is a rather unruly machine in 431hp standard format into a corking performance coupe with 450hp. So you can imagine what adding more grip and even more chassis poise, plus a healthy dollop of torque, does for the CS. Wow, this is exactly like one of BMW's greatest M cars of the past, a fundamental cohesiveness about its various attributes ultimately leading to a machine that's a scintillating steer.

The reduction of 25kg at the nose makes the CS every bit as sharp as the GTS on turn-in, with understeer simply not a part of proceedings. The steering set-up is fantastic too, although we think there's a bit too much weight to it in Sport+ mode so have a fiddle with the 'M1' and 'M2' configurable settings buttons if you buy the car and make sure you choose Sport for the tiller.

You'll want the engine in Sport+, mind, as that's where it delivers its most rabid performance and also an absolutely marvellous soundtrack, which is a most welcome surprise. It's not quite as race car-esque as the shrieking of the GTS's pipes, but it is mercifully free from any synthesised nonsense and also that rather nasal blare the M4 and M4 CP both possess. The CS has a deeper, baritone rumble to it at all revs, with the six-pot motor's metallic snarl taking over the higher up the tacho you venture.

If you do push the throttle further towards the bulkhead, you'll discover that the extra torque does make a difference to the way the BMW can haul in thoroughly naughty speeds (relax, speed police, we drove it in Germany where it's perfectly legal and safe to do three-figure velocity...). The M4 CP is hardly slow, yet there's an added intensity to the way the CS powers relentlessly through the first four gears of its transmission. And as all the power and performance is delivered in a crisp, linear and lag-free fashion, then the turbocharged drivetrain is beyond reproach.

As is the rear axle. The tyres' improved grip levels and revised damping both help to eradicate even more of the nervousness that afflicts the fixed sub-frame rear end of the M4, which in turn engenders more confidence in the driver. You can make the CS oversteer quite easily out of low-speed hairpins with a healthy punch of the throttle, but in higher-speed corners on the road, where you want to commit fully to the edge of the tyres' road-holding, you can now do so in the CS safe in the knowledge that it will gamely hang on, rather than spike into a huge moment of unintended opposite lock. As it can also do the smooth-driving everyday comfort of an M4 or CP, then the immediate summary of the M4's dynamic make-up is 'it's in the rudest of possible health'. This really is a remarkable piece of engineering, even if said engineering is all done on a laptop.

Verdict

It seems churlish to knock half a star off the magnificent M4 CS when it's so, so good to drive, but here's our reasoning: it's just too expensive for something that's not the pinnacle of its breed (the GTS remains the M4 king, despite the fact the CS is more useable on a regular basis and more attainable too), which also is basically 'just' an M4 CP with a remap and some fancy wheels/tyres. It sounds overly harsh, we know, but there it is.

A lot of this confusion over the CS's place in the world could be cleared up by BMW taking some brave decisions and tidying up the M4 range. Like killing off the 431hp regular car and admitting it got the M4's chassis set-up wrong in the first place. Make what we now call the CP the standard car and get rid of the 3,000 premium needed to fit said package, bringing its price back down to more like the 58,000 mark. Fit the M Carbon Ceramic brakes as standard to the CS and sell it for 75-80,000, and then you've got a clearer demarcation between the road car M4, the track car that's tolerable on the roads (that's the GTS, in case you're wondering) and then finally the harder road car that's superb for the odd occasions you take it on track.

Positioned like that, we'd have no compunction giving the CS five stars, because - price tag and lack of resolution to its exact build numbers aside - there's a very strong case to be made that says this is the best M4 yet built. And considering the GTS exists, that should give you an idea of how dynamically exceptional the M4 CS truly is.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 21 Jun 2017









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2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.

2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.2017 BMW M4 CS. Image by Uwe Fischer.








 

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