I feel like the F80 BMW M3 CS failed to gain the public praise it likely deserved. During our initial drive review of the M3 CS back in its day, we said that it was what the standard F80 M3 should have been to begin with. Having also driven more CS models since—such as the brilliant M2 CS and M5 CS—it’s easy to look back on the F80 M3 CS and realize just how good it was. Especially when you look at it, in a gorgeous San Marino Blue, compared to the G80 M3 CS.
There’s little doubt that the new G80 M3 CS will be brilliant to drive. The G80 M3 Competition is a killer sport sedan and one of the best driving machines BMW’s ever made. It’s sensational on the road. However, it’s heinous to look at, which does lead to a ton of hesitancy from potential customers, as we’ve seen countless times in our comments section. So when we look back on the F80 M3 CS, and just how good looking it was, it’s hard to not get just a bit nostalgic.
While the F80 M3 as a whole was never the best driving M3, it was always a looker. It’s so refreshing to see a sensibly sized grille, more cohesively swollen rear wheel arches, and just enough subtle aggression to let you know it’s something special without shouting at you. The M3 CS also came in San Marino Blue, which is one of the best looking modern BMW M colors.
Under the hood was the S55 engine, a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six that made 453 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. It was only paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which was a spectacular transmission. Today’s G80 M3 only gets an eight-speed automatic and it’s really good but it certainly lacks the edge and excitement of the old, snappy dual-clutch. Also unlike the new M3 CS, the old F80 version was only rear-wheel drive, which does make it more enthusiast-friendly. Admittedly, the new xDrive system is very good and I don’t have an issue with it, but some purists will.
The F80 M3 CS wasn’t with us long, and its excellence made us sad about the standard F80 M3’s mediocrity, but it left a lasting impression. Its legacy has also been bolstered by the excellent CS models to come after it.