If you’ve ever driven the new BMW M3 or M4, you’d know that its capabilities lie beyond those of mere mortals like you and I. If you aren’t a pro driver, the M3 and M4 will yawn at your attempts to push them to the limit. Which is why, to see what they can really do, you need a hot-shoe like Finish racing legend Ari Vatanen, who recently drove the most capable M3—the BMW M3 CS—in a timed hill climb event in France.
The event was the 2023 Tour Auto, which is one of the oldest long distance rallies in the world. Vatanen, the former World Rally Champion (his accolades are too long to list), was able to get the most out of the M3 CS in this new video and it’s impressive to watch.
I always love watching old racing legends drive modern performance cars because, despite the vast technological differences, they’re always capable jumping right in and kicking ass. The BMW M3 CS is nothing like the rally cars he used to race—it’s far bigger, heavier, more disconnected, and more high-tech—and yet he’s able to hop in and absolutely hammer it without flinching. Also remember while watching this video, Ari Vatanen is 71 years old. To still have the dexterity and reaction time to drive like that at his age is remarkable.
543 Horsepower, 8-Speed Auto
The BMW M3 CS is the hottest, most capable M3 of them all. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 makes 543 horsepower, pairs with an eight-speed auto, and sends power to all four wheels. It’s still heavy but BMW claims a 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds, though we know it’s much quicker than that in reality. What really makes the M3 CS so special, though, is its 75 lb drop in curb weight and its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which will give it levels of grip beyond the already impressive M3 Competition.
Admittedly, the M3 CS is not the car you want for this sort of event. It’s too big, too wide, and too heavy. You want something smaller and lighter for a narrow hill climb like this. And even still, the combination of the M3 CS’s grip and Vatanen’s skill allow him to make easy work of the narrow French road. It must have been thrilling, and utterly terrifying, to ride shotgun with Vatanen at that pace but I don’t think there’s an enthusiast in the world who wouldn’t sign up for that ride.