I still remember driving the M5 CS for the first time. Compared to every other modern M car I’d driven, driving the M5 CS was like having blurred vision for years and then suddenly putting on glasses. It was a moment of automotive clarity, reminding me of what M cars are supposed to be. Within 50 yards, I knew the M5 CS was special and that it was different from everything else the brand had to offer. Thankfully, the M3 CS should be much the same.
During a brief test drive of the new M3 CS, Autocar spoke to BMW M development boss Dirk Hacker, who said that the M3 CS is the “little brother to the M5 CS.” For any M5 CS fans—almost everyone I know that’s driven it agrees that it’s the best modern M car—rest easy knowing that, for the new M3 CS, the team at BMW M wanted to “repeat the philosophy,” according to Hacker.
Autocar was only able to drive it for a very short period of time but even with that short drive, the reports are good. “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,” said Autocar.
What’s most exciting about that is the fact that the current M3 Competition is already superb. It certainly lacks the feel and driver engagement of the M Division’s best but its precision, capability, and performance are all astonishing. So if BMW M was able to add that classic M Division magic to the M3 Competition, as it did with the M5 CS, then we’re in for a real treat.
After reading Autocar’s brief drive report, I’m cautiously optimistic that BMW M was able to deliver that same sort of CS magic. The reason for my optimism is that I’m not actually a huge fan of the F90 M5. It’s OK—supremely fast, capable, and comfortable—but it’s a bit too soft and completely devoid of any sort of driver engagement. However, the M5 CS feels like an entirely different car, almost as if it isn’t even based on the M5. So I know BMW M is capable of doing the same for the M3 CS. However, my caution comes from my most recent BMW M experience, the new G87 M2 Coupe. That car was a bit of a disappointment during my first drive, in a similar fashion to the F90 M5. The M2 is quick, capable, and comes with a manual, all of which are great. But it completely lacks that M magic.
However, it seems that BMW M has its priorities right for the M3 CS, in that it’s focusing more on driver engagement and fun than it is outright performance. Everything about Autocar’s drive review—claiming that it feels more special and more focused, even at slow speeds—gives me a ton of hope. I can’t wait to drive it.