BMW

2024 BMW M3 CS review

10 minutes, 32 seconds Read

BMW has distilled its cracking BMW M3 down to the essentials only with the new CS version. Is it able to do more with less? 

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What we love
  • Unshakeable levels of grip
  • Laughably entertaining exhaust note 
  • Tangible performance upgrade over regular M3
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What we don’t
  • No longer daily-driver friendly
  • Bewildering infotainment
  • Almost $75K pricier than next-most-expensive M3

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2024 BMW M3 CS

To BMW nerds, CS nomenclature causes a stir about what the acronym represents. To some it’s Coupe Sport (as in Coupe Sport Leichtbau like the original BMW 3.0 CSL). To others, it means Competition Sport. Then there’s the bunch who reckon CS is meant to denote a Club Sport version – though they’re just plain wrong.

In any sense, whatever it’s meant to mean, the CS end result is a brilliantly distilled version of the BMW M3. The CS nameplate has essentially come to be the new BMW M. I’ll explain why in this review.

As the newer BMW M3s have become bloated with tech, equipment, and fanciful driving aids – the CS treatment removes weight, ups the outputs, and retunes the suspension and steering systems. These little changes add up to more than the sum of their parts when getting behind the wheel, but more on the driving experience soon.

At its core, the 2024 BMW M3 CS bridges the gap between the M3 Competition and the new BMW M4 CSL. It’s not quite as hardcore as the CSL, but there’s a measurable increase in performance over the regular BMW M3 range.

The familiar 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol engine has been tuned to produce 405kW and 650Nm – a not-insignificant 30kW more than the standard M3 Competition xDrive, and matching the related M4 CSL special-edition coupe.

The bump in engine performance is attributed to increased boost pressure from the twin turbos, revised engine software, as well as new, stiffer engine mounts designed to deliver sharper throttle response.

Outputs are sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission to an ‘M xDrive’ all-wheel-drive system (including the ability to switch from all- to rear-wheel drive).

Weight savings are 20kg in total, thanks largely to a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic bonnet, centre console, front splitter, titanium muffler, M Carbon bucket front seats, and side mirror caps.

Sounds good, but then comes the price. It’s $249,900 before on-road costs, or about $75,000 more expensive than the M3 Competition xDrive variant on which it’s based. Add on the optional $16,500 carbon ceramic brakes of our tester, and the on-road cost blows out to near $300,000.

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Key details 2024 BMW M3 CS
Price $249,900 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Frozen Solid White
Options M carbon ceramic brakes – $16,500
Price as tested $266,400 plus on-road costs
Rivals Alfa Romeo Giulia | Mercedes-AMG C63 | Audi RS4

Other hallmarks afforded by the CS variant include reworked stability-control software plus an aluminium strut brace under the carbon-fibre bonnet. It’s also hard to miss the carbon bonnet stripes, carbon-fibre roof panel, red accents around the grille, and yellow-tint daytime running lights (inspired by BMW’s endurance racers).

While BMW’s added more kit in some areas (such as the carbon-fibre aero), it’s also removed equipment as well. Gone is the lane-centring and adaptive cruise-control systems, which made it somewhat of an annoying car to tour in. It’s also not helped by the fact the entire centre console (on which to rest your elbow) is removed with the aim of saving weight.

Then comes the way the M3 CS rides. Yikes, this is not a comfortable car. On the way out towards the Yarra Valley to join Drive publisher James Ward as he presented an episode of Drive TV in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the BMW M3 CS’s ability to tour quickly wore thin – as did my back.

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Even in the comfortable drive modes, the suspension throws occupants around when going over freeway undulations, while road joins jolt the cabin. In earnest, it’s not quite as uncomfortable as the GT3 we also had on hand – but you would not buy this M3 CS to drive daily. It’s a dedicated track car that also happens to have four doors and five seats.

Which is a shame because the cabin’s a nice place to spend time. Materials use is brilliant and build quality is top-tier, plus the soft-touch aspects you’ll find around the cabin feel great. The steering wheel is covered in suede and features a 12-o’clock marker, the dash is a beautiful leather finish, and the Merino leather-upholstered seats (with contrast stitching) feel great.

I’m personally not a fan of how hardcore the seats are for everyday use – you plonk down in them awkwardly and must heave yourself up and over the bolsters to get out again. However, there’s no doubt how effective they are once you’re locked in – there’s plenty of adjustability to find a nice, low driving position, plus the bolsters hold you in tight around corners.

All car controls are at arm’s reach including the 14.9-inch touchscreen. That’s especially handy because you’ll be using it often to control mundane things like air conditioning. The last time I drove a pre-facelift M3 it had physical controls for those kinds of functions, which feels like a bit of a backwards step for ease of use.

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2024 BMW M3 CS
Seats Five
Boot volume 480L seats up
Length 4795mm
Width 1918mm
Height 1438mm
Wheelbase 2857mm

I do like the fact BMW’s retained the rotary controller for the iDrive 9.0 infotainment system, but it’s barely needed – the system really needs to be operated by a finger rather than a controller. There’s too much content to scroll through otherwise, and the amount of icons on the menu page is overwhelming.

I ended up running the majority of my week through wireless Apple CarPlay, which works really well. Also embedded within the system is wireless Android Auto, digital radio (DAB+), embedded satellite navigation, traffic and news updates, and app-based connectivity allowing remote access to vehicle check or remote locking and unlocking via a compatible smartphone.

I like the way the 14.9-inch infotainment screen sits within a single pane of glass to join with the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Throughout 2023, I also had the chance to drive the complete opposite end of the BMW 3 Series spectrum – the entry-level 320i. I noted that car has a squeezy rear-seat space with particularly tight foot room. Unsurprisingly, the carbon-fibre-backed bucket seats of the M3 CS don’t make this phenomenon any better.

BMW has also removed amenities such as the rear air vents – bugger.

In any case, there’s still a big cavity accessed through a power-operating boot, as well as the ability to fold the rear seats down in a 40/20/40 format.

Overall, I think I’ve made it clear that you won’t be buying this M3 CS to ferry the family on weekend day trips or to commute to the office Monday through Friday.

But point the M3 CS’s nose at a string of corners and there are few substitutes as capable, especially this side of a supercar.  

Our playground of choice encompassed the Yarra Valley region surrounding Healesville. First, due north up to Chum Creek and through Toolangi. As soon as you hit the sharp switchbacks, the CS revels in a quick direction change, staying immovably flat through successive fern-lined bends.

There’s next-to-no body roll felt through corners, and the feelsome steering system provides a healthy dose of information through to the driver’s fingertips. Direct, quick, and weighty, twirling the steering wheel is a true delight to the senses.

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Key details 2024 BMW M3 CS
Engine 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol
Power 405kW @ 6250rpm
Torque 650Nm @ 2750–5950rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission Eight-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 234.4kW/t
Weight (tare) 1728kg

Though it was a pain on the freeway out to the Yarra Valley, it’s in Sport mode out in the Yarra Valley where the M3’s firm suspension tuning comes into its own. It pummels through road imperfections and minor bumps unfazed, while its composure isn’t thrown off-line by mid-corner bumps either.

I love the minute adjustments you can make even while you’re in the middle of a corner – open your steering up and the car faithfully tracks wider, apply more steering and the car carves a sharper line too.

It doesn’t take long to appreciate the CS’s extra engine outputs over its M3 Competition xDrive donor car either – the additional 30kW genuinely makes the engine feel especially potent. Punching the accelerator out of a corner results in savage acceleration and a strong purchase on the tarmac from the all-wheel-drive system.

Throughout my entire week with the car, there was no instance of tyre slip or loss of traction – with the car in all-wheel-drive mode, at least – the xDrive system simply hooks up and puts power down to the road without drama.

All 405kW/650Nm outputs are delivered in a smooth and predictable manner – especially when compared to its F80 M3 predecessor which behaved a little peaky and unruly when given the full beans. The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth, quick, and responsive – definite improvements over the old dual-clutch unit.

Before too long, we were on the other side of Healesville heading up through the Black Spur. With leafy-green scenery whizzing by and intermittent rock wall faces alongside the road, the M3’s snarly exhaust note bounced back into the cabin through the open windows. It sounds epic whether the exhaust valves are open or not.

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Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 10.3L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 15.0L/100km
Fuel type 98-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 59L

Place the car in the full Sport Plus drive mode and the exhaust note gets angrier again. There are crackles on the overrun, but far less offensive than the old F80 M3 Competition.

You can quickly and easily call up individual driving modes using the two bright red buttons on the steering wheel – it’s handy to have these options available without removing your hands from the wheel.

With the optional $16,500 carbon ceramic brakes fitted to our test car, braking performance was extremely strong. You’d really need some solid track time to even get close to the stoppers’ limits – I found I could lean on them time and time again without any hint of fade.

Unsurprisingly, fuel consumption for this drive was nowhere near BMW’s 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres combined efficiency claim. Though no one’s buying an M3 CS with an eye on fuel efficiency, our time with the car resulted in a rating of around 15.0L/100km. Its 59-litre fuel tank must be refuelled with 98-octane petrol.

At the end of the day, even though BMW’s made the M3 less comfortable for everyday duty with the CS variant, the performance trade-off you get in return makes the M3 CS a tantalising prospect. From a numbers perspective, it’s a hard $75K uplift in price to stomach, but it does afford genuine track-going capabilities for the BMW M3.

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Ratings Breakdown

2023 BMW M3 CS Sedan

7.9/ 10

Performance

Safety Technology

Ride Quality

Infotainment & Connectivity

Handling & Dynamics

Energy Efficiency

Driver Technology

Value for Money

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Fit for Purpose

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned journalists got the better end of the deal. With tenures at CarAdvice, Wheels Media, and now Drive, Tom’s breadth of experience and industry knowledge informs a strong opinion on all things automotive. At Drive, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories.

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