BMW M3 CS: Ungreen machine marks last roar of petrol-powered high-performance sports saloons

There's something of the last-of-the-dinosaurs about the BMW M3 CS; it's as if it hasn't realised the battery-electric performance car asteroid has already smashed into the old petrol-and-piston-powered planet and rendered it and its CO2-spewing kind all but extinct...

BMW's M3 CS feels like the last hurrah for the ostentatiously petrol-powered, tyre-smoking super saloon before electric takes over
William Scholes

WHILE my future-gazing friend is elsewhere giving us the lowdown on Audi's latest electric concept, the pick-up-meets-coupe (yes, really) Activesphere, here on this page we're concerned with what their Teutonic rivals from Munich are up to, writes William Scholes.

It might be daubed in a lurid Kermit-on-jelly babies paint scheme, but that's about the only thing that's green about BMW's latest offering, an über M3 which it has dubbed the CS.

There's something of the last-of-the-dinosaurs about the M3 CS; it's as if it hasn't realised the battery-electric performance car asteroid has already smashed into the old petrol-and-piston-powered planet and rendered it and its CO2-spewing kind all but extinct.

Though not just yet... BMW feels there's clearly still some life left in the classic high-performance petrol sports saloon formula; if it's got to go, it's determined to go with a roar.

The M3 CS certainly roars, courtesy of an upgraded version of the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit found in lesser M3 models, massaged and tweaked here to unleash a tyre-bothering 550 horsepower and 480lb ft of torque.

Colours other than green are available...


In combination with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, a trick differential, four-wheel-drive and a host of detail refinements, including a new engine mount for an extremely rigid connection between the power unit and the car's structure, the results are startling.

It yields a 0-62mph time of 3.4 seconds, which is bracing, and a top speed electronically limited to 188mph, which is ridiculous.

The M3 CS's four tailpipes up to 234g/km, according to official data, while the fuel consumption is said to be 28mpg. That spells good news for your local petrol station forecourt, if nothing else, and the idea that anyone will get close to that economy figure is a little fanciful in a car this potent.

It will, however, be beautifully built and exquisitely engineered, although to my eyes it is still scarred by the awful grille treatment that BMW has inflicted on an increasing number of its models.

The M3 CS itself will be built in what BMW describes as a "limited run", with the first UK cars due to arrive next month. The UK market is important for BMW's M cars, ranking with the United States, Germany and Japan as the biggest takers for the company's most potent models.

The BMW M3 CS has a rather focused interior


It won't come as a surprise to learn that this is not a cheap car. Expect to part with more than £116,000 for an M3 CS. The 'regular' M3 Competition - which can be had with either rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive - cost around £75k, or at least it did before it disappeared from the pricelist and 'configurator' on BMW's website.

This is presumably a temporary measure, related to the ongoing chip shortages and other supply difficulties which continue to blight the motor industry.

Whether the CS is worth the hefty premium over the Competition version is one of those questions that only the most committed BMW aficionado will be able to give an unequivocal 'yes' to.

Yes, the CS is leaner, fitter, faster, but only marginally. For example, a normal M3 can hit 62mph from rest in 3.5 seconds, a negligible 0.1 second slower than the CS. You're paying a lot extra for that fraction of a second, as well as some cosmetic changes, extra bits of carbon fibre and fancy tyres.

Still, BMW will sell all they can build, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the performance car market has already shifted to electric.

BMW M3 CS - yours for £115,900...


For example, you could buy two Tesla Model 3 Performance models for the price of a single M3 CS... and it accelerates even harder again, with a gut-rearranging 0-60mph time of 3.1 seconds. Its top speed of 162mph isn't shabby - and just as irrelevant as the M3 CS's 188mph - and, even when driven hard, it will probably still travel further on a 'tank' of fully-charged battery than the BMW.

BMW itself recognises the landscape has changed. Future M3 models will by hybrids, and before too long one imagines they'll be fully electric. The M3 CS, then, is something of a last hurrah for the petrol sports car. It's a pretty spectacular way to bow out, all the same...