If at first you don’t succeed, try and try … to launch the 2018 BMW M4 CS.
That could have been the slogan for the flagship Club Sport version of the BMW M division’s compact sports car, given that this F80-generation M4 hasn’t immediately seized class leadership status like its E92- and E46-gen M3 predecessors once did.
Actually the M4 has been successful in sales terms, however it has also divided driving enthusiasts – there are those who love it, and those who don’t. Usually the former camp consists of those who have driven this twin-turbocharged two-door at high speed on a racetrack, whereas the latter may have driven it only on the road.
This tester has experienced the BMW M4 several times on the road (where it can be too edgy) and on the racetrack where it feels beautifully balletic. But with revised steering and suspension, more linear power, increased torque, greater grip and lighter componentry, the CS certainly looks to deliver more than Cosmetic Surgery.
Vehicle Style: Sports coupe
Price: $189,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 338kW/600Nm 3.0 6cyl twin-turbo petrol | 7spd dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.4 l/100km | Tested: 12.9 l/100km
BMW should be commended for slashing the M4 CS from $211K to $189,900 plus on-road costs only months after its early-2018 launch. Even with that decrease, though, it remains $33,200 pricier than the M4 Competition on which it is based.
However, several small changes appear to make a greater whole. Power from the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine moves from 331kW to 338kW at 6250rpm, while torque moves from 550Nm at 1850rpm to 600Nm at 4000rpm.
Those last figures are important. This BMW (and its M3 sedan sibling) have been criticised for throwing all torque at the back wheels virtually from just off idle, but while the M4 CS makes 50Nm more torque, it’s making just 380Nm at 1850rpm. It then builds more gradually, in a linear fashion, to its peak. Moreover, grippier Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres replace the Pilot Super Sports of the M4 Competition.
A carbonfibre bonnet joins the already-standard carbonfibre roof in a bid to reduce the centre of gravity, there’s a carbonfibre lip spoiler front and rear to increase downforce, plus new forged alloy wheels that help reduce unsprung mass. But there are also special kinematics in the suspension, and a revised three-mode chassis and electronic stability control (ESC), plus retuned steering. Many, many tweaks, then.
- Standard Equipment: Power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, single-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather/cloth trim with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, cruise control, and auto on/off LED headlights/wipers with adaptive-auto high-beam.
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, live-traffic satellite navigation and digital radio.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 480 litres.
It is the look only a non-car-enthusiast partner can give you. Entering the M4 CS for the first time, my boyfriend went to find the passenger-side grab handle of this BMW coupe and realised that the ‘natural fibre’ door panel only had a rope dangling off it.
A prolonged ‘really?’ pierced from his eyes, to which shrugged shoulders could be the only reply. BMW has deleted the proper door pulls and armrests from the M4 to reduce weight, as well as its door pockets and the centre console storage bin – so if you can accept the rope door pulls, then the lack of storage is the next hurdle.
Actually, even before entering the cabin, the deletion of keyless auto-entry starts to grate for $190K, while the Harman Kardon audio is gone and the dual-zone climate controls are flicked for single-zone, manual-control items from a sub-$40K 116i.
With such deficits out of the way, though, the rest of the CS cabin design is left to impress. Visually, the leather-topped dashboard with Alcantara inserts and ‘CS’ imprint, plus the Kransky-thick Alcantara steering wheel all ooze cool.
An Audi RS5 Coupe – which this tester’s partner adored – may be luxurious and lavish, but it does lack the sort of raw, racetrack-inspired touches found in this M4.
Beyond the fittings and furnishings, too, the BMW continues to impress. Its 8.8-inch touchscreen with iDrive6 software remains, and it is among the best in the business complete with near-flawless ‘one shot’ voice control and excellent nav with live traffic.
The leather/Alcantara front seats come complete with illuminated ‘M’ logos and they certainly look as good as they grip and sit. The driving position, too, is low and ideal.
It’s also worth remembering that this M4 CS is meant to be a hardcore, two-door but still four-seat sports coupe. In other words, its pricetag lines up above a $156,600 (plus orc) RS5 Coupe and $163,611 (plus orc) Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe. Instead, it tackles the two-seat-only, $179,080 (plus orc) Porsche 718 Cayman GTS.
That Porsche also still requires chassis technology options, where everything is standard here, and its 4.3-second 0-100km/h claim is four-tenths slower than this M4 CS – which, to reiterate, offers a big 480-litre boot and decent space for rear riders. The question is, of course, whether it can challenge a 718 Cayman GTS on-road…
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 338kW/600Nm 3.0 4cyl twin-turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
There is no need to glance at the specification sheet or read manufacturer claims: on an identical urban and country road test loop conducted in an M4 Competition five months ago, the M4 CS feels like an entirely different car and only in a positive way.
The lightswitch power delivery of lesser models has been tamed, so no longer does this M4’s rear tyres attempt to apply for a Gina Rinehart contract when the driver uses only light throttle. The 3.0-litre twin-turbo comes on smoothly, not sharply, but then it works with the added grip of the Pilot Cup 2 tyres to slingshot away, and without sending the electronic stability control (ESC) light into a frenzied strobe.
While the CS looks and feels innately racetrack-focused, the real surprise comes in ride quality that is enormously improved compared with the Competition. Gone is the heavy, flat-footed thumping over bumps, the lighter alloys – 19-inch front, 20-inch rear – clearly placing less pressure on the suspension over short, sharp hits. On rebound in Comfort, there’s no longer pitching, and in Sport, there’s no longer jarring.
To be clear, this BMW is still very tough on occupants particularly at low speeds. But it’s firm in the same way anything from a Renault Sport Megane to a Porsche 911 GT3 is, in that it never floats yet never crashes, it’s hard but never harsh.
On country roads the M4 is also no longer troubled by mid-corner bumps that could po-go it off the driver’s intended line. A little bit of that edgy behaviour remains, should the front tyres be loaded up hard in a corner, and where the transition to some throttle-induced oversteer can be terse. But, genuinely, the limits are so high.
Everywhere under maximum attack driving is now filled with trust and faith in the CS, thanks to that brilliant damping but also the revised ESC that is demonstrably improved compared with the Competition. The steering still isn’t laden with feel, but it’s quick, consistent and incisive.
No doubt there’s greater grip to exploit, and the turbo-petrol and brutal seven-speed dual-clutch are now in near-perfect harmony – even if the engine still only sounds good right up near its 7600rpm cut-out, or via a flurry of pops and crackles from the exhaust on over-run. Otherwise it can drone and sound like its aggression is forced.
The M4 CS also drones on anything other than perfectly creamy road surfaces, where road noise ranges from a dull whir to a constant roar. Along with some tetchy dual-clutch behaviour around town, this is no silken luxury car. But nor should it be.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety Features: Dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, and rear-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: BMW’s Basic Service Inclusive package costs $3553 for five years or 80,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The M4 CS is no all-things-to-all-people RS5 Coupe, which is just as fast, more fluent and luxurious, but also heavier and less involving through corners.
The 718 Cayman is technically perfect yet also brilliantly characterful, but it lacks this BMW’s practicality and touch of ‘mongrel’ about it.
The C63 S, meanwhile, certainly has the latter muscle car vibe and it has the most characterful engine in the business – but it still feels slightly blunt compared with this ultra-sharp blade.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Forget the enormous pricetag for a moment, because the M4 CS is by some margin superior to the M4 Competition below it. Faster, yet smoother, more approachable and faithful, yet more aggressively dynamic, it’s now a brilliant two-door coupe.
Where the other M4 model grades have always nabbed class leadership on a racetrack, or with a pro driver and electronic aids removed, the CS now almost certainly pinches on-road victory as well. The calmer torque build-up, greater grip, revised suspension/ESC, and lighter components really have made a greater whole.
Other than for greater steering feedback and a nicer noise, our only other wish was that a manual ‘box was offered for enthusiasts. It is on Competition, so why not here?
Call us conspiracy theorists, too, but the M4 CS weighs 1580kg, only 5kg less than a standard M4 despite its lightweight bits. With unspecified ‘elastokinematic’ suspension changes, could BMW M be testing parts for the next generation M4 on this last-of-the-line special? Either way, the difference is huge and all for the better, making this M4 CS more a case of Corrective Surgery than Cosmetic Surgery.
- Interested in buying BMW M4? Visit our BMW showroom for more information.