2018 BMW M3 CS First Drive Review
New M3s were always a calendar highlight, but when the current generation debuted it didn’t quite measure up to (admittedly very high) expectations. M has spent the years since 2015 making the M3 sharper.
The engineering is formidable, with features such as a magnesium sump, a forged crankshaft, two variable-geometry turbochargers, and a closed-deck crankcase, but it carries it all lightly. All you need to know is that it’s high tech and it works enthusiastically, but it’s not the CS’s highlight. It’s the chassis. One of the M3’s biggest shortcomings was the lofty feeling of its rear roll center. That’s gone.
There’s more. It scores toys such as an active M differential, the adaptive M suspension and a Sports exhaust, all to help with the pieces of road between the braking point of a corner and the next straight bit. Its three-stage dampers work best in Comfort mode on the road or in Sport if the blacktop is super smooth (and almost never in Sport+ mode, which is so comically hard it could crack diamonds). There is a separate adjustment switch for the steering, and it, too, has two good modes (Sport and Sport+) and one you’ll want to skip past every time (Comfort).
On backroads, though, the car was undoubtedly quicker and calmer with the damping in Comfort mode, where it kept the rubber on the road longer, though it felt sharper in Sport. Its ride quality is a bit of a shock, too, and isn’t much firmer than a standard 3 Series despite running on forged alloys and 265/35 R19 front and 285/30 R20 rear tires.
It is at its best when it’s being utterly hurled at corners, as more energy equals more accuracy. It’s a lot more than just more bite from the tires, and it even has the good manners to be incredibly forgiving when you push too hard. The steering ranges between relatively heavy and really heavy (Sport+), but it’s always accurate and always fast, though the wheel is now so fat it feels like gripping a pair of Coke cans.
There will only be 1,200 of them sold worldwide, and Europe’s share is almost sold out already. The U.S. scores the lion’s share, but M won’t build our 550 cars until June, so don’t expect to see the $97,000 sports sedan on a corner anytime soon.