It's hard to fathom how BMW could improve on the already excellent M3 Competition, yet two letters make all the difference. The CS badge has graced the backsides of BMW performance cars since the late 1960s, and more than half a century later, they're still winning enthusiasts over with their track prowess.

It starts with the engine. The 3.0-liter inline-six's two turbochargers get a boost from 24.7 to 30.5 psi, and some extra tuning results in 40 more horsepower than the M3 Comp and 70 more than the standard M3. The final output is 543 hp and 479 pound-feet, which doesn't sound like much these days (especially with an unchanged torque figure) – but it feels like a lot.

Quick Stats 2023 BMW M3 CS
Engine Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-Liter I6
Output 543 Horsepower / 479 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH 3.2 Seconds
Top Speed 188 MPH (Electronically Limited)
Base Price $119,695

The M3 CS absolutely hauls down the back straight of the track at BMW's Performance Driving School in Greenville. It takes just 3.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, two-tenths of a second quicker than the M3 Comp. And if you find a long enough road it'll race to a limited top speed of 188 mph.

The one downside is that the only available gearbox is an eight-speed automatic. If you want the manual, you'll have to settle for the standard M3. But since the eight-speed uses the same mapping as the more hardcore M4 CSL, it'll fire off shifts quicker than you ever would.

2023 BMW M3 CS First Drive Review

All-wheel drive is also standard, but the M3 CS has excellent rear-drive bias. BMW's Active M differential allows you to move most of that power to the rear – or all of it if you're daring – with the 4WD Sport mode and the Dynamic Stability Control disengaged.

But this car is excellent in the corners, regardless of where that power ends up. The electronic power steering is still as lightweight as it is on the M3, but thanks to some subtle retuning for better responsiveness, it does a better job of telling you exactly what the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires are doing. You barely have to flick the steering wheel to put this car exactly where you want it; it’s like the M3 CS knows exactly where it needs to go.

And there’s zero body movement. The M3 CS stays flat in even the tightest turns thanks to that ultra-stiff suspension counteracting all 3,915 pounds of this vehicle. That said, the M3 CS is actually 75 pounds lighter than the M3 Comp thanks to a healthy heaping of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic on the hood and roof that actually does make the car feel lighter in corners.

2023 BMW M3 CS First Drive Review

You barely have to flick the steering wheel to put this car exactly where you want it; it’s like the M3 CS knows exactly where it needs to go.

Stomping hard on the optional carbon-ceramic brakes brings the M3 CS back down to speed as quickly as it sets off. But for a track car, offering carbon ceramic brakes as an $8,500 option is an odd choice – they should come standard. Otherwise, the CS has traditional steel brakes with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers.

​​On the road there are definitely some drawbacks to the CS compared to the standard M3. The additional suspension tuning for track use means you’ll have to settle for a backbreaking ride. The M Performance seats with the built-in crotch bumper don’t help soften the blow, either, but they do at least have power adjustability and heating. And while the steering feels pinpoint-accurate on the track, it borders on too twitchy around town.

2023 BMW M3 CS First Drive Review

But that’s to be expected of CS, considering it’s the most hardcore M3 money can get you. And at $119,695 (with destination), the M3 CS definitely isn’t cheap, costing $34,400 more than the M3 Competition. If you’re a regular weekend racer or a pro at the autocross course, the subtle performance upgrades to the M3 CS make it the Bimmer sedan to get for shaving lap times. If all you’re looking for is a fun daily romp, save yourself the $35K.

Competitor Reviews

FAQs

What's The Difference Between The BMW M3 Competition and the M3 CS?

The BMW M3 CS has the same engine, transmission, and all-wheel-drive system as the Competition, but with more boost from the turbochargers and revised tuning, it makes 30 more horsepower, for a total of 543. Stiffer bushings improve handling response, and carbon fiber exterior bits cut some weight from the package too. Finally, it only seats four, while the M3 Competition seats five.

How Fast Is The BMW M3 CS?

The BMW M3 CS zips to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 188 mph. That's two-tenths of a second quicker and 8 mph faster than an M3 Competition xDrive.

How Much Is The M3 CS?

The BMW M3 CS starts at a heady $119,695 including destination.

Gallery: 2024 BMW M3 CS First Drive Review

BMW M3

Engine Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-Liter I6
Output 543 Horsepower / 479 Pound-Feet
Transmission Eight-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Speed 0-60 MPH 3.2 Seconds
Maximum speed 188 Miles Per Hour
Efficiency 15 City / 22 Highway / 18 Combined
Weight 3,915 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 16.9 Cubic Feet
Base Price $76,000 + $995 Destination
Trim Base Price $119,695
As-Tested Price $128,195
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