I can't fall in love with the BMW M3. From the base, manual car all the way to the xDrive Competition, none has stolen my heart. It’s very quick and nice to drive, but not terribly memorable. The M3 CS is different.

Through a handful of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades, the most-potent M3 becomes more appealing, greater than the sum of its parts. It’s highly engaging and far more exciting than any other modern M car I’ve driven. Awesome looks, missile-like speed, and gobs of traction make it a purebred hit from the M division.

Quick Specs 2024 BMW M3 CS
Engine Twin-Turbo 3.0-Liter Straight-Six
Transmission Eight-Speed Automatic
Output 543 Horsepower / 479 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH 3.2 Seconds
Base Price / As Tested $118,700 / $132,695

If the M3 CS looks familiar, it should. The hotted-up four-door inherited most of its upgrades from the harder-core M4 CSL, a limited-run track special for 2023. The CS uses the same engine—a 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six making 543 horsepower—and a bunch of the same carbon fiber lightweighting parts. It also has a totally revamped suspension with more camber, thicker roll bars, stiffer springs, and retuned dampers. 

Importantly, though, the M3 CS has two features the CSL doesn’t: All-wheel drive and a set of rear seats. And those things are what make it my favorite version of this platform.

The CSL is a lovely thing to drive. It has an ultra-sharp front end and gobs of on-demand power. But it’s also a bit knife-edged, desperate to kick out the rear and lay down rubber strips whenever it’s given the opportunity. It’s not scary to drive, but it’s difficult to lay down consistent times without twitching sideways about 37 times per lap. 

The M3 CS keeps that awesome front end and gigantic power, but drops the twitchiness in favor of supreme surefootedness. On a beautiful Spring day throughout Connecticut's Lime Rock Park road course, the CS delivered deliciously creamy, predictable four-wheel slides, with nary a hint of wasted traction. At the same time, the rear end isn’t as buttoned down as it is in the normal M3 xDrive, opening the opportunity for real rotation. This car can dance around its center point, but it never gives the sense it’ll suddenly overwhelm the rear end like the CSL does.

2024 BMW M3 CS Review
DW Burnett
Pros: Violently Quick, Tons Of Fun In Corners, Looks Way Better Than Any Other M Car

The glue-like Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s and suspension changes do a good deal to improve steering feel from BMW’s classically distant electrically assisted rack. Even so, I relied more on my butt to give me an idea of what the nose was actually doing. At 3,915 pounds, this track missile is still a hefty thing, so outright feel and purity fall by the wayside. But it’s so much more fun around a corner than its siblings that I almost don’t care.

Straight-line speed from the CS is even more addictive. It’s a running joke at this point BMW seems to severely underrate power levels from the factory. The S58 under the hood of this car is making around 600 hp. At least that’s what it feels like when you mash the throttle and everyone in the car goes "mfffhfffummhjesuschrist!!" as you hit the top of second gear. It’s stupid quick in a hyper-efficient, no-nonsense way that only modern German cars can be. 

The eight-speed ZF torque-converter has been retuned to deliver rowdier shifts, but it follows the same ethos as it always has in modern M cars, delivering incredibly quick changes that could match a five-year-old dual-clutch system. Downshifts aren’t the crispiest, but it’s not like most people will notice. Plus it makes the car a far more livable thing when you just want to creep through traffic on the way to your soul-sucking finance job (the only way you’ll be able to afford this $132,695 as-tested 3 Series). 

2024 BMW M3 CS Review
DW Burnett
2024 BMW M3 CS Review
DW Burnett

The $8,500 optional carbon-ceramic brakes are similarly dependable, if not a bit sensitive at lower speeds and lighter inputs. They take a lap or two to come to temperature, but when they do, stopping power is enormous. They’re also the first part of the car to let you know when its heft becomes too much to bear.

Physics can only do so much for this BMW, and while peak performance from the car is easy to access, it only lasts about four to five laps before the brakes start to give up some performance. Keep pushing, and the tires will grease up too. This equipment works wonders, but with nearly two tons to keep on the pavement, it can only perform those wonders for so long.

The tires and the brakes fall away gradually, though it’s easy to sense the degradation. We never barreled into Lime Rock’s Big Bend right-hander with no brakes, nor did we slide off the road at 80 mph because the tires chunked apart. As the laps tick away, the brakes and tires just won’t work as well as they did five laps before. Our advice? Get your timed laps in early in the session. After that, focus on having fun.

2024 BMW M3 CS Review
DW Burnett
Cons: Hefty Curb Weight, There Are Cheaper And Better Track Cars Out There

The M3 CS’s cabin is a familiar sight if you’ve driven a normal M3. The space is dominated by a pair of 12.3-inch screens. One is for the gauge cluster, while the other acts as a central hub for things like climate and entertainment. The CS stands out with a smattering of carbon fiber and Alcantara trim. I don’t mind most of it, but I know the steering wheel won’t age gracefully. If it were my car, I’d swap it out for a leather equivalent. Also, there’s no center console, which means nowhere to rest your elbow. 

While the CSL comes standard with fixed-back bucket seats, the M3 CS gets the more widely used adjustable carbon buckets. These seats have developed a bit of a reputation thanks to their weird groin-area carbon centerpiece and comically vertical thigh bolsters, but I love them. They allow you to get really low in the car, and because you can move the back portion, you can adjust them to your body type, alleviating back pain (for a few hours, anyway). Plus, there’s a real bench out back, meaning you can fit five people with ease. That makes the CS far easier to justify as a do-it-all car. 

For the price, there are better track cars out there. You’ll have more fun and more consistent performance in a Boxster or Cayman GTS 4.0, for instance. And you can get about 90 percent of the performance from a normal M3 Competition with xDrive. But no other car on sale delivers that same mix of usability, joy, and outrageous speed. Wrapping it all up in a bright green and gold Tokyo Drift-style package only adds to the silliness. I’d have a tough time choosing between one of these and an M2. The purist in me wants the stick-shift coupe, but ultimately, the CS is more fun. Guess that’s one way to justify the price.

2024 BMW M3 CS Review
DW Burnett
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Gallery: 2024 BMW M3 CS Review

2024 BMW M3 CS

Engine Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-Liter Straight-Six
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
Weight 3,915 Pounds
Efficiency 15 City / 22 Highway / 18 Combined
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 16.9 Cubic Feet
On Sale Now
Base Price $118,700
As-Tested Price $132,695
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