Prior to the arrival of the BMW M4 CS, there was a sizable gap (in both ideology and capability) between the standard M4 and the super-limited M4 GTS. The base model is a formidable street car full of features and tech, while the GTS is a stripped-down, pumped-up track animal that isn’t the best for regular driving. The CS (for Club Sport) fills the void as a lighter, de-contented and more powerful car than the standard coupe, but doesn’t push matters quite to the extreme of the GTS. The result is a sweet spot in the M4 lineup, giving enthusiasts a sharper weekend track weapon that can also be daily driven.
Unlike the somewhat garish GTS, the M4 CS adopts a subtler appearance that I really like. Outside of a specific carbon fiber front splitter, exclusive forged V-spoke aluminum wheels and CS badges, it mostly looks like a normal M4. That’s not a bad thing — it’s still a looker with its carbon power dome hood, fender vents and rear spoiler offering understated attitude.
The CS overhaul inside is a bit more drastic. In the name of weight savings, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic door panels trickle down from the GTS that do without map pockets or armrest door pulls. To close the doors after getting in, you have to yank on swanky fabric straps that no doubt are responsible for saving a few precious ounces. There’s no center armrest compartment, either, further limiting storage options.
One creature comfort spared from the chopping block is three-stage heating for the wonderfully comfortable and supportive M sport seats. The bun warmers are appreciated to counter the cool and wet spring conditions we’re dealing with in the Midwest. That said, manual, single-zone climate control replaces the dual-zone, automatic system found in the standard M4. Even though the car’s interior features set isn’t as robust, the CS’ simplified surroundings don’t appear or feel cheap, with lots of stitched leather and Alcantara sprinkled throughout the cabin.
BMW’s iDrive interface handles infotainment duties on an 8.8-inch touchscreen. Standard tech includes navigation with real-time traffic information, a passable 12-speaker audio setup, satellite radio, Bluetooth and one year of Apple CarPlay. For power points, there’s a single 12-volt outlet, one USB on the center console and… that’s it. Safety features include parking sensors, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic LED headlights. Additional tech add-ons are limited to a head-up display and speed limit information. Anyone looking for advanced safety equipment is out of luck because things like adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning aren’t offered.
If you’re bemoaning the less extensive feature set, then the M4 CS isn’t for you. If you’re OK with giving up some cabin and tech niceties in exchange for extra performance, then this limited-edition Bimmer is just your speed. While the engine doesn’t get the GTS’ crazy water-injection system, the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder does see output increase to 454 horsepower, which bests the M4 by 31 horsepower, and even represents a 10-horsepower increase over the M4 Competition. Torque output jumps to 442 pound-feet — a 36 pound-feet climb over the less capable cars.
Sadly, the M4’s lovely six-speed manual transmission isn’t available in the CS, leaving the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as the sole choice. So equipped, the M4 CS is said to hit 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds, which matches the M4 Competition, but is quicker than the base model by one-tenth of a second, and boasts a top speed of 174 mph.
The turbocharged six-cylinder is massaged to push output to 454 horsepower.
Punching up the Sport Plus setting rockets the M4 away from stoplights and out of corners with no turbo lag and gobs of mid-range grunt before tapering off as it approaches the 7,600-rpm redline. Disappointingly, the engine’s exhaust soundtrack still doesn’t sound all that great. Drive it hard and the dual-clutch transmission quickly rips through gear changes in automatic and manual modes, though cog swaps are harsher than what you’ll get with Audi’s sensational S-Tronic gearbox.
Chassis settings are shared with the Competition model, with sharper tuning for the adaptive dampers, stability control, and torque-vectoring rear differential. Where the CS holds an upper hand is its 3,620-pound curb weight, which is a 65-pound weight loss from the DCT-equipped M4 Competition. BMW says that this, combined with the power hike, helps the CS lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes and 38 seconds. That’s 14 seconds quicker than the run-of-the-mill M4, and just 10 seconds behind the 493-horsepower, more hard-core GTS.
I didn’t make it out to any race tracks to properly flog the CS, but on the street it turns in immediately, corners flat, and offers tenacious grip on the 255/35R19 front and 285/30R20 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport. Balance is impressive, allowing for easy and controlled (and fun) on-throttle rear-end rotation. The available carbon ceramic brakes provide massive stopping force — as they should considering the $8,150 premium. My major complaint is once again the M4’s steering: it’s responsive to inputs, but is unnecessarily heavy and lacks any real feedback.
The impressively balanced chassis is a ball to toss around.
A bearable daily
After driving an M4 Competition with the dual-clutch transmission last year, I grumbled about the gearbox’s horrible performance for docile daily driving. Slow engagement during launches and jerky shifts had me urging people to stick with the standard manual. Unfortunately, the transmission is still its not-so-smooth self, but for some reason I wasn’t as irritated with it this time around. Maybe I’m just becoming accustomed to its subpar behavior.
The stiffer suspension tuning transmits impacts from almost every bump in the road into the cabin, even when set to Comfort mode. This car offers the same firm ride as the Competition, but somehow feels more acceptable in this more capable CS.
Further helping with the M4’s cruising credentials is its comfortable accommodations. Plus, the 15.7 cubic feet of trunk space brings respectable cargo carrying capability, and the EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway fuel economy ratings aren’t too shabby, considering this car’s intended mission.
Manageable ride quality, roomy interior, and spacious trunk make the CS serviceable for daily slogs.
Steep price of admission
Since one of my main goals in life would be taking the M4 CS to the track whenever possible, my ideal build would be identical to my test car. The $550 San Marino Blue metallic paint is a stunning coat on the M4’s exterior skin, and the expensive carbon ceramic brakes will let me push it hard on track for longer periods without fear of brake fade. Those two options take the $104,095 base price, including $995 for destination, up to $112,795.
Is the BMW M4 CS really worth the extra loot? The base price premium between a standard, dual-clutch M4 and the CS is $31,050, or $26,300 to jump from an M4 Competition to the limited-edition CS. To BMW enthusiasts, that might not be a tall order, especially considering less than 1,000 of these will come to the US over the next two years. And hey, it’s still a far cry from the $135,000 M4 GTS.