2018 BMW M3 CS Review

Sebastien Bell
by Sebastien Bell

I don’t like the M3 CS. It’s not because the M3 isn’t fast or capable or impressive. And it’s not because it is uncomfortable and loud and makes people hate you. I’m okay with all of that.

It’s got more horses than the charge of the light brigade and it’s faster, too. So why don’t I like it? I think it’s because it demands so much of you, but all it gives you in return is pace. And that’s not enough.

Let me start by saying that I don’t wish the M3 CS was any faster. Thanks to its 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged inline six, it makes 460 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. With peak torque coming in 4,000 rpm and lasting all the way to 5,380 rpm and the horsepower coming in to take up the slack, before itself peaking at 6,250 rpm, the car has no trouble pinning you to the driver’s seat.

I have no complaints on that score, and it’s the kind of speed that’s usable. Thanks to the broad power curve and the heights they reach, you have to be hanging out very low in the rev range to not get a kick in the rear when you kick the throttle. In concert with the big brakes that take up an impossibly large swath of the wheel’s interior diameter, any gap in traffic—no matter how big or how small—can be taken advantage of. You can place this car with preternatural precision on a busy highway.

Trouble Rears its Ugly Head

The first time I hit the brakes, though, was the first time I noticed something was amiss. Despite being able to launch you forward with even more force than the engine can launch you back, the feeling of braking is limited to Gs. That is to say, you don’t get much from the pedal. Despite being very intuitive–it’s not like it’s hard to gauge how much pressure to apply—the pedal gives no real feedback. This is an impressive feat, to be sure. Other pedals that feel divorced from the brakes (looking at you, Giulia) are much harder to use. These brakes don’t do that, but that doesn’t really make them nice to use, either. On its own, that’s not a huge problem, but that video game feeling of being separated from the car by very effective controls comes back again and again.

ALSO SEE: 2018 BMW M4 Review

Here’s another example of what I mean. The car shifts very quickly, but your options for shifting it include the paddles and the gear selector. Both have nice, chunky, plasticky clicks. They’re the kind of buttons that feel nice to push, but you always know they’re buttons, not levers. There’s a difference between cracking plastic and feeling the mechanical connection to a vehicle. It’s the same difference that makes dual-clutches less engaging than actual manuals. It’s like asking for a meal and being given a piece of gum. They’re kind of similar, but they’re very much not the same. And that’s not even the worst of it.

Steering the M3 CS feels like you’re driving with winter gloves on. It’s a feeling that isn’t helped at all by the sheer girth of the steering wheel—seriously, it feels like it was designed for Johnny Bench. But the heart of the problem lies deeper. It’s why the only way I can describe the steering is through the physical shape of the steering wheel. It doesn’t feel like it’s connected in any meaningful way to the front wheels. That makes it a little alarming when you tip out of the dead spot at the top of the wheel and suddenly G forces start tugging at your head. The wheel is neither finger-tip precise, nor white-knuckle rough. It doesn’t fight back or play with you. It’s just heavy and dumb. Numbness is this car’s fatal flaw, which is an amazing feat given how much it jolts you around and beats you up.


Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six
Output: 453 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual Clutch
US Fuel Economy (Estimated): 21 city, 34 highway 27 combined (7MT)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.2 city, 6.9 highway, 8.5 combined
Price (USD): $99,245
Price (CAD): $114,100

Yes, it has a ridiculously stiff suspension. There is a setting (easily accessible) that will soften it up to less-than-back-breaking, but even then it’s not what you’d call comfortable. And that’s fine. I can deal with a stiff suspension. I’m not old. And I can deal with the dual-clutch gearbox shifting as harshly as a race car driver. I can deal with soaking up bumps with my spine, and I can deal with headbanging like a Motorhead fan. These sensations can be part of what makes driving a sports car fun. I just don’t want them to be the only sensations I feel.

The M3 CS is a car so obsessively focused on G-forces that it forgets to deliver anything else. Yes, it will launch you into or out of your seat if you really want it to, but you feel more like an astronaut in a centrifuge than you do like New Zealand racer, Chris Amon driving the 3.0 CSL around the Nurburgring.

ALSO SEE: 2 017 BMW M240i Coupe Review

It’s tempting to forgive the M3 CS its sins given how capable it is, and my tune might change if ever I get a chance to take it out on track, but the addition of CS to end of this car’s name means it only has one job: be exciting. I’d be willing—eager even—to overlook all its faults and foibles if it succeeded, but it doesn’t. It drives quickly, but not nicely.

The Verdict: 2018 BMW M3 CS Review

In the end, you give up luxury, comfort, quietude, smoothness, a pedal, lots of money, and a sense of attachment to the car for a few horses. But the M3 CS isn’t more visceral or exciting. It’s just less comfortable. And if you just want something that drives quickly, there are plenty of options and they’re much more comfortable than this one. That makes this feel more ascetic than intelligent and I find self-flagellation creepy.


  • More than enough power
  • True RWD for sideways fun
  • Transmission tuned for revs


  • Numb
  • Numb
  • Numb
Sebastien Bell
Sebastien Bell

Sebastien is a roving reporter who covers Euros, domestics, and all things enthusiast. He has been writing about the automotive industry for four years and obsessed with it his whole life. He studied English at the Wilfrid Laurier University. Sebastien also edits for AutoGuide's sister sites VW Vortex, Fourtitude, Swedespeed, GM Inside News, All Ford Mustangs, and more.

More by Sebastien Bell

Join the conversation
 1 comment