by Jay Traugott
With an all-new BMW M4 expected in 2021, it's likely that 2020 will be the current generation's final year in production. If you have a particularly soft spot for the first-ever BMW to wear the M4 badge, the time to buy one is now, and if you want the cream of the crop - try to get hold of the M4 CS. A power hike to 454 horsepower, a 0-60 mph sprint time of only 3.7 seconds, and more carbon fiber than you'll know what to do with are the advantages of a lighter and even more focused performance coupe. Crucially, the chassis tweaks have greatly improved the appeal of the M4 CS as a driver's car and it feels far removed from the somewhat disappointing original M4 launched a couple of years ago. Standing on the opposite side of the boxing ring is the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe with even more power and an epic V8 soundtrack. With its improved handling and exclusivity, the M4 CS is the most desirable of all M4s and sets a high bar for the competition and its successor.
BMW has chosen to focus its energies on the next-generation 4 Series and M4, both of which are undergoing final development and testing. The M4 CS will, therefore, enter 2020 without any changes over last year's model.
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
The original M4 was launched long before the arrival of the dramatic BMW X7, the revised 7 Series, and the new X6, so the current M4 CS almost looks conservative alongside these newer models with its much smaller kidney grille. Make no mistake, it's still a purposeful sports coupe and comes fitted with 19-inch front alloy wheels (20s at the back) wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. There are LED headlights along with M compound brakes with yellow-painted calipers. High-gloss Shadowline exterior trim mixes with a power dome hood and roof constructed from high-tech carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) - these are just a few of many weight-saving measures which have been applied to the M4 CS.
Similarly-sized to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, the M4 CS is 183.9 inches long, 73.6 inches wide, 54.8 inches in height, and rides on a 110.7-inch wheelbase. Curb weight is 3,483 pounds, well over 600 lbs lighter than the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe and nearly 150 lbs lighter than the regular M4 coupe equipped with the manual transmission. Ground clearance for the road-hugging M4 CS is 4.7 inches.
The M4 CS gets a tweaked version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-pot in the standard M4. In this application, peak outputs are increased to 454 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with Drivelogic. No manual transmission is available.
As it always has, the six-cylinder's immense outputs provide staggering performance - less than four seconds to 60 mph and a BMW-claimed Nurburgring Nordschleife lap time of seven minutes and 38 seconds (about 14 seconds quicker than the standard M4) are the results of the CS' lighter weight and extra power. There's a bit more volume to the bespoke exhaust system than before, although it doesn't sound as pleasant as the C63's V8. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is good, but it's no longer class-leading: BMW's own eight-speed automatic and Audi's S-Tronic are both a lot smoother in general driving. That said, hook up Sport mode and you'll still get rapid shifts and loads of entertaining performance. From a standing start or passing on the highway, the M4 CS will leave the majority of other road users eating its dust.
The M4 CS has similar chassis tuning to the M4 Competition and gets BMW's adaptive M suspension and an active M differential. It all equates to a massively capable sports coupe - you can throw the M4 CS into corners at incredible speeds and still stay out of trouble thanks to the car's superb balance, accurate steering, and the endless grip from those Michelins. All the major controls feel taut and alert without the spikiness of the original M4. In Comfort mode, the steering feel is actually best - the Sport modes render the rack far too heavy. No matter which mode it's in, though, feedback remains disappointingly muted. Understeer? You won't find it here. Blasting past 3,000 rpm through a set of twisties, this is a brilliantly capable driver's car.
On bumpier roads, the firm suspension is surprisingly compliant, although it's never what you'd describe as plush. That's not the point of this car, of course, but the ride isn't so intolerable that you can't drive it every day. More of an issue affecting daily comfort is an absence of decent armrests which can prove uncomfortable on longer journeys. The brakes are excellent and effortlessly bring the M4 CS to a controlled stop from high speeds.
The CS returns identical EPA-rated economy estimates to the less powerful M4. Expect to see 17/23/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, enough for a 15.8-gallon tankful of premium gasoline to see a combined cruising range in the region of 300 miles. The Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe is a little better, though, returning 17/26/20 mpg despite the larger-capacity V8 lump under the hood.
The M4 CS can seat four adults. Rear headroom isn't great, but there's a lot more legroom back there than in BMW's own 8 Series coupe. The headroom and legroom in front are sufficient, the low-set driving position feels suitably sporty, and the lightweight M sports seats are appealingly trimmed in a combination of leather and Alcantara. Door pull hoops and compacted natural fibers for the door trim are used to further cut down on weight, but the main issue is a much too small armrest on the front doors and the deletion of the center console/armrest - longer journeys are, therefore, more uncomfortable than in the regular M4. Ingress and egress are fine, although getting into the rear seats requires the usual compromise that you'd experience with any two-door coupe. Visibility doesn't pose any issues and the M4 provides a clear view out.
At 15.7 cubic feet, the M4 CS has a decent amount of cargo space in the trunk and a wide opening makes it easier to load bulky and/or heavy items. There's more than enough space for the weekly shop, and room for some suitcases for weekend trips away. The rear seats can also be folded down to increase total cargo capacity. Small-item storage is on the stingy side, though, as the front center console has been removed. There are cupholders and a glove box, but it's not the biggest.
If you want performance and luxury, you'd be better off going for the regular M4 and adding on a couple of options because the M4 CS' focus on performance comes at the expense of a long equipment list. It's not without some of the essentials, however, as you do get single-zone climate control (a downgrade from the regular M4's dual-zone system), cruise control, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, push-button start, parking sensors front and rear and rain-sensing windshield wipers. There are relatively few options available considering this is a BMW, but a head-up display is a worthwhile extra. A power rear sunshade is also available, but we're not sure how necessary this is on a high-performance sports coupe.
Fortunately, the M4 CS gets BMW's user-friendly iDrive system as standard. It remains one of the more intuitive setups, combining a crisp 8.8-inch touchscreen with a central physical controller. The system's responses are also speedy, with no lag when transitioning between menus. Standard features include satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB audio input. Android Auto remains absent from every BMW, but Apple CarPlay is there for iPhone users. The standard HiFi audio system has been adapted to the CS model's unique acoustic demands.
J.D. Power hasn't yet provided a rating for the M4 CS and, according to NHTSA, there has been just one recall for 2019/2020 BMW M4s for knee airbags which may fail to deploy. If anything goes wrong, the M4 CS gets BMW's four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranties. Corrosion coverage is provided for 12 years with unlimited miles, while roadside assistance is for four years.
The M4 hasn't undergone crash testing by local authorities but you can rest assured that BMW has built a safe coupe, such is the German marque's reputation for safe vehicles. Although the M4 CS misses out on modern driver aids like blind-spot monitoring, it does at least have front, front side, and head airbags, along with a rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring, parking sensors front and rear and traction/stability control.
As a collector's item, the BMW M4 CS is without a doubt a desirable purchase. Very few of them will ever be built, and 2020 is likely to be your last opportunity to get your hands on the finest M4 outside of the limited-run, track-bred M4 GTS introduced a few years ago. It's not all about being a special edition version of the M4 coupe, however, as the CS is a superior driver's car thanks to brilliant chassis tuning, exceptional body control, and highly responsive steering. The engine doesn't sound as magical as the naturally-aspirated BMW straight sixes of old or the previous generation's V8, but it endows the M4 CS with breathtaking performance and contributes towards this being one of the best driver's cars that the brand makes. The cabin has just enough space for four, and we do like the racy materials used, but the deletion of some features and the lack of decent storage space do make this a more challenging coupe to live with off the track. There's also the Mercedes-AMG problem because the C63 S is just as fast, has an even more exciting engine, and does it all without losing out on features or shedding weight to the same extreme extent. It's not as precise as the M4 CS, but you only really notice this at uncommonly quick velocities. The M4 CS' rarity, however, gives it a unique edge as the range nears the end of its life.
Without any changes for 2020, the M4 CS is priced as it was last year and still carries an MSRP of $103,100, a considerable $33,950 more than the standard M4. The price excludes BMW's $995 destination charge along with tax, licensing, and registration. Of course, with only around 1,000 M4 CS models making it stateside, the exclusivity of the CS dramatically increases its allure.
Being a limited-edition model, there's only one BMW M4 CS variant. There's little in the way of options as BMW probably doesn't want you undoing its hard work to save as much excess weight as possible, but for $1,650 you could add on the Executive package with automatic high beams, adaptive full LED headlights, a head-up display, a power rear sunshade, and probably the most important feature in the CS: speed limit information. We'd add on this package and the M4 CS will top out at $104,750. For serious track work, M carbon-ceramic brakes are available as well, but they'll cost you a jaw-dropping $8,150.
Perhaps the M4 CS's closest competitor comes from within its own stable. At its launch, the M4 Competition atoned for many of the standard M4's disappointing dynamic traits and emerged as the M4 that many believed should have been released from the start. Just ten horsepower shy of the CS, the Competition Package delivers very similar performance for $73,900 - that's a saving of just under $30,000. Also in the Competition's advantage is a higher features count and fewer compromises in the cabin such as the CS model's missing center armrest. Both of these models have an active M differential and Shadowline exterior trim and it'll take some serious driving to detect the slight weight advantage of the CS. Of course, the Competition can't compete with the exclusivity afforded to the CS, but at the price, we'd rather get the Competition.
Despite a price increase for 2020 that takes its MSRP up to $77,500, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe still undercuts the M4 CS by a significant margin. The AMG has the higher numbers where it counts, though, with its 503-horsepower V8 out-muscling the turbo six-pot under the hood of the M4 CS. Both have the same 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, but the Mercedes reaches this mark with perhaps even more fury because of that V8's thunderous sound. It's this engine that allows the C63 to provide endless thrills, where the M4 CS makes its driver smile more because of its precision and sharper responses at the limit. True enthusiasts will likely hanker after the M4 CS with its blend of performance, exotic materials, and limited availability. But out on the road, most of the time - and when you aren't absolutely flooring it - the AMG is the more entertaining car. It also boasts a more stylish and luxurious cabin. The choice is yours.
Check out some informative BMW M4 CS video reviews below.