by Jay Traugott
When BMW revised its badging structure a few years ago and decided to slap an M4 badge on the back of its new sports coupe where one would be much more accustomed to seeing 'M3', brand loyalists weren't very happy about the change. The M3 is, after all, one of the most iconic cars in the marque's history. It turns out that such trivialities were the least of the original M4's concerns - more of an issue was the car's dynamics, described invariably as twitchy and the steering feel as lacking. BMW has swallowed some humble pie and since improved the M4, first with the Competition Pack and discontinued GTS, and now with the fourth iteration of its current sports coupe, the M4 CS. An increase in output to 454 horsepower along with several chassis upgrades have fine-tuned the M4 to great effect - it's now more enjoyable to exploit the coupe's incredible performance and handling limits. With a new M4 on the horizon, consider the M4 CS to be this generation's final attempt to put away competitors like the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe.
The M4 CS is a new addition to the M4 range for 2019. In fact, only 1,000 of them will make it stateside over the next two model years, guaranteeing exclusivity. The 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six produces 454 horsepower in the CS - a modest ten-hp jump over the M4 Competition - dropping the 0-60 mph time to 3.7 seconds. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) components help to keep the M4 CS's weight down.
The M4 CS is a proper looker. This generation of BMW's 3 Series-based coupes enjoys spot-on proportions and a mean front-end that has aged well. The M4 CS gets an increased injection of testosterone with forged alloy wheels (19-inch units in front and 20s at the back), a CFRP front-splitter, high-gloss Shadow Line exterior trim, LED headlights, and a carbon-fiber spoiler lip on the trunk lid. Of course, quad exhaust tailpipes are an M-car staple and the M4 CS is no different.
The M4 CS measures 183.9 inches in length, 73.6 inches in width, 54.8 inches in height, and has a 110.7-inch wheelbase. The CS tips the scales at 3,483 pounds, almost 150 lbs lighter than a standard M4 with a manual transmission. More tellingly, the M4 CS is around 650 lbs lighter than the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe.
The M4 CS uses the same 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder engine as fitted to other M4s, but in this state of tune, it produces 454 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, increases of 6.8 and 8.8 percent respectively over the standard M4. These aren't mighty power hikes, but together with the CS' lighter weight, are enough to marginally improve the 0-60 mph sprint time to 3.7 seconds. BMW also claims that the M4 CS clocked a Nurburgring Nordschleife lap time of seven minutes and 38 seconds, around 14 seconds less than the standard M4. The numbers tell only part of the story, though - the M4 CS is a blisteringly fast car. The extra torque also makes its presence felt off the line, while tweaks to the exhaust system have unleashed an exciting - if still not melodious - engine note. Unlike the standard M4, you don't have the choice of a manual here. The CS is only available with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic which is a handy tool during aggressive driving but can be frustratingly jerky at lower speeds around town.
We'll start with the downside of the M4 CS: even with all the upgrades, the steering remains heavier than it ideally needs to be (especially in Sport mode) and feedback is lacking. While motoring journalists harping on about steering wheel feedback can seem inconsequential to the average driver - this aspect of the M4 CS doesn't impact its on-paper ability - it remains disappointing considering what BMW once achieved with its steering systems, and what the likes of Porsche and Alfa Romeo still do now.
So, with all of that out of the way, we can appreciate that the M4 CS offers astounding levels of grip, turns in with more immediacy than the M4 ever has, and is, on the whole, a less nervous beast to pilot than the first M4. Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and a specially-tuned electronically controlled limited-slip differential contribute to the CS' improved handling characteristics. In Comfort mode, the standard Adaptive M Suspension dials back the aggression to make the CS a decent daily driver, but there's an expected firmness to the coupe that never quite dissipates. BMW M compound brakes are standard and do a great job of bringing the M4 to a controlled stop.
There's no great price to pay for the harder-edged CS at the pumps - EPA-rated estimates of 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined are the same as those of the standard, DCT-equipped M4. A 15.8-gallon tankful of premium gasoline should see the CS manage a combined cruising range of 300 miles. As with many performance cars, using the full spectrum of the M4's performance will see these economy numbers plummet.
The M4's extreme performance doesn't come at the expense of some decent practicality. There's seating for four adults and, even though rear headroom is restricted, there's enough space back there for shorter journeys with slightly taller folk. Headroom and legroom are plentiful in front. The driver gets a snug and sporty driving position thanks to the leather and Alcantara-trimmed lightweight M sports seats. There's more Alcantara trim on the dashboard and center console, and the lightweight door pull hoops and door panel trim fashioned out of compacted natural fibers are visual reminders of the diet that the CS has undergone. Visibility is generally very good.
Like previous generations of the M3 coupe, the M4 is also suitable for daily use thanks to a well-sized trunk. It measures 15.7 cubic feet, enough for a full grocery shop or a few suitcases. A broad opening also helps with the loading of heavier items, while folding down the rear seats expands cargo capacity appreciably. There aren't too many options for storing small items - there's a smallish glovebox and a pair of cupholders ahead of the shift lever. Unlike the standard M4, there's no center console armrest, further restricting storage space.
The M4 CS' development costs went more into its mechanicals and use of weight-saving materials than it did to an array of high-end features, but you do still get front and rear parking sensors, power-adjustable front seats with heating, keyless entry, automatic climate control, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, push-button start, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The options list is also more restricted than on other BMWs, but you can add amenities like a power rear sunshade, a head-up display, and adaptive full LED headlights via the optional Executive Package.
The CS retains BMW's excellent iDrive system, pairing a central controller with an 8.8-inch touchscreen. The system may not appear as slick as the latest Audi or Mercedes-Benz infotainment setups, but it's easier to use and iDrive also boasts fast processing speeds. Linked to the system are standard navigation, Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB audio input. BMW's HiFi audio system has been adapted to the specific acoustic demands of the CS.
The M4 CS hasn't been rated by J.D. Power. According to the NHTSA, the standard M4 was affected by one recall in 2019 for knee airbags which may not deploy properly. The M4 CS is covered by BMW's four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranties, along with corrosion coverage for 12 years with unlimited miles. Roadside assistance is covered for four years.
The 4 Series range - and by extension, the M4 CS - has not undergone testing for crashworthiness by the IIHS or NHTSA, but with BMW's excellent safety reputation, there's little reason to doubt that this is a safe coupe. Fitted as standard are front, front side, and head airbags. While you do get a rearview camera, parking sensors, a tire pressure monitor, and stability/traction control, most of the modern driver aids like lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring aren't available for the CS.
The BMW M4 CS is a great sports coupe from BMW, combining the standard M4's already impressive straight-line performance and comfortable cabin with improved handling characteristics, an enhanced turbocharged engine, racy CS-specific touches, and the exclusivity that comes with the badge. At over $100,000, it's highly debatable whether the M4 CS is worth $30k more than the standard M4, but the very same conversation was had when the E46 generation M3 CSL fetched a massive price premium over the standard M3 in the mid-2000s. In both cases, these CS/CSL-badged versions of BMW's sports coupe are collector's items and it's difficult to put a price on that. More than just its rarity, though, the M4 CS is measurably a better car than the M4 - the driving experience is purer and the car's limits more accessible. The cheaper Mercedes-AMG 63 S Coupe has even more power, it sounds better, and it has a classier interior. But for BMW enthusiasts, the fact remains that this is the best M4 there is. As a fitting swan song to this generation of the M4, the CS can blast off into the sunset with its head held high.
The M4 CS eclipses the $100k mark and carries an eye-opening MSRP of $103,100, excluding a $995 destination fee as well as tax, licensing, and registration. If you don't need the ultimate M4, you could save $33,950 and get the still-capable M4. Still, with only 1,000 units of the M4 CS making it to the US, it's the one we'd want if money were no object.
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
There's little in the way of choice when it comes to signing on the dotted line for an M4 CS, as only one model is available. There's also only one package: the $1,650 Executive package adds a head-up display, automatic high beams, adaptive full LED headlights, speed limit information, and a power rear sunshade. We'd go all-out and add this package on to take the total damage to $104,750.