Light touchpaper and re-tyre

A potentially good car wrong-footed by rubber choice – BMW M4 CS –

One thing I enjoy about BMW’s current range of M cars is that you never quite know what you’re going to get. It makes life less easy to predict. Who’d have thought, for instance, that the highly specialised and expensive M4 GTS would be perhaps the worst M car I’d driven, or that the simple, no-frills M2 would turn out to be one of the best?

So it was anything but obvious to me what kind of car this new M4 CS would be. Would I love it, or hate it? In yet another surprising turn of events, the answer turned out to be both.

The CS sits in the gap between the standard M4 (which costs around £60,000) and the aforementioned and underwhelming GTS (which costs a staggering £120,000). It might be significantly less money than the GTS but don’t bother trying to justify the near £90,000 list price in terms of kit added over the standard M4, because you’ll get nowhere near.

It has an additional 30bhp, bespoke springs, dampers, bars, wheels and tyres and reprogrammed steering. It now has a carbon-fibre roof, splitter, rear spoiler and diffuser and a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic bonnet. With some interior trim removed it’s 32kg lighter than a standard M4.

It’s not as if it’s even that quick: forgive me for wheeling out the now ubiquitous term of reference that is the Nürburgring lap time, but I find it instructive that its 7min 38sec is just six seconds quicker than that recorded by a Honda Civic Type R, despite the BMW having half as much power again and costing the thick end of three times as much. It will accelerate to 62mph in 3.9sec (against 4.2sec for a standard M4) and has a top speed of 174mph.

I first drove it on a track or, more accurately, a streaming wet and very bumpy track, and it was horrid.

True, its Michelin Cup 2 tyres are not suited to such conditions but I’ve driven plenty of others on the same tyres on equally awful surfaces and not felt an overwhelming desire to park up and go and find something less treacherous to do instead.

It wanted to oversteer everywhere, including in a straight line.

Yet when I drove out of the circuit gates, turned right and hoofed it up the road, it was like a different machine. Here I found a car that scared me not at all, but instead enchanted me with its incisive steering, excellent ride quality and linear power delivery.

It felt special in a way a standard M4 never has, providing a driving experience that was memorable for as many of the right reasons that on the track had been wrong.

And at once it occurred to me that if you had a set of normal Michelin tyres (which can be specified), then there might be a quite a special car here, and certainly the best M4 created to date.

If you’re the sort of person who’d like something like a Porsche 911 Carrera S but needs rear seats worthy of the name, it’s certainly worth a closer look.



Price £89,130 Engine 3.0 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged Power 454bhp@7000rpm Torque 442lb ft@1850rpm Weight 1580kg Power to weight 287bhp per tonne Transmission eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive 0-62mph 3.9sec Top speed 174mph Economy 34mpg CO2 197g/km