Spied: BMW M3 CS promises more power, less weight

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BMW M has a habit of rewarding its most diehard fans with a higher-output special edition, packed with track abilities beyond that of the standard M models. And if the M5 CS is any guide—27 extra horses and 230 fewer pounds—a limited-edition lightened with the use of exotic materials like carbon-fiber is a no-brainer for the current M3. As these latest spy shots indicate, an M3 CS is indeed on the way.

Since the spy photographers who caught this prototype (sadly) don’t possess x-ray vision, we’re left to suss out the distinctive visual cues on this mule. The exterior modifications are subtle but telling, aimed at optimizing aerodynamics and giving the CS its own party outfit. The horizontal slats in the prominent kidney grille are even more widely spaced than those on the regular M3, diverging into forks at their outer edges. The fascia is framed on the bottom by a deeper front air dam that sweeps into winglets before each front wheel opening. The headlights include amber DRLs, like on the M5 CS—an easy first-glance differentiator from the non-CS M3.

The most interesting bits about the M3 CS, of course, are what you can’t see. The first M3 CS (F80) arrived for the 2018 model year with a twin-turbo straight-six tuned to 453 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, 28 hp and 37 lb-ft above the normal M3, and its G80 sequel is expected to receive a similar bump in output. Since the current M3 makes 503 hp in Competition spec, expect the CS to brush against 530 horses.

Along with uprated power, expect the next M3 CS to boast a weight reduction courtesy of carbon-fiber panels—hood and roof are likely candidates, for starters—and possibly some extra-thin glass. A set of light alloy wheels is logical, and you can also expect CS models to include all the most track-focused hardware in the M3 catalog, such as the (currently Competition-specific) Active M Differential and the adaptive dampers. That means xDrive and, unfortunately, no manual transmission. Squinting closely at the prototype below, we can make out the gold calipers typically associated with the carbon-ceramic brake option; but if the previous M3 CS is any indication, the more aggressive but heavier hardware will be optional, and the default setup the lighter-weight M Compound brakes.

BMW M3 CS spied side view
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BMW will make sure the interior of the CS looks and feels different from the regular M’s cabin: Think extensive use of Alcantara and CS badges on the sills and seats, plus all the creature comforts you’d want from a grand-touring M model, like the uprated stereo and all the driver-assist aids. Those papered-over rear windows are curious, though. Could BMW offer a rear-seat delete on the CS sedan as it has planned for its two-door M4 sibling? Perhaps, but it weakens the case for buying the four-door in the first place.

As of 2022, turbochargers and big grilles headline the M3 show. Is a limited-edition lightweight special enough to woo traditionalist? We’ll have to wait until the next-gen CS goes on sale. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for full details, which BMW is expected to reveal next spring.

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