“Want the high-speed grand touring abilities of a Ferrari 599 but the impeccable comfort of a 4 Series? What if you also want track car agility thrown into the mix? It has founded the solution in this limited-run M4 CS…”
The performance car market is in an unusual state these days. Whereas once there was a strict distinction between sports cars and supercars, consumers today have a very different viewpoint on the disparate roles that various types of cars are able to play than they did in, say, the 1970s. Back then, a saloon was a saloon, a hatchback was a new-fangled concept to be treated with caution, an estate car was for someone who wanted a saloon but owned a dog, a sports car was the highest rung on the aspirational ladder. A supercar though, well, that was a sort of absurd dream that only rock stars could hope to claw down from the stratosphere.
Nowadays, however, manufacturers are working hard to blur the lines of model shape and size, to create ever-more obscure niches, that we’re able to make entirely different choices in our buying decisions. It’s this creative and colourful market that’s enabled the BMW M4 to be a genuine Ferrari rival. Naturally it doesn’t quite have the absurd performance of Maranello’s finest, but it’s not too far off – and there are other considerations need to be taken into account, it’s not just about raw numbers. Consider Richard Higgins’ case as an example: here’s a man who’s previously owned cars by BMW as well as Porsche, Audi, VW and, yes, Ferrari. When he found himself scouting around for the car you see spread artfully across these pages he was initially considering a Ferrari 599, or perhaps a Mercedes-AMG GT. How could a BMW sports car compete with these supercars and acclaimed Grand Tourers?
“Well, I really needed the rear seats,” Richard reasons – you can’t argue with the logic. And, given that a factory-stock M4 boasts a 0-62mph time a mere smidge over four seconds, it’s not as if Richard would be finding himself wanting for performance.
The M4 is an intriguing model in the modern BMW oeuvre. Launched in 2014, it marked the conceptual split between the M3’s saloon and coupé/cabriolet models. Ever since the M3 variant’s inception back with the E30, that iconic badge has been glued to the rump of every model shape, be it two- or four-door, roofless or otherwise, through the E36, E46 and E9x generations. But when the F3x series arrived, the M3 badge was only to be found on the more-door sedans; the coupé and cabriolet versions were badged ‘M4’, thus creating a handy little niche and the illusion of a whole separate model line. The specs really are formidable too: the heart of it all is the brawny S55 motor, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six which was specifically developed for the M3/M4. It sports a brace of mono-scroll turbos running at 18psi, enabling a launchmodel output of 425hp; buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or the revered seven-speed M-DCT transmission.
The car’s construct is a real statement of intent, with extensive use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) throughout ensuring that it doesn’t tip the scales by a gram more than necessary (or, at least, that was the selling point; as you’d hope of a top-spec BMW, these things are actually lavishly equipped – still, every little helps). The bonnet, although large, is surprisingly featherweight thanks to its minimalist construct, and you’ll find the sixth element making up the roof-skin, driveshaft, boot lid, and assorted other places. You get lightweight forged alloys, M-Sport brakes or the option of carbon-ceramics and, for the first time in an M model, electric power steering.
It’s a brutal machine by any measure then, but of course there are inherent compromises. There’s absolutely no arguing against the fact that a standard-specification M4 is an aweinspiring road car, quick enough to peel the lacquer from your teeth and sufficiently agile to rearrange your internal organs before the thing runs out of grip – and there’s always the option to loosen the electronic reins and get that tail wagging on demand, something else that the M4 is more than willing to do. But as well as being a hell of a sports car, it’s also a luxury GT and this is obvious from the interior appointments: sumptuous seats, oodles of buttons to fiddle with, and the fact that it’s a veritable tech-fest means that, despite all of those CFRP bits, it still weighs in at 1,617kg – or 1,642kg if you ticked the M-DCT box.
Naturally, of course, BMW are receptive to such concerns. They know their customer base inside out, and are well aware that more extreme and hardcore variants of sports cars will always find an enthusiastic audience. It has to be said, however, that they got a bit carried away when developing the special-edition M4 GTS; this psychotic six-figure road-racer had 493hp and shed 30kg of weight, which was all very welcome, but it also had track focused spoilers and a rollcage. An incredible package, but that kind of thing is not for everyone. So, BMW also offered the Competition Package (CP) for both the M3 and M4: this tweaked power to 444bhp, and brought in revised springs, dampers and anti-roll bars to work with the Adaptive M suspension. The diff and DSC were remapped to suit, and the interior was treated to some nice lightweight front seats.
A couple of interesting concepts on the M4 theme then, but what if you’re the type of buyer who feels that the standard M4 isn’t sharp enough, the M4 GTS is too much of an everyday compromise, and the M4 CP doesn’t do enough to improve over the base? Well, Richard is the buyer within this particular niche – someone, let’s not forget, who was also considering a Ferrari grand tourer – and for people in his position, the M4 Club Sport (CS) exists. Launched in early 2017, this was a limited-run of 3,000 cars globally to sit in that beguiling hinterland between the CP and the GTS.
The CS really was an impeccable exercise in fusion. It took the upgraded suspension elements of the CP, and blended them with the incredible supercar specification tyres from the GTS – Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, happy on the road but very much ready for the track. It’s got the GTS specification carbon bonnet with its deep cooling intake, along with the racy composite doorcards and minimalist door pulls. Power is up slightly over the CP, at 454hp, and the overall kerb weight is 32kg lighter than you’d find with a standard DCT-equipped M4 – 1,580kg all-in. Those Cup 2s are fitted to some pretty stellar rolling stock too – ultra-lightweight forged wheels in staggered diameters, 19-inches at the front and a meaty 20” out back. The rears wear 285-section rubber, which is almost comically fat when viewed from dead-on behind
That extra 10bhp over the CP is largely attributable to the fact that the CS wears a more free-flowing exhaust system, which very much speaks of its clubman character, and of course there are plenty of similarly similar upgrades to suit: the exterior serves up a sumptuous platter of carbon fibre embellishments, including the front splitter, rear lip spoiler, and rear diffuser. The manual transmission option was deleted for the CS, and with the M-DCT running the numbers that 0-62mph dipped to an eye-watering 3.9-seconds. And that’s a very alluring number indeed.
“This was the best value front-engined, rear-wheel-drive car I could find,” reasons Richard, and you have to admire the complex tangle of cerebral flowcharts behind the scenes that allowed his brain to arrive at this decision. Naturally if you want an affordable front-engined, rear-wheeldrive car you could buy, say, a used 320d or something; if a sporty profile was also required, then wrap that drivetrain up in a base-model 4 Series. But no, the angle of attack here was from a sports/supercar approach, and ‘value’ isn’t just about cold, hard cash. The worth and value of any, and everything you own, is measured not just in monetary cost but by the value it adds to your life: if you spend a couple of grand on a watch that you keep in a drawer and never wear or look at, arguably it’s essentially worthless; however, dropping seven large digits on a car that can be a jack of all trades but a master of all too – well, that value is near-immeasurable.
“I use the CS for drifting, occasional track days, and I can use it for work if I need to,” he says, and the logic of it all starts to shuffle itself neatly into order. This is a car that Richard ordered new from BMW, but its limited-run nature doesn’t equate to being a pampered garage queen – it gets roadtripped, tracked, and generally used for what it was designed for. But it’s by no means utilitarian, every journey is special thanks to those characteristic CS tweaks: “I love the fact that it’s different to the M4 and M4 CP,” he says, “and also the M3, M3 CP and M3 CS – which don’t have the carbon door cards and so on. I really like that it has carbon door cards and silly door pulls and no central arm rest, it feels more bespoke. And the GTS bonnet is lovely! “The car is very quick and easy to drive on the road,” he continues, “due to having loads of torque, a positive for turbos. I need to upgrade the brakes at some point; they’re not as good as the car deserves. I didn’t want ceramics as they are too costly to replace (and ceramics and gravel don’t mix either), so an upgrade is on the list. But it’s a very comfortable car – on a recent run I covered 1,500-miles in two days, with speeds up to 180mph and down to 30mph, rain and sunshine, it was a great place to be throughout.”
It really does sound like the perfect package, doesn’t it? Near supercar-levels of performance and agility, with the bona-fide GT credentials to munch intercontinental miles. Is there a downside, have there been any ownership pitfalls? “Not yet,” Richard smiles. “I have a great service manager at Bath BMW, and I find BMW UK really look after their customers. I’ve owned an E36 M3 Evo, E46 M3 CSL, 330d Touring, 535d Touring, 530i, E90 M3 and an E92 M3 – all of these cars have been fantastic, and on the odd occasion when there has been a problem BMW UK have been excellent.”
So that’s the answer, then. If you’re on the lookout for a Ferrari 599, what you really want is an M4 CS. It offers similar grand touring ability, you won’t be lacking in adrenalised entertainment on the right roads, plus you can fit passengers in the back…
The CS really was a masterstroke for the M4 line-up – not simply a marketing-led exercise in creating niches, but the perfect way to sharpen up the platform without the inherent compromises of turning it into a road racer. The formula takes into account that buyers want the racy upgrades as well as the usability, and it blends these desires sublimely. In an unusual and complex market, it’s a surprisingly simple decision
BMW M4 CS SPECIFICATION
– ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: S55B30T0 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six, seven-speed M-DCT
– CHASSIS: Forged 19-inch (front) and 20-inch (rear) wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, Competition Pack suspension
– EXTERIOR: Carbon fibre bonnet, carbon front splitter, carbon roofskin, carbon rear spoiler lip, carbon diffuser
– INTERIOR: CS specification with composite door cards and lightweight front seats