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BMW M3 CS review (2005-2006)
Model: BMW M3 CS
Body style: Coupe
Engine: 3.2-litre, straight six petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Date of test: December 2005
What is it?
The M3 CS is effectively a run out model of the current M3. BMW won't admit it though, instead preferring to refer to it as an underling for the rare and expensive M3 CSL that was briefly available in 2003. As such it gains some CSL-lite additions including 18-inch disc brakes, 19-inch CSL-style alloy wheels the option of exclusive Interlagos Blue paintwork and revised interior trim that includes an Alcantara covered steering wheel and handbrake lever and 'Alu tec' interior trim. That grippy steering wheel is attached to a sharper steering rack and also offers an M Track Mode button on it that increases the intervention levels of the Directional Stability Control. Oh, and at £43,555 it's £2,400 more expensive than a 'regular' M3.
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Where does it fit?
It's at the top of the 3 Series range while also effectively being the entry-level model in the M car line up. It may be based on the old generation 3 Series Coupe, but the M3 remains one of the most accomplished all-round performance cars you can buy. It's so good in fact that after driving it you really have to question why you'd want to spend the large premium to make the leap to the M5, or for that matter the M6.
Is it for you?
If you're in the market for an M3 it's undoubtedly the one to have. Sure, it's not any more powerful with the same 343bhp as the standard M3 but the minor tweaks it offers add up to an even more appealing package. The steering is more direct and that M Track Mode Button really does let you explore the upper limits of its dynamic ability with the assurance that if you run out of talent there's still some assistance there to back you up. It's pretty much unrivalled if you're after a performance car with Porsche pace and decent practicality - it may be a coupe but its got four proper seats and a generous boot, too.
What does it do well?
Involve the driver by offering a six-speed manual gearbox, direct, quick steering and a wonderfully crisp throttle response. The metallic cackling and rasping you get from the exhausts when you start it up and blip the throttle is the stuff of driving enthusiasts' dreams. That engine is hugely impressive on the road too, it not only providing a brilliant aural accompaniment but also plentiful power. Indeed, the 343bhp, 3.2-litre straight-six is regarded as of the world's most impressive powerplants winning many awards as a result. And it deserves them. Put that engine in the BMW 3 Series Coupe body, mate it to a beautifully balanced rear-drive drivetrain and you've got one of the most impressive and capable performance cars money can buy - at any price point.
What doesn't it do well?
That's a tricky one as the M3 CS really is a beautifully rounded car. Our chief concern with it though is simply the sheer number of lesser 3 Series models out there that perhaps detract from the exclusivity of the flagship model. That and it's based on the 'outgoing' 3 Series shape, which to some could also be seen by some as a negative. The rear seats, while perfectly useable and significantly more spacious than any rival are rather tight on leg-room, but really we're nit-picking here. The M3 is a brilliant car, and the CS only adds to its desirability.
What's it like to live with?
Actually living with the M3 CS is the key to its appeal. Despite its ability to sprint to 60mph in a touch over 5 seconds and onto a limited 155mph the M3 CS is as happy trickling along in the town centre as it is tackling a tortuous, involving alpine pass or trackday. It's this rounded ability that makes it such an appealing alternative to its less practical rivals. Something like a Porsche Cayman S might offer a more intimate and ultimately more thrilling drive, but you're restricted to one passenger and not much luggage. The M3, and M3 CS, is the unselfish performance car that can absolutely be bought as an only, everyday car without any real compromises.
Would we buy it?
Absolutely. It might be considered the old shape now and there's a new V8-powered car waiting for a 2006/07 introduction, but that doesn't lessen the appeal of the M3 CS one bit. Indeed, if BMW takes the M3's replacement down the route of the current M5 and M6 with their SMG paddle-shift transmissions and hugely complex electronic systems the M3 CS's appeal as a purist driver's car will only be enhanced. A truly great M Car, that's ultimately a more appealing proposition than either the M5 or M6 models as its ability and performance is so much more accessible, and crucially, useable, on the road.
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