How does the 2024 BMW M3 CS rank up against the best limited-edition M3s?

The 2023 BMW M3 CS draws heavily from last year’s M4 CSL coupe to ensure it’s lighter, stiffer and quicker than the regular 2023 M3 sedan.

But, while it has the 553-hp (550 PS) CSL engine, its carbon bonnet and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, is it really the most extreme road car to wear the M3 badge since BMW applied it for the first time? first time to the trunk lid? almost 38 years ago? We rummaged through the M3 back catalog to look at previous M3s and see which offered the biggest improvement over the standard car.

1988 E30 M3 Evolution II – 501 produced

Related: 543-HP 2024 BMW M3 CS Is An Even Quicker M4 CSL For The Family Guy

BMW created the original E30 M3 in 1985 to compete, but to remain competitive in the late 1980s and beyond, it needed to homologate the updates the Evolution cars gave us. The Evo I was only slightly different, but the changes to the Evolution II included upgrading the wheels from 15 to 16 inches, thinner glass, a lighter decklid, a deeper front spoiler, and an added rear wing. The naturally aspirated 2.3-liter inline-four also got a small boost from 20 hp (20 PS) to 217 hp (220 PS).

Credit: Silverstone Auctions

1990 E30 M3 Sport Evolution – 600 produced

The Sport Evo may not be as rare as the previous EVO II, but it is by far the most desirable. It got adjustable front and rear spoilers, even wider fenders, chunky Recaro seats, and a more modern Alcantara-wrapped M-Technic II steering wheel. But the real gem was the S14 inline-four, which was enlarged from 2.3 to 2.5 liters and even with a standard catalytic converter (not required by law throughout Europe) made 235 hp (238 PS).

1995 E36 M3 GT – 350 produced

The M3’s switch to six-cylinder power for the E36 had already made a big jump in power to 282 hp (286 PS), but BMW increased that to 291 hp (295 PS) with the help of 264-degree cams for a short tour. of British Racing Green GTs produced to homologate racing upgrades. Other performance-focused changes included an adjustable front and rear spoiler, a tie-rod, and lightweight aluminum doors.

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1995 E36 M3-R – 15 produced

The M3-R was even wilder than the GT, although these Australian market cars were actually ordered as standard M3s before being sent to Frank Gardiner Racing in Oz for a comprehensive mechanical makeover legitimizing BMW Australia’s efforts in the Australian Super Production series. Each of the 15 cars received stiffer springs and dampers, AP Racing brakes, and a Schnitzer-modified 319 hp (324 PS) S50 B30 engine mated to an AP Racing heavy-duty 850Ci driveshaft and clutch.

Credit: Dutton Garage

1995 E36 M3 light – 115 produced

America was sold as a bit of a fool when the E36 M3 first appeared. Instead of the 282 hp (286 PS) S50 B30 with its six throttle bodies that the rest of the world got, American cars were left with a 240 hp (243 PS) S50 fed through a single throttle body.

But BMW North America instigated the production of the rather special M3 Lightweight, which retained that anemic six but made it feel much beefier by cutting 225 lbs. (102 kg) from the curb weight, fitting a short final drive, and applying checkered flag graphics. . to Alpine White III paint (only worth 20 hp). And for those who wanted to go further, dealers were prepared to provide suspension and brake upgrades, plus a special oil pan for high gravity cornering.

1994 E36 M3 GTR – 2 produced

The craziest of all road-going E36 M3s, though, is the GTR. Only two road cars were built to homologate the car for the 1994 ADAC German GT Cup Touring Car series, and with a fully stripped (but caged) interior, lightweight body panels stretched to accommodate 18-inch track rubber, and an engine 297 hp (300 PS). ) S50, even a trip to the shop must have felt like the warm-up lap at the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

2003 E46 M3 CSL – 1,383 produced

BMW hadn’t used the Coupe Sport Lightweight name on a road car in almost 30 years when it applied it to an extreme version of the critically acclaimed E46 M3 in 2003. ) to 355 hp (360 PS) and came with only the transmission of SMG paddle shift six-speed, and the lower, stiffer chassis featured wider front wheels, grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires and a quicker steering rack.

The CSL also gave us an M Track stability mode activated by a button on the Alcantara wheel that allowed more slip without completely removing the safety net. There were also subtle styling tweaks, including a carbon roof panel and composite front and rear bumpers and a sculpted trunklid, and the interior featured one-piece front buckets, special lowered rear seats and minimalist door panels.

2005 E46 M3 CS – 3,011 produced

Related: The new BMW 3.0 CSL is a restyled M4 with 553 HP and a manual gearbox

Don’t you remember the E46 CS? This is probably because only BMW Great Britain used that name for what BMW internally referred to by the code ‘ZCP’. Everywhere, including in the US, the same build was known as the Competition Package and was designed to give the regular M3 a light layer of CSL through the use of two-piece perforated brake discs, a steering rack faster, CSL-style wheels and CSL’s M Track stability mode. It didn’t change the S54 3.2 of the original M3, which came mated to the same choice of manual or SMG transmission and was rated at 333 hp (337 PS) in the US. BMW would revisit the competition package idea in 2010 in the E92 M3.

Credit: Matt Woods/Car Collection

2002 E46 M3 GTR – 3 produced

    How does the 2024 BMW M3 CS rank up against the best limited-edition M3s?

Like the original E9 CSL coupe of the 1970s, but unlike the 2003 M3 CSL or 2022 M4 CSL, which are just tasty marketing exercises, the E46 M3 GTR was a proper homologation special. Only three cars are believed to have been built to allow BMW to compete with a radically different M3 in the American Le Mans Series. How radical? Try an M3 not with the S54 straight-six fitted to regular M3 road cars, but with a 4.0-litre V8 making 375 hp (380 PS).

2011 E90 M3 GTS – 138 produced

The M3 GTS wasn’t a homologation special, but it did a solid job of fooling some people into thinking it was. It featured proper coil-over suspension, upgraded brakes, thinner glass, polycarbonate rear and rear side windows, dual buckets up front, and no rear seats to help cut 70 kg (154 lb) of flab. But the best was under the hood.

The E90 M3 road car took the lead from the older M3 GTR and moved to a 4.0-litre V8 for its 2008 debut, but the GTS got a 4.4-litre version of the same S65. Power increased from 416 hp (420 PS) to 444 hp (450 PS) and was channeled to the road via BMW’s seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission.

2012 E92 M3 CRT – 67 produced

The 2012 M3 CRT is to the 2011 M3 GTS what today’s M3 CS is to last year’s M4 CSL. Not that BMW made it very obvious to anyone passing a CRT on the street. This thing was seriously stealthy. While the GTS came only in bright orange, the CRTs were all painted Frozen Polar Silver with just a few red accents to catch your eye.

That name stood for Carbon Racing Technology, by the way, and highlighted BMW’s use of composite materials. The CRT’s hood, front seats and spoilers were made from carbon left over from the production of the i3 and i8 cabins. The 4.4-litre S65 V8 carried over from the GTS coupe, but the sensitive glass and rather plush spec made it clear that this was designed to be a more useful machine, much like the new four-wheel-drive M3 CS.

2016 F80 M3 Competition Package: 14,969 produced

BMW had offered its first M3 four-door in 1995, but 20 years later the M3 became a sedan-only model as BMW created a new M4 badge for coupes and convertibles that used the same turbocharged six-cylinder powertrain. . They all made 425 hp (431 PS), but the optional 2016 Competition Package for both the M3 and M4 (pictured here) bumped that up to 444 hp (450 PS). It was so successful that 14,969 people chose to check the box, while only 10,851 decided to take the M3 in base form.

2018 F80 M3 CS: 1,263 produced

The competition package was a success, but for a small number of BMW fans who wanted even more, BMW created an even stronger global CS model in 2018. Weight was dropped by around 22 pounds (10 kg) thanks to a carbon hood, there was a carbon splitter and rear wing, and the suspension was retuned to fit track-ready Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. And let’s not forget the extra punch: There was no E90 M3 CRT-style capacity increase for the CS, but it did get a power bump from 444 hp to 454 hp (460 PS), and torque increased from 406 to 443 lb-ft. (550-600Nm).

2023 G80 M3 CS

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The CS returns for 2023, but with a very specific ability it didn’t have in 2018, and we’re not talking about the fancy new curved iDrive dashboard display. For the first time, the CS comes with an all-wheel drive transmission only, though it’s all about BMW M’s clever xDrive system, you can switch it to rear-wheel drive mode whenever you want to play hooligan. The M4 CSL coupe, by contrast, is rear-wheel drive and thus substantially lighter (by 275lb/125kg), but both cars get the same 543hp (550PS) inline-six and all-wheel drive. of the CS. bite gets you to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds, or 0.6 seconds faster than the CSL coupe.

Looking at this family tree, we can see that the latest CS is the most powerful M3 yet, and the first to offer four-wheel drive, which could make it the best all-rounder of the lot. But it’s definitely not the craziest or most driver-focused. Which one would you park in the front of your garage and which one would you bury in the back?

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