the exciting new BMW 2800 CS Jerry Sloniger tested for WHEELS. He regards it as
right at the top, a superlative sportster, if expensive.
October 1969. By Jerry Sloniger.)
BMW 2800 CS is either the silkiest big sports car swinger I know ... or the
meanest 2+2 luxury GT coupe going. Or both. Particularly both.
This admittedly Teutonic-type package contains $6000 worth of dynamite in a velvet glove. It’s certain membership in the exclusive 125 mph club – yet the dues are a modest 17 mpg. It’s zero to 60 in less than nine seconds – without forgetting 20 to 125 all in fourth gear.
Slashing through, past and around mundane traffic proles like a bludgeon with fine-honed edge, the 2800 CS engine purrs so quietly for all its power you could forget the shift into top. After all, gear two can get you a ticket in any city and three will push 3000 lb. Of sybaritic style over the ton without touching a red line.
Say the big BMW coupe is an automobile of superlatives and you’ve said almost all. Such statistics are beyond faulting, even though the buyer with sufficient scratch to live happily forevermore in BMW-land must still overlook small niggles. Mostly of a body kind.
Karmann (body builder to German motordom with a real Charles Atlas complex) had a problem, of course. Pillarless hardtops seldom want to stay rigid. The 2800 CS does that part fine – at the expense of vast doors so heavy it takes two doormen to extract you, even though they open to nearly 90 degrees.
Then the door windows won’t roll clear out of sight. And it is probably impossible to build a glass-to-glass joint which doesn’t whistle, even if it does seal properly. Knobs for the wind wings require two strong hands each, but are sited where only a couple of fingers can pertain. (For some reason, BMW provides a car of this class with electric rear quarter panes but electric main windows are an extra.)
The elegant and readable dash with round tach and speedo (shamelessly fast: 10 percent at 100 mph) leaves most other functions to may-be-lights. It is flanked by a small-items shelf with dividers to prevent slithering about and the console bin has non-skid strips too. But the two drop-down glove bins came on all sticky and two-handed to open. Carpets snap into place but the driver’s still fouled his pedals.
Things like that could blow the mind if it were your own six grand (price including optional sliding roof) on the line.
Finally, the moment comes to climb in and apply the symmetrical, universal programmed key-like lock opener to its slot – once you get it to work the heavy door locks, that is. You’ve completed a walk-around noting matt grill and dinky side vents which a six-cylinder BMW sedan doesn’t have; the standard rear fog lamp and nearly-invisible heating wires in the rear window; the alloy wheels and the fact that only two can really go first class in this package.
Fire up, slot first, and nothing else matters.
The piston engine still lives – provided it’s made by BMW. Who needs rotaries, turbines or refrigerated steam? They couldn’t be any smoother than this seven-bearing, single OHC six and certainly wouldn’t put out its muscle. This engine produces 170 DIN hp so easily it’s indecent.
The husky torque peak (173.6 lb/ft) comes at 3700 rpm but the band is flat enough to pull like a sports car from 2500 or less and pick up celanly from 1500. In part this action comes from a bore of 86 mm and stroke (enlarged from their 2500) of 80 mm. Near-square engines generally come on strong and early. Some don’t like to rev, but BMW side-stepped that in a car you shove over 6000 without noticing.
The gear speeds work out to 35-65-100-125 and a classic 0-60=8.9 seconds. More impressive, the CS goes from 0 to 100 in 24 sec. Again most impressive, it will pull from 25 to 100 in top in just over half a minute.
And this is a 3045 lb car at the kerb – yet so like a missile-launching when you step down I had to look up the weight twice to be convinced.
All this power – enough for only a couple of gears if you were lazy – is fed through a ZF gearbox with stubby lever that cries to be used for the fun of it. Every notch falls in like closing the front door at Ford Knox and none of this slippery-knife-in-butter-but-which-gear-do-I-have stuff.
With one caution. This car wants to be driven. For instance, there is a small resistance to overcome when moving the lever from the 3-4 plane left to the 1-2 side of the box. There is then a little larger resistance when going farther left to the R plane (up past 1). Banging the lever across brutally will take you right on past the forward gears.
The large-diameter, thin-rim, leather-covered steering wheel with matt spokes (set a touch high for my taste) is connected to boosted steering which it handles with four turns lock to lock. On a compact 100in. Wheelbase, this gives U-turns under 35 feet and playfully easy town manoeuvres with just enough road feel left to ignore gusty cross winds when cruising near 120.
More to the point, it makes life easy when you are faced with linked S-bends, more often than not full of perambulating peasants. A small break in the oncomers and you are around one set on the outside, the next batch inside their tightening radius and free without turning a hair: yours or theirs. No indecent exhaust rap, no wild skids; simply gone.
Going down one face of the Alps, we did finally manage to induce some brake fade without loosing all our stopping at any time. Even then it only appeared because I didn’t bother to shift down for hairpins. In five minutes, brakes were fine again.
Hardly a small car overall, it doesn’t feel bulky in tight places because you can see all corners and are held by shoulder-hugger near-bucket seats. Even when the shocks began to fade towards the end of our 1400 mile run to Italy and back, it still handled rings around all but maybe one purebred, hard-riding sports-car met each day.
Perhaps this feeling is so strong because the effortless engine makes it unnecessary to dive and fight for small holes. You wait regally for the sfae spots and sail into the sunset unruffled.
Pushed really hard – if you insist – it has mild initial understeer and rather more sudden transition to a wild drift angle than you’d suspect. All BMWs seem to appreciate cornering extravagantly – tail-out at the limits, held on throttle alone.
Few with the resources for buying a BMW CS to begin with would count pennies at the petrol pump but that amazingly good 17.4 mpg (Imp) for a machine putting 100 miles into each hour along the freeways and run fully in the mountains does have a meaning. You only get 12 imperial gallons to play with – a mistake when two are interested in the modern version of the grand tour.
A large, flat luggage compartment carries all the extras a pair needs to travel in appropriate style.
Nubile onlookers may not fall all over themselves drooling at the heavyset styling of a BMW 2800 CS (it comes out strong as a car for matinee idols with one oscar already on the shelf) but they couldn’t help admiring your casual competence once underway. This coupe makes the most ham-footed driver among us look like Fangio setting lap records on his least frenetic day.