BMW M4 CSL: Heavyweight sports car drags back lightweight name
CSL: Competition, Sport, Lightweight. BMW’s new 3640-pound sports coupe is indeed lighter than the M4 upon which it is based—by 240 pounds—but only in a world in which two-ton electric vehicles are becoming the norm could this car be considered a lightweight.
Nevertheless, BMW has appended the famous CSL moniker to its latest M4, following in the footsteps of the 2568-pound 3.0 CSL of the 1970s, and the 3053-pound M3 CSL of 2003—the latter 243 pounds lighter than the contemporary, E46 M3. Safety regulations have obviously forced BMW’s hand in the 19 years since … but you may feel less forgiving when you recall that Porsche’s current 911 GT3 is more than 440 pounds lighter than this big-schnoz CSL.
A recipe with a rich tradition, BMW calls the CSL moniker, and it isn’t wrong. The original 3.0 CSL conquered its competition at the first turn in 1973’s European Touring Car Championship, while the E46 CSL is considered something of an apex of BMW’s achievements—a lighter, more focused, and better-looking version of one of the best-loved M3s.
What the latest M4 CSL has over its historical forebears is significantly more power, its turbocharged inline-six making 543 hp at 6250r pm, with 479 lb ft of torque between 2750 and 5950 rpm. Increase boost accounts for the 40 extra horses over the M4 Competition, though torque figures are identical. 62 mph arrives in 3.7 seconds, BMW claims, and a full lap of the Nordschleife in just over 7:20—the fastest yet for a series-production BMW road car.
Since any CSL must orient to the track, BMW has turned its attention to the car’s cooling and oil supply systems while upgrading the chassis. A new strut brace arrangement increases rigidity. Revisions to wheel camber, the dampers, springs, and anti-roll bars, plus an 8mm drop in ride height and a solid-mounted rear subframe, promise improvements in agility and precision. Stiffer engine mountings should also help, though they may introduce a little more mechanical noise into the cabin—no bad thing in a car like this. (As long as you like your M cars turbocharged.)
High-dollar performance hardware optional on other M4s are standard on the CSL: adaptive M suspension, M-specific variable-ratio steering, and carbon-ceramic brakes. So too are the traction and stability control systems tuned for the model, with a 10-stage traction-control system not unlike the firm’s Competition models.
The biggest factors in the CSL’s 240-pound weight drop are the carbon bucket seats, (minus 53 pounds), the removal of the rear bench and its belts (-46 pounds), and the chassis changes (carbon brakes, CSL-specific wheels, new springs and struts, for another 46 pounds cut).
Reduced soundproofing sees another 33 pounds float out the door, and replacing plastic and metal components for carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic (CFRP for short) parts sheds another 24.
A titanium rear silencer cuts four pounds, and BMW says detail modifications to parts like the grille, rear lights, floor mats and climate control system save that much again. The number to have in your back pocket this weekend? 240 pounds.
Whether the CSL’s new look will go down similarly well at the bar is a matter of taste. Parked next to an original 3.0 CSL or an E46 M3 CSL, it isn’t the most flattering advertisement for BMW’s current design language. The G22-gen CSL does get an exclusive color, Frozen Brooklyn Grey metallic (black and a white are both options), with red accents and carbon fiber elements sprucing up various parts of the car. Another unique touch, most recently seen on the BMW M5 CS, are optional laser headlights with a unique GT-racing style yellow coloring.
Inside you get those fixed-back carbon seats, which slide on rails but must be tweaked in the workshop if you want to adjust their angle. The steering wheel gets a coating of Alcantara, and buttons on it let you select your pre-configured M settings—a useful tool that allows a quick setup change for say, a track day or fun road.
Despite the “Lightweight” part of the CSL, name, there’s no great cull of cushy kit – climate control, an infotainment screen, a head-up display, and numerous active safety features remain.
BMW will build a limited run of 1000 cars, with production beginning in July 2022. Munich isn’t yet saying how many examples are allocated for the U.S., but we do know that 100 are U.K.-bound. The CSL’s sticker price falls shy of the 911 GT3’s, but it nonetheless represents an eye-watering jump over the M4 Competition: $140,895 all-in. (For context, you can spec an M4 Comp with the carbon-ceramic brakes ($8150), the buckets ($3800), and the carbon exterior package ($4700), and still squeak below $100K, destination included.) That’s $176.67 per pound saved over the M4 Competition, or $1060 for each additional horsepower. This pricey nostalgia bomb is clearly aimed at BMW’s deepest-pocked, most loyal fans and collectors.