This is one of the M Division’s 50th Birthday gifts to themselves and 1000 of their best customers. Called the M4 CSL, only 100 right-hand drive examples will come to the UK and will be priced at £128,820. That’s almost £50,000 more than a regular M4 Competition. Quite a premium for a boost from 39 hp to 542 hp at 6250 rpm and 479 lb ft from 2750-5950 rpm. However, the L stands for “Leichtbau” or Lightweight, so BMW has worked hard to reduce the mass. The result is a curb weight of 1625 kg. Not exactly an Ariel Atom, but a 100kg saving over the rear-wheel drive M4 Comp is significant.
Not only has the CSL shed weight wherever possible – and they’ve worked really hard on that area – but they’ve also added bespoke springs and electronically adjustable dampers, rides 8mm lower and rosettes replace much of the rubber in the rear axle. There’s also a new and extensive cast aluminum strut that criss-crosses the 3-litre twin-turbo inline-six in the engine bay.
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So it’s an M4 with just two seats, carbon-ceramic brakes, a carbon-reinforced plastic hood and bootlid with an integrated E46-CSL-style trunk spoiler, less soundproofing, a titanium exhaust muffler, a lighter kidney grille (it’s still huge but it is lighter), more rigidity and precision and many other changes. The chassis electronics have also been adjusted. For example, the brilliant M Traction system has unique programming for settings 6-10, and the automatic transmission is solidly mounted and even more aggressive in terms of shift speeds.
The CSL comes standard with Michelin Pilot Cup 2R tires, but for our cold, drizzly time with BMW’s new hardcore coupe it wore the more versatile Pilot Sport 4S. Probably a wise decision, but it was a shame not to experience it in its optimal configuration. But the point of the CSL is that it’s meant to be fun in a wider range of circumstances than the previous-gen super-aggressive M4 GTS, which came standard with manually adjustable suspension and a roll cage and was very much a trackday and occasional street type of car . The fact that you can switch between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus suspension modes on the fly says a lot about the CSL’s slightly more rounded approach. Despite this, the CSL is very fast on the track and set a lap time of 7:15.677 at the Ring.
It’s also very fast on the road. BMW claims a top speed of 190mph, 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and 0-124mph in 10.6 seconds, but even those numbers don’t quite prepare you for it, like the 3-litre does -Twin turbo engine hits. There’s a brief lull at low revs while it catches air, but once the turbos are in the CSL it’s shockingly powerful and utterly unrelenting. The eight-speed box is supremely quick to the point of harshness and the whole car is shot through with precision. The CSL feels unlike an M4 Comp, that’s for sure, even if the old GTS was clearly an overall more focused product.
Of course, the danger of intentionally deviating from going full hardcore is that you end up with a car that’s neither usable and approachable, nor ultra-aggressive and exciting. But the CSL definitely makes a good first impression. Alongside the abundant power, the driving experience conveys a real sense of quality and control. It’s firm and you can tell the car is rosy connected, but the payback is the steering, which comes alive with feel and a greater sense of connection with the surface. There’s no escaping it though, this is quite a large machine and somehow when you apply ‘CSL’ to a new M4, its size and some inherent issues, like fitting an automatic gearbox, seem oddly at odds with the brief.
You can still feel its weight in the softer suspension modes. It’s surprising to say this after experiencing the M5 CS’s simply incredible balance and control, but the CSL feels a bit too soft at times. The body simply detaches itself from the control of the suspension. Select Sport or even Sport Plus and things improve considerably, but while smooth surfaces suit the CSL well, the relatively supple feel dissipates when the road gets bumpy and the car suddenly feels harsh and slightly unsteady.
There are some outstanding qualities. The ceramic brakes are excellent, but the car’s stability under braking is even better. It’s fantastically soothing – so flat and impervious to the surface (strange considering how it can feel when powered). The balance is pretty nice too. The steering’s texture can fade as you reach the limit of front tire grip, but the naturally benign balance between neutral and oversteer is such that it hardly matters. It might be more edgy on Cup 2Rs, but on PS4 it’s a drifter’s dream. Or for more ordinary road driving, it’s a car you can use to push your way around a corner. It’s adjustable and agile. Traction is remarkably good even in dry conditions.
There are many exciting moments. Some intended (like exiting a corner and feeling like the rear diff locks up and you’re rocketing onto the next straight), others less so (the way it can spin the wheels over a crest in wet conditions can give you that steal heart). However, we have some reservations. One big thing is that it needs an angrier, more memorable sonic identity. The E46 CSL’s induction roar was a big part of its every-drive appeal, but the new CSL is hardly more aggressive than the standard car. The titanium exhaust delivers the odd hit when driven over, but the car would feel so much more special with a turbo scream, for example. The Auto-Box feels like it’s been forced down a route it’s not quite designed for either. A double clutch would be much better.
Carrying this iconic, deeply evocative name can’t help but raise expectations. Combined with the recent form of the M Division – the M2 CS and M5 CS are really fantastic cars – I was very excited about the M4 CSL. In the end, it impresses at times, but doesn’t seem to possess the pure magic of more recent CS models. The insane intensity of the M4 GTS is also missing. Maybe a summer’s day and some sticky Cup 2Rs would help, but for now the CSL doesn’t seem like enough to celebrate the awesomeness of 50 years of M. Can we have an M2 CSL please? Or another M4 GTS?
Enjoy our big read on BMW’s new M4 CSL and more in the new issue of Evo. Order your copy from the evo shop now.
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