When BMW unveiled the current M4, I thought it was hideous. Incongruous lines, no Hofmeister kink (that’s the kink in the rear side window on older BMWs), and oh my god that face. Now, I try to approach things with an open mind; maybe I thought it would grow on me in a year or two, like Bring Me The Horizon’s experimental electronic album. Well, I saw a Sao Paolo Yellow BMW M4 the other day and I’m sorry to say: It’s still hideous. While it seems like the M4 won’t get massively prettier any time soon, it’s about to get much, much faster. Say hello to the M4 CSL.
Let’s start with the big number. No, I’m not talking about the extra horsepower on tap, although that’s all well and good. I’m talking about the 240 pounds BMW claims it’s removed over the M4 Competition. That’s an impressive figure, although it’s worth noting that BMW quotes a base six-speed manual M4’s weight as 3,830 pounds, some 50 pounds less than the Competition car. Still, 240 pounds is a fairly massive number, so where did it all come out of?
Well, the rear seat has been tossed in the bin saving 46 pounds, the exhaust system’s now made from titanium saving around 9 pounds, the hood and trunk are made of carbon fiber saving 24 pounds, the sound deadening’s been largely ditched saving 33 pounds, the suspension, wheels and brakes are lighter by a combined 46 pounds, eight pounds were pulled out of miscellaneous bits like the kidney grilles, and a special pair of seats save 53 pounds.
The result is a two-seat coupe that tips the scales at 3,640 pounds. Except it might not. See, BMW’s global press release touts a DIN curb weight of 1,625 kg, or around 3,582.5 pounds. Now, DIN curb weight only includes 90 percent of a tank of fuel and since the M4 CSL runs a 15.9 gallon fuel tank, 1.59 gallons of fuel are still on the table. One liter of gasoline weighs 740 grams, so 1.59 gallons works out to roughly 11.79 pounds. Add it all up and you get a figure of around 3,594.3 pounds, or around 1,630 kilograms. That’s a notable discrepancy. Still, I’m not sure it matters which number is real, they’re all quite reasonable figure for a fairly chunky sports coupe.
Alright, so less weight sounds good, what about the powertrain? Honestly, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The engine is a special variant of BMW’s S58B30 three-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six engine that makes 543 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 479 lb-ft of torque from 2,750 RPM all the way through 5,950 RPM. For those playing along at home, that’s 40 more horsepower than an M4 Competition and no more torque, although the peak torque plateau extends 450 rpm higher than on the regular M4 Competition. Of course a modern CSL wouldn’t be complete without an automatic gearbox, so the M4 CSL packs a ZF eight-speed automatic. Lightning fast, very smooth, typically zero fun.
Let’s hope that BMW’s amped up the line pressure, especially considering that the CSL isn’t even the quickest M4 from 0-60 mph. That honor goes to the M4 Competition Coupe xDrive which does the dash in a scant 3.4 quoted seconds, that’s two tenths of a second quicker than BMW claims the CSL is. So why an automatic gearbox for the CSL? The answer lies on the Nürburgring.
Welcome to the big Green Hell, home of challenge pissing. That’s right, challenge pissing. How does it work? If you can make an amped-up, sticky-tired production road car go around the Nordschleife faster than anything else in its segment, you get something to brag about in your marketing materials. No need for weather correction, just pick a dry day with cool, dense air, hire a great driver, lick the stamp, and send it. It’s a fairly stupid test, but the M4 CSL was built for the challenge. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the CSL clicked off a time of 7:20.2, as witnessed in the video below.
So is a Nürburgring Norschleife time of 7:20.2 good? Yes and no. While the M4 CSL is quicker around the famed racetrack than any BMW, it’s 4.16 seconds slower than the time GM set in a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Imagine spending $140,895 to be slower than a Camaro. If you’re the sort to ply the used market, the C7 Corvette Z06 was also quicker around the Norschleife than the M4 CSL, this time in an independent test conducted by German magazine Auto Motor und Sport. Oh dear. However, only a handful of new cars stickering for less than $200,000 can lick the M4 CSL. You have the aforementioned Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS in full performance spec, the Porsche 911 GT3, and that’s it. So aside from the lightweighting and the extra power, how did the M4 CSL do it?
Let’s start with the tires. The M4 CSL comes on sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Rs, the same low-treadwear track-oriented tire Porsche used to set their blistering 718 Cayman GT4 RS and 911 GT3 lap times. Moving on to suspension, not only are the CSL’s springs and dampers re-tuned, its anti-roll bars and front strut top hats are new for increased roll stiffness and more front negative camber respectively. Also worth noting? The rear subframe is mounted rigidly to the unibody and four rear suspension bushings got chucked out the window in favor of ball joints. Finally, the engine and gearbox mounts have been stiffened up. This all sounds like a fairly typical playbook, no radical groundbreaking components here.
Also typical for a modern Nürburgring-attack performance car? Advanced traction control. No, I’m not talking about multi-stage stability control, I’m talking about AMG GTR-style multi-level traction control that modulates engine output to keep the wheels from spinning. The CSL features five more traction control modes than the M4 Competition, each of which is tailored for lap times rather than slidey fun.
Right, now that we’ve got the nerdy shouting mostly out of the way, let’s talk about styling and interior tweaks. The CSL has fewer strakes in its lung-sized kidney grilles than the standard car, so expect to see knockoff grilles on eBay in a few months. Honestly, the new grilles don’t improve or worsen the challenging mug, they’re really just a change without huge visual impact. The new carbon fiber front lip isn’t too dissimilar from parts seen in the aftermarket, although the new headlights with yellow daytime running lights are a nice touch. The vented hood would blend into the background without the M4 CSL’s graphics package, so kudos to BMW’s styling team for bringing back black-and-red stripes.
[Editor’s Note: Thomas, I love you. You’re a great writer, and your passion for BMWs knows no bounds. But — and please don’t hurt me when I say this — I kinda like the way this thing looks? I mean, those red accents on the hood, tracing out the boundaries of those black stripes flowing from those hood vents. And those orange DRLs. And the aggressive face. And even those front fender vents. Oh god; I think I actually likjadisfohiaofbioabfdia [sound of struggle, sack of potatoes falling to ground, silence] ]
Around the back, a squared-off interpretation of the CSL signature ducktail trunklid makes an appearance, as do a pair of revised tail lights with red lenses and string-like elements. Honestly, this butt lift works really well. It’s a shame that a) better rear styling is limited to 1,000 cars worldwide and b) the rear end of the M4 isn’t its biggest problem. Finishing it all off is red accenting on parts like the grilles, badges, skirts, and roof, along with a set of heritage-inspired BMW M roundels. On the inside, the M4 CSL gets lots and lots of carbon fiber. The fixed back bucket seats, center console, trims and steering wheel all incorporate the lightweight plastic. I’ll admit, it all feels a bit showy. Is carbon fiber trim really lighter than unadorned plastic? I doubt it. The seats do look wicked though, manually-adjustable and all the better for it. More comfort-oriented seats are available, but that’s like throwing a 15-inch subwoofer into a Lotus Elise. It defeats the whole vision of the car.
So, that’s the BMW M4 CSL. If you happen to have bad taste in styling, an undying loyalty to the blue-and-white roundel, and $140,895 burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to run down to your local BMW dealership. If that doesn’t describe you, you might want to spend your $140,895 elsewhere. I’ll be the first to admit, I love a good BMW. For decades, the Bavarian marque produced fairly normal cars for people who actually cared about the sensations of driving. This M4 CSL though? It just seems a bit dear. Don’t get me wrong, there’s every chance that it’s fabulous to drive, but $140,895 is a lot of money. America never got the E46 M3 CSL, but let’s run a comparison based on UK pricing. When new, the E46 M3 CSL retailed for £58,455 according to Top Gear, a £17,000 or 41 percent premium over the standard car. This new M4 CSL carries a 93 percent premium over an M4’s $72,995 base price. Is the M4 CSL going to be 93 percent better than a standard M4? We’ll see. That’s a very tall order to fill.
Lead photo credit: BMW