The BMW M4 CSL Is A Pricey Stripped-Out Special Edition That’s Trying To Outrun Its Own Face

M4 Csl Topshot

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.

Bmw M4 Csl 3
Photo credit: BMW

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?

M4 Csl Rear Cabin
Photo credit: BMW

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.

M4 Csl Engine
Photo credit: BMW

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?

M4 Csl Front Wheel
Photo credit: BMW

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.

Bmw M4 Csl 1
Photo credit: BMW

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] ]

Tail Lights and ducktail trunk
Photo credit: BMW

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.

Bmw M4 Csl 4
Photo credit: BMW

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

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26 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for this refreshing article and I could not agree more. I’m currently on my 5th M car so I’m no stranger to the brand. My fellow M enthusiasts and I have been shaking our heads in disgust ever since BMW has embarked on this bold and ugly design language kick. I’m just shaking my head in disgust whenever I see a G22/82 and all of their new ugly electric vehicles. I came around with the Bangle E60 M5 thinking it was ugly until I ended up owning one and appreciating it but this time around is completely different though and these big ugly grilled repugnant BMW’s will never look good in my eyes. What is slightly annoying is BMW’s arrogant response to all the hate that anyone who doesn’t like these are all simpletons with unsophisticated design palettes. As a three decade long BMW customer, I find this attitude to be unacceptable. I hope real customers protest with their pocketbooks and shun BMW until they admit their design errors and get back to elegant and timeless designs. Until this happens after my F82 M4 my next car is something other than one of these ugly BMW’s.

  2. I’ll almost agree with the Editor’s Note embedded in the article.

    The front of this BMW rates as “nearly acceptable” to me, but only if it wears European plates. With a European plate as photographed, the huge expanse of the open-faced grille looks less monolithic.

    I, however, live in a “no front plate” state, so this, like almost all of BMW’s current lineup, remains firmly in the “too ugly for my interest” category.

    The Euro plate proves to me that if they had split the kidneys horizontally where the real bumper obviously is, this would be an attractive design. Especially if the kidneys were only on top, and the bottom was a single large opening. (I still hate the cheese cutter cheeks copied from Hyundai, though.)

  3. A lightweight edition that weighs more than the outgoing GTS which had a friggin’ roll cage in it. Did they even try? I mean for half the price you could have gotten carbon wheels on the GT350R when it was around or for 2/3 the price you can still get them on a GT500 CFTP; and that would have likely brought the overall weight closer to parity with the outgoing GTS model at least.

  4. I don’t hate it. That said, it probably wouldn’t make the list if I had that much money to spend on a car. It would make it on the list before a Tesla did, though, rest assured.

  5. “More comfort-oriented seats are available, but that’s like throwing a 15-inch subwoofer into a Lotus Elise.”
    Great article, but I have to disagree with you on this point. I dig all of the improved suspension aspects, but I would never track something this heavy or big, so the comfort seats would be ideal if I was to buy one (resale be damned!).

  6. “…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.”

    0.3% difference. Maybe a professional driver would notice. No one else will. IMHO, this NOT notable.

  7. Well I’ll never own one. Why? Can’t imagine having enough money to spend on a car. That being said if I had the money? NO. BUT interestingly enough it seems since they can’t make the kidneys bigger they added 2 half kidneys. Wanna bet they grow in size until it’s 4 bulbous kidneys? Like 5 different traction control modes? If only the Ring time matters and you can put an expert behind the wheel do you really need any traction control and if so does it need 5 levels? I also agree if you take out rear seat can’t you trim down the entire length of the vehicle and save considerable weight?

  8. Many “controversial” designs look better as you start seeing them around. The Acura “beak” comes to mind, especially when people started making them body color.

    But man, these 4-series. It just doesn’t get better. The nose, the piano black trim elsewhere. It is just terrible.

    I also live in an area where I’d expect to see a number of new BMWs rolling around, and the take rate on the 4-series seems to be slow. Is the nose killing sales? Searching the internet doesn’t reveal any info on their sales numbers compared to the last model.

  9. I’m sure it’ll be great ‘n all, but mostly for the proverbial dick measuring contest/bragging rights, b/c a 93%(!) markup over the standard M4 (which is not too shabby itself) is just ridiculous.
    Also, I was hoping for the looks to grow on me, but I just keep finding it to be the automotive equivalent of a butterface. I’ll just stick with my fleet of clapped out older Bimmers thank you!

  10. So you spend $70k+ for subtracting 240lbs, then the fat American driver gets in the car and you are back up by 240+ lbs. BMW has made dieting very expensive.

    On another note: Why do so many modern cars have that prolapsed butt look where the diffuser seems to be coming out of the larger shaped back bumper cover? I’m looking at you SUPRA (BMW).

  11. I remember the first time I saw the new lung-carrying 4er in the wild. It was going to turn so I only saw the side at first, thinking what is that, must be a new Hyundai or something. Then I saw that ugly maw, which the owner had tried to hide by spec’ing everything in black, and knew it was the new 4. I also knew I wouldn’t ever own one, it is so motherfucking ugly. Which sucks to say because I drive an E92 today, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful ‘normal person’ cars on the road anywhere, and in 2 generations it’s devolved into a Hundai-looking freak show.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, E-chassis or it’s CRAP!

  12. I don’t hate the looks, but I think I’ve grown more cynical with age. What’s the point of stripping a big car like that to save weight? It has the same size of a five seater, but it carries only two now. Feels like drilling a hole on a brick to build a sponge.
    Build something smaller, with a purpose, like an Ariel Atom or Caterham 7, and slap that big ass lung grile (yes, lung, because the kidney boat has sailed). At least it will be more honest.

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