Review: 2023 BMW M4 CSL

BMW's M Division has released a limited edition version of the M4 CSL, a sports car that focuses on power, lightweighting, and track performance, to commemorate their 50-year milestone. Only two vehicles—the iconic 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL and the 2004 E46 M3 CSL—in BMW's illustrious history have worn this badge.

The CSL philosophy, which stands for Competition, Sport, and Lightweighting, is very different from the M4 GTS from 2016. A total of 108 kg have been removed from the standard M4 Competition for a final curb weight of 1,651 kg, which is still excessive but not bad given that it weighs the same as a Porsche 911 Turbo (992).

Where did you get all those savings? 11 kg were saved by swapping out many of the aluminum body panels for carbon fiber-reinforced plastic ones. Another 21 kg were lost thanks to lighter alloy wheels and new carbon ceramic brakes. 24 kg weigh the new carbon bucket seats. removal of the back seats, adding another 21 kg. Eliminating sound insulation materials reduced weight by 15 kg, a titanium exhaust silencer reduced weight by 4 kg, and other minor auxiliary changes reduced weight by an additional 3.6 kg.

The front grill has fewer vanes than the M4 GT3 race car, giving it a cleaner, more aggressive appearance. The exterior design philosophy also adhered to this theme. A new ducktail spoiler pays homage to the original 3.0 CSL, and the carbon fiber roof is a standard feature. The DRLs flash in both white and yellow, just like the M5 CS, and the taillights have a thin threaded design. Red accents can be found everywhere, including the rear badges. The CSL doesn't really need to stand out because there are only 1000 of them being produced worldwide, and only 42 of them will be produced in Canada.

The interior receives the CSL treatment as well, and is similar to the CS models in that it has full carbon bucket seats without reclining, heating, or ventilation, and requires a torque screw to adjust the seat height. Other interior features include red paddle shifters, a suede steering wheel, the removal of the center console, and red paddle shifters. The heavier, heated bucket seats with electric adjustment can still be added to your CSL for a little extra comfort, but they weigh about 14 kg more. Given how constrained the CSL is, we believe BMW could have even gone further with it. Why not replace the torque converter with a manual transmission, which should be much lighter than this, and add lighter and thinner windows, door strap pulls, hollow out the door panels until they are bare.

The powertrain has also been modified by BMW, enabling it to set the fastest production BMW lap record around the Nordschleife. A new ECU tune, an increase in boost pressure from 24.7 psi to 30.5 psi, and updated engine mounts have all helped the S58 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six produce an additional 40 horsepower, bringing the total output to 543 hp. Rear-wheel drive and an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission are the only options, and the torque remains at 479 lb-ft.

In comparison to the M4 Competition, the ride height has been lowered by 7.6 mm, and the spring rates and camber angles for the CSL have been improved. Standard tires are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R, but buyers have the option of free Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires, which are better suited for city driving. All things considered, the CSL will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, which is two tenths quicker than the M4 Competition RWD but two tenths slower than the AWD. This is due to the advantage of having four driven wheels at the start of the acceleration process.

The M4 CSL is a pricey vehicle at $166,500, but after a few wet laps around the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Grand Prix circuit, we can see that it is capable. Compared to the standard model, the experience is much more unpolished and condensed. With a lot of the soundproofing removed and a new exhaust system, the inline-buzzing six's and booming fills the cabin and fills your eardrums with a mechanical symphony. It somewhat brings to mind the Nissan GT-R. As I backed out of the pit lane, I could hear rocks and pebbles bouncing off the undertray even through my helmet.

The track was damp and chilly despite the light rain that was falling. Instead of using the more difficult to warm-up Cup 2 Rs tires, BMW chose the more street-friendly Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires, which should perform slightly better in slick conditions. Even though the CSL has excellent mechanical grip, the front end lacked the assurance we needed to test its limits. Fishtailing resulted from trailbraking, but we eventually found balance between the steering and pedal inputs, which allowed us to concentrate and determine where the grip was on the drier parts of the track. In addition, we didn't want to tell the BMW representatives this story over lunch because this was the nation's first and only current CSL.

Nevertheless, we continued to push the CSL as hard as we could, and right away we noticed that it had sharper steering than the standard M4. The front wheels can be placed precisely where you want them faster and more directly, but you must still be careful with your initial inputs. The CSL was specifically and painstakingly designed for drivers who value handling and have captivating, winding roads to discover nearby.

We had to make sure there was grip before hammering it down the back straight because the acceleration was so strong it squirreled up the rear wheels without a second thought. Before letting up on the gas and coasting into the start of the esses at Turn 8, we reached 220 km/h. There is a ton of low and mid-range muscle, so you can advance astronomically without ever going above 5000 rpm. The CSL wasn't as responsive to our inputs as the xDrive models and wasn't nearly as forgiving if you were too abrupt, but it felt more alive as a result. Yes, it is more punishing, but the payoff is much greater when you finally come to trust its excellent brakes and exceptional stability and successfully nail it through the apex.

What was lacking from our drive was the chance to drive the CSL on public roads to evaluate how its modified dampers, spring rates, and tires perform. What is evident, however, is that the Porsche 911, Audi R8, and even the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 are serious competitors for this expensive limited-edition BMW M4 CSL. But it will undoubtedly inhabit a more exclusive sphere, and those fortunate enough to own one will delight in the CSL's unfiltered and compelling behavior, which is amplified by BMW's commitment to lightweighting and a driver-exclusive focus. For the majority, that ought to be sufficient. Happy 50th birthday, M.


  • Model: 2023 BMW M4 CSL
  • Paint Type: Frozen Brooklyn Grey
  • Base Price: $166,500
  • Price as Tested: $166,500
  • Wheelbase(mm): 2,857
  • Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,793 / 1,920 / 1,386
  • Curb weight (kg): 1,651
  • Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline-six (S58)
  • Horsepower: 543 hp @ 6,250 rpm
  • Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 2,750 - 5,950 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
  • Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S

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