by Karl Furlong
If you thought BMW M's 50th-anniversary celebrations were going to stop at the new BMW M4 CSL and an M3 Touring, then it's time to be pleasantly surprised. The new 3.0 CSL has been unveiled as a revival of the iconic homologation special from 1972 and one of the first official M cars. Limited to just 50 examples and loosely based on the M4 CSL, the 3.0 CSL comes with a bespoke design clearly inspired by the Hommage and Hommage R concepts from 2015, and it uses BMW's most powerful straight-six engine ever, producing 552 horsepower. Crucially, it has a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive only. This is BMW M's way of saying it hasn't given up on enthusiasts, especially after the gargantuan XM SUV made us worry that the M division had lost its way. As for rivals, nothing can be a rival to something this special, so why bother trying to compare?
See trim levels and configurations:
|3.0 CSL Coupe||
3.0L Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
Revealed in November 2022, the release date of the BMW 3.0 CSL hasn't been confirmed. With only 50 examples being made, it won't be easy at all to get your hands on a 3.0 CSL - and that's if you can afford the eye-watering price. We expect deliveries to begin around mid-2023, but the bad news is that the 3.0 CSL has not been homologated for the US, so this most spectacular BMW will remain the preserve of fans from outside our borders.
The price of the 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL places it in a rare realm of automotive exotica. At $780,000, it's over five times as expensive as the M4 CSL. But that's what you'll pay for a car limited to just 50 units and which goes through eight assembly cycles and the same amount of production stations, a process that BMW says takes 10 days per car. The complexity of producing the carbon fiber reinforced (CFRP) components by hand is another factor. This will also be one of the few BMWs to appreciate in value, and we would not be surprised to see some selling for seven figures in the years ahead.
As mentioned, it's difficult to button down rivals for something so exclusive. Based on price alone, you could get any number of exotics for less than the 3.0 CSL, including the V12-engined Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae, for around $500,000. However, even that isn't as exclusive as the BMW. Another car with way more power than the BMW was the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, but that's no longer on sale and was also far cheaper. As we said, there is no direct competitor for the BMW.
Based on some of other BMW's recent designs, we had every reason to fear what the 3.0 CSL might look like. However, the signs for this car were always good as it was to use the CSL Hommage concept as inspiration, and it adopts the M tricolor livery to striking effect. Overall, the changes to the exterior of the BMW 3.0 CSL are comprehensive enough that this will not be mistaken for a regular M4.
The headlights are the same as those on the M4, though, and they have yellow-colored lighting elements like the so-called regular CSL. These flank long, sizable kidney grilles, but these seem better integrated than on the M4, and the placement of the license plate below them is less disruptive. A comprehensive aerodynamics package includes a front spoiler, aero bars atop the front fenders, and a roof spoiler.
It's impossible to ignore the widened wheel arches, a visual hint at the large track widths that contribute to the CSL's superior handling. These arches surround forged light-alloy wheels with a Y-spoke design that measure 20 inches in front and 21 inches at the back. The wheels are center-locking items and have a gold-colored finish that recalls the style of the 1970s. Wrapped around these special wheels are Michelin tires that have been specifically developed for the 3.0 CSL, and they bear the number 50 on their sidewalls as a mark of M's 50th anniversary year.
Around the back, the 3.0 CSL looks fabulous. It has sleek taillights with filigree laser light threads that we first saw on the M4 CSL, but the lights themselves look different thanks to overlapping bodywork. Quad exhaust outlets are found lower down, with the exhaust system featuring a titanium rear silencer, and there is a prominent carbon diffuser in the rear apron. Small BMW logos are integrated into the C-pillar, another nod to the original CSL.
But it wouldn't be worthy of being called a spiritual successor to the original "Batmobile" without that big rear wing. Not only does it look good, but the wing generates added downforce to increase traction on the rear axle. This wing is enclosed on the sides.
To help justify its enormous price, the colors of the BMW 3.0 CSL are applied in an intricate process. Alpine White is the base color, but it's the trio of M stripes all over the car that really bring the CSL to life. This livery is applied largely by hand, with 22 individual parts painted in a process that's unique to this car. For the most part, this color scheme conceals the fact that carbon components are used for most of the car's body panels, but you can only pick this up via the lettering on the roof and the rear wing. BMW claims that a total of 6,700 manual work sequences in the paint shop are required, which represents an extraordinary amount of time and effort for a car being produced in so few numbers.
The 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL's exterior dimensions won't differ largely from those of the M4 on which this car is based. That means a wheelbase of 112.5 inches and an approximate length of 188.7 inches. What could differ are the other dimensions, such as width, height, and track width. Wider rear fenders could extend beyond the M4 CSL's 75.6-inch wide hips, while the new roof-mounted wing could affect the M4 CSL's 54.6-inch overall height.
While BMW did not state a curb weight figure, it did say that the power-to-weight ratio of the 3.0 CSL is 2.9 kg per horsepower. Based on that, it weighs around 3,527 pounds - or about 113 lbs less than the M4 CSL. However, it seems likelier that BMW used metric horsepower for its power-to-weight calculation, in which case the 3.0 CSL weighs 3,580 lbs, reducing the gap between it and the M4 CSL to 60 lbs. It's also unclear if these will be curb weight figures or not, so we'll have to wait for official specs from BMW.
Batmobile-esque styling is far from the most extreme aspect of the new boutique car. The engine in the BMW 3.0 CSL is now the most powerful straight-six mill that has ever been found in a road-legal BMW M car, producing an impressive 552 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the M4 CSL, the 3.0 CSL is up by 9 hp, but torque goes down by 73 lb-ft. That drop in torque presumably has to do with what the manual gearbox can handle. Remember, too, that the 3.0 CSL is almost certainly a lighter car than the M4 CSL.
In BMW tradition, the 3.0 CSL directs power to the rear wheels only and comes with a six-speed manual transmission. This gearbox has a shift assistant that uses a connection speed control for slip-free clutch engagement following a downshift when braking for corners. However, this function can be deactivated. BMW has not published any 0-60 mph times, but something close to the M4 CSL's 3.6-second effort seems likely.
Designed to handle as well as it can go quickly in a straight line, the 3.0 CSL comes with all of BMW's tricks, including an Adaptive M suspension, the Active M Differential that adjusts its locking effect to the driving scenario, and the M Traction Control system. The latter has 10 different levels to choose from, including a setting where it is completely deactivated and where drifting the 3.0 CSL to your heart's content is no doubt achievable. We do hope that the electromechanical M Servotronic steering has more feedback than in some other modern M cars, though.
M carbon-ceramic brakes promise excellent high wear resistance and feature six-piston fixed-caliper brakes in front, with discs measuring 400x38 millimeters. At the back, the discs measure 380x28 millimeters and employ single-piston fixed calipers.
No one buying a new BMW 3.0 CSL will give a damn about gas mileage or range, and we expect many of these to spend their lives in a hermetically sealed chamber instead of a garage or out on the road. The M4 Competition RWD's 19 mpg combined serves as a good estimate for those who do care, but we expect the 15.6-gallon gas tank to carry over from the M4 CSL.
The last area we touch on is perhaps one of the most important, as BMW knows better than to design a coachbuilt exterior and merely transfer the cabin from an existing car. At first glance, then, it may disappoint some that the interior of the BMW 3.0 CSL resembles that of the M4's so closely.
Seating just two, the rear seats have been tossed to save weight, but there is no roll cage, which would automatically make the car illegal in the US. In place of the rear seats is a storage compartment with two integrated spaces for helmets to be stowed. While it's obvious that the dashboard's design shares much with the M4, there are many unique touches to distinguish the 3.0 CSL.
The seats in the BMW 3.0 CSL are M Carbon full buckets. Finished in dark Alcantara, you can adjust seat height and inclination but have to do so via a three-stage screw linkage in a workshop. The longitudinal positioning of the seats can at least be done with a lever at the front edge of the seat, though. There are also removable headrest inserts.
Alcantara also finds its way onto the rim of the steering wheel, and there are numerous matte carbon surfaces. BMW says it has reduced acoustic insulation inside which should contribute to the engaging nature of the car, and the door panels feature CFRP trim. The mostly dark atmosphere is relieved by a red start/stop button, contrast stitching and accents that match the exterior paintwork, and a white gearshift knob. This knob has an engraved gearshift diagram and the number 50, and its retro design recalls the early days of BMW M GmbH in the 1970s.
Elsewhere in the cabin, we can see the usual iDrive rotary controller and the number of each unique 3.0 CSL indicated in the dashboard trim on the passenger side.
In theory, the BMW 3.0 CSL's trunk space should be carried over from the M4 CSL (12 cubic feet), but this could change based on the engineering and design requirements of a bespoke model like this.
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