Just 1,000 units will be produced worldwide.
Coupe, Sport, Leichtbau. Coupe, Sport, Lightweight, or CSL for short. These hallowed letters signify a two-door BMW sports car with minimal heft, and they have been legendary among Bimmer enthusiasts since the arrival of the glorious 1973 E9 3.0 CSL, and the iconic M3 CSL in 2003. BMW hasn't made another CSL since then, although it did create the innovative M4 GTS in a similar vein back in 2016.
But 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the automaker's famed M Division, and as such, the mad scientists in Munich have decided to revive the CSL legend with the first-ever application of the name to the BMW M4. After many teasers and what felt like an eternal wait, the M4 CSL has finally been revealed.
We'll start with the styling, since that is what most of the world will harp on about. Full disclosure: this writer is a BMW fanboy. That said, stop reading for a moment, look at the rear end of this car, and tell me I'm wrong for thinking it's bloody brilliant. Not classically beautiful in the way a BMW 507 or E38 7 Series is, but still.
As on the regular M4, the CSL has a roof panel made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), but BMW went a step further by constructing the hood and trunk lid of the same material. The hood is therefore three pounds lighter than the standard M4 Competition's aluminum piece and shows off its lightweight construction with a pair of recessed accents exposing the weave of the material. These recesses are bordered with red striping, drawing the eye to the double-bubble roof, which is also accented with red stripes. More red accenting can be found on the extended side sills and other areas that we'll get to momentarily.
The lightweight trunk lid of the M4 CSL calls to mind its inspirational forebear with an upturned ducktail design, and this emblematic design flourish adds just the right amount of retro style. The entire lid weighs 15 lbs less than that of the M4 Competition and "generates significant rear-axle downforce in dynamic driving situations." More CFRP can be found lower down, at the diffuser that houses matte black exhaust tips leading from a titanium rear muffler that shaves another 9 lbs of weight. Those tips are unique thanks to a stripe-patterned perforation on their inner surface. Back to the front of the car, we find an aggressive CFRP splitter that adds more downforce, with this also accented in red and showing off "CSL" lettering. CFRP is used for the outer edges of the air curtain inserts and the mirror caps too.
The massive front grille has now been given a more minimalist design that reduces weight and features fewer slats, thereby also optimizing airflow to the radiators, additional engine oil cooler, and transmission oil cooler. Red contour lines and an M4 CSL badge are visible too, with the red-highlighted badge repeated on the rear of the car and on the fender accents. We worried these grilles would look garish, but again, the whole theme is cohesive and truly conveys the impression of a performance-focused model.
Moving to the headlights, we see yellow daytime running lights as a nod to BMW's motorsport history, while the rear stands out from afar thanks to "innovative technology making its debut in a series-produced car" - the light functions are all performed by LEDs, but the glass covers have light threads woven into them that are illuminated using BMW Laser technology. We think these taillights are possibly the best cosmetic feature of the car, and we like the fact that new tech is being showcased, just as on the M4 GTS with its OLED taillights.
Weight-saving is a huge part of this car's DNA, and BMW has fitted ultra-lightweight sound insulation and less of it, saving 33 lbs. This car is going to sound and feel raucous, never allowing you to forget how specially adapted for track use it is. M Carbon ceramic brakes as standard reduce 31.5 lbs of weight compared to M Compound brakes. The red calipers in front bite down on massive 15.7-inch discs with six pistons while the rear single-piston calipers grab 15-inch discs.
The "exclusive" wheels (which will inevitably be copied on lesser models later down the line) measure 19 inches in front and 20 at the rear. These are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires (275/35 in front, 285/30 at the rear) as standard, but if you like, less aggressive rubber can be fitted at no charge.
In total, the weight-saving measures have reduced the overall figure by 240 lbs to 3,640 lbs, resulting in a weight-to-power ratio of 6.7 lbs/horsepower, which leads us to the power plant.
The 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged S58 motor now produces 543 horsepower, an increase of 40 hp, while 479 lb-ft of torque is available from 2,750 rpm to 5,950 rpm. BMW promises "a voracious appetite for revs, and relentless power delivery well into the upper regions of the rev range." Two mono-scroll turbocharges provide boost, with pressure increased from 24.7 psi in the M4 Comp to 30.5 psi here. The fuel injection system is also big on pressure, operating at a maximum of over 5,000 psi (the same as the regular M3 and M4).
A forged lightweight crankshaft, a closed-deck crankcase, and a cylinder head with a 3D printed core are just a few more of the enhancements enabling its appetite for revs and a 0-60 mph sprint to take place in 3.6 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 191 mph.
Side note: don't be surprised if BMW has underquoted power figures, acceleration times, and top speed - it often does.
You may remember from the reveal of the regular M4 that BMW created a new M Traction Control system. Well, the one in the CSL has been specially configured for track use: "Traction control in stages 1 to 5 is regulated in the same way as in the BMW M4 Competition, with stage 5 allowing the least slip at the driven wheels and stage 1 the most. By striking the balance they desire between track performance and handling stability on dry roads, drivers can carefully explore the car's dynamic limits and execute controlled drifts when cornering at speed."
Naturally, stages 6 to 10 are different. These have been "devised for the specific conditions encountered on track" and "instead of merely facilitating controlled drifts," these stages are geared towards optimizing traction under any circumstances and therefore delivering quick lap times. Stages 6 and 7 are designed for driving on a dry track with tires at the optimum temperature, but if the track is damp or wet, or the tires too cold or too hot, stages 8-10 help keep you safe "even in very challenging driving conditions." Basically, you have no excuse to bin this car.
Under the hood, a new strut brace cast from aluminum enhances rigidity, while retuned electromagnetic Adaptive M Suspension (offering Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes) promises exceptional handling.
BMW says that "the individually tuned axle kinematics and model-specific wheel camber settings, dampers, auxiliary springs, and anti-roll bars optimize steering precision, transmission of lateral control forces when cornering, spring and damping response, and wheel location."
The car is also 0.3 inches lower than the M4 Comp, while auxiliary springs have been added to each axle along with specially engineered anti-roll bars, four additional ball joints with no play (replacing rubber mounts), and a solid rear subframe. Driving this thing on a bumpy back road (in Sport+ at least) may send you to the chiropractor regularly, but all of this has meant that the M4 CSL has lapped the infamous Nurburgring in just 7 minutes, 20.2 seconds. This makes it the fastest series-produced BMW around the Green Hell ever, and even puts it above some bona fide supercars and hypercars.
Inside, the rear seats have been deleted to save weight and are replaced by a trunk partition with a net that you can store your helmets in (saving around 46 lbs). The front seats (finished in black Merino leather with red Alcantara inserts and boasting M tricolor contrast stitching) are bespoke items built especially for the CSL and feature a fixed backrest angle. The seat height can only be adjusted manually using tools on a three-stage screw linkage, but fore and aft adjustments are still possible with a manually operated lever.
Further reinforcing its high-performance circuit racing credentials is the fact that the head restraints can be disassembled for track use when the driver and passenger are wearing helmets.
These seats save 21 lbs over the standard M4 Comp seats, but if you don't care and want heated M Carbon buckets with full power adjustment, you can, at no cost. Please don't - just buy a normal Competition if you don't want the last word in lightweight BMW performance.
Carbon fiber is again used for the center console, shift paddles, and other areas (saving around 9 lbs) with the steering wheel finished in Alcantara with a red center marker at 12 o'clock. Despite all this, you still get a wireless phone charger and automatic climate control. Notably, the original M3 CSL did not feature a radio or any air conditioning.
As for customization options, the color you see here is an optional Frozen (matte) Brooklyn Grey metallic, but Alpine White is standard and you can spec the gorgeous Black Sapphire metallic if that's too dull. Black will naturally be the most elegant shade to spec this in, but we're sure that a large portion of buyers will go for the matte grey simply because it stands out so much. BMW has not said whether you can have the red accents deleted, but again, buying this sort of car isn't something you're going to keep quiet about. Standard BMW M 50 Years emblems for the hood, trunk lid, and wheel center caps add yet more pizzazz.
In summary, BMW has truly engineered a truly worthy successor to the M3 CSL and has left no stone unturned in the pursuit of ultimate driving pleasure. This is not a marketing exercise with a few tacky cosmetic changes and a slight power bump; it's almost a totally reengineered take on the already astonishing M4. It's lighter, faster, better looking (fight me), and rarer. It's a CSL done right.
This is sure to become a cult classic, just as its forebear did, and with just 1,000 units to be produced for global distribution, you can bet it will be a rare sight. Each one will be priced at $139,900 (plus $995 destination), making it more than twice the price of a base M4. Production begins in July of this year, and the car will be shown off publicly for the first time at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, from May 20-22.