Lighter, Faster, Meaner, And Motorsport-Inspired: This Is The 2023 BMW M4 CSL
The BMW M4 CSL is finally here. The Bavarian automaker’s competition and performance division, BMW M, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and while “the fastest letter in the world” is just as likely to appear on the trunk of a diesel-powered SUV these days, the letters C,S, and L still seem to mean business. Case in point, this is a 543-horsepower, rear-wheel drive track attacker that can complete the Nürburgring Nordschleife in just over seven minutes and twenty seconds—the fastest a production BMW has ever lapped the infamous North Loop. It’s not exactly a super lightweight at 3,640lbs, but it’s decidedly quick around a circuit.
This latest CSL (“Coupé Sport Lightweight,” or Leichtbau in its native tongue) is just the third-ever BMW to wear the the badge, and it certainly has big tires to fill given that the first CSL—based on the elegant E9 Coupé—immediately established BMW Motorsport in the 1970s by winning the European Touring Car Championship drivers’ title six times in seven years. Only time will tell what this new M4 version will add to the legacy, but for now the on-paper stats will have to do until the first press cars go out for reviews.
Compared to the M4 Competition that’s just been dethroned as the hottest two-door M car, the CSL has lost 240 pounds and gained 39 horses for a total of 543 available at 6,250rpm. The 0-62mph sprint is reported at 3.7 seconds, the top speed is limited to 191mph. The maximum torque is unchanged compared to the M4 Competition at 479lb-ft (between 2,750-5,950rpm).
All this thrust comes courtesy of a revised BMW S58 3.0L twin-turbo inline-six, which in the CSL has been re-tuned with new engine management software and a higher peak boost pressure for the two mono-scroll turbos (30.5psi versus the M4 Competition’s 24.7psi). The drivetrain is also more responsive due to stiffer engine and transmission mounts. Purists and old-schoolers won’t be psyched to hear that the only option is an eight-speed single-clutch automatic made by ZF, but they may perk up at the fact that BMW has had the good sense to keep this special model as rear-wheel drive only. Then again, the last CSL from two decades ago was automatic-only, so it’s not like any backwards steps have been taken there.
The Most of the M4 CSL’s weight reduction can be attributed to the removal of the rear seats (~53lbs), the option for lightweight carbon fiber bucket seats up front (saving another ~46lbs), and lighter wheels, springs, struts, and brakes (carbon ceramics, naturally), which collectively shave off another ~46lbs. Soundproofing materials have also been reduced or otherwise eliminated throughout the car to save ~24lbs. As you would expect, there is an abundance of carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastics on and in the CSL, of which the double-bubble-style roof, hood, trunk, rear diffuser, and the interior center console are constructed from. The exhaust is also lighter thanks to a titanium muffler system, and even the taillights, kidney grilles, and climate control system have been put on a diet.
Faster laps aren’t only due to less weight and more power, however. The M4 CSL also features model-specific aero, a CSL-only engine compartment bracing setup cast in aluminum, as well as its own suspension tuning (it rides .3” lower than the M4 Competition, and features unique camber settings, sway bars, dampers, and the addition of auxiliary helper springs on all four corners to keep the main coils properly seated in extreme conditions). The CSL also boasts a rear subframe that is attached directly to the body without any damping, as well as more rigid and more precise suspension geometry front and rear (the front end features forged swivel bearings, and the five-link rear end has had its rubber control arm bushings and mounts replaced with four solid ball joints with near-zero give to further sharpen things).
For the M4 CSL, BMW has added five additional traction control settings, which we’ll let it explain in its own words: “The standard-fitted M Traction Control function with model-specific track tuning lets the driver set individual intervention thresholds for wheel slip limitation. On dry surfaces, stages 1 to 5 of M Traction Control help the driver to execute controlled drifts. Stages 6 to 10 are based on the application developed for touring car racers and make allowance for both surface conditions and tire temperature to maximize traction and directional stability.” So basically there are five for-fun modes and five for hot-lapping in various conditions. Keeping track of them is up to you, but we imagine drivers will pick two or three favorites and not be too bothered trying to differentiate between the rest.
Aerodynamics and bodywork unique to the CSL include the front splitter, ducktail-style rear wing, the aforementioned double-bubble roof, rear diffuser, and a tweaked design for those kidney grilles/gaping maws. The CSL-specific cross-spoke wheels measure 19” of diameter up front and 20” in the rear, and wear 275/35 ZR19 and 285/30 ZR20 tires, respectively (Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R rubber).
Styling-wise, the CSL is also set apart by its paint and livery scheme, which features exposed carbon fiber stripes on the hood, and a nearly neon red striping and outlining motif inside and out. Exterior colors are limited to good old Alpine White, Black Sapphire Metallic, and as shown here, a dark semi-metallic silver that BMW has decided to call Frozen Brooklyn Grey. Brooklyn seems like one of the worst possible places to drive a stiffened-up sports car, but hey. Optional laser headlights complement the laser taillights (these aren’t just lights, they’re lasers!), and feature yellow accents in the daytime driving lighting elements. The BMW roundels throughout the car feature the original BMW Motorsport design which incorporates the traditional tri-color semi-circles (this badge celebrates 50 years of BMW M, and will be available on all other M models as of this year).
We’re excited to see the CSL namesake return after two decades of dormancy, and although there is no way to completely recapture the past, this car seems to be a pretty worthy machine from our armchair perspective. We hope to drive one in the future to get to know the thing for real, but until then we’d like to hear what you think about this badass Bavarian. Does it deserve those three special letters on the trunk?
For those in the market for one of these badass Bavarians, BMW is only going to sell 1,000 examples of the 2023 M4 CSL, which comes with an MSRP of roughly $141,000.