BMW has revealed the M4 CSL, the lightest, most powerful road-going version of the M4 to date with 40bhp more than the existing M4 Competition and a 100kg weight reduction.
The CSL has been launched as part of the 50th birthday celebrations of BMW’s M division and, road-going though it may be, the firm says that the CSL “has track driving as its raison d’être”.
With that in mind, when tested at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany, the CSL achieved a lap time of 07:15:66 over the 12.8-mile section usually used for testing purposes, and of 07:20:20 over the full 12.94-mile circuit — the fastest times recorded so far for a BMW production car (though still quite a bit off the production car record of 06:43:30 set in a Porsche 911 GT2 RS).
With the initials standing for “Competition, Sport, Lightweight”, it’s no wonder that the CSL has been on a significant diet, even compared to the M4 Competition.
The CSL uses carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) for some of the body panels such as the roof, bonnet and boot-lid, which saves 11kg in total. Another 24kg is saved using carbon-hewn full bucket seats; deleting the rear seats and seatbelts saves an extra 21kg; cutting down on the soundproofing and using lightweight insulation loses 15kg; the titanium rear silencer reduces the weight of the exhaust system by 4kg; and small shavings of weight here and there from the grille, rear lights, floor mats and the climate control system save four more kilos.
The CSL’s engine is another thing that gives it that track-focused edge. Using the same high-revving 3-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder unit as seen in the rest of the M4 line-up (including the M4 GT3 racing car), BMW has turned up the boost pressure on the turbos and altered the engine management settings accordingly.
There’s a forged, lightweight crankshaft to manage the extra stresses, while the cooling and oil supply systems have been beefed up to handle track conditions.
The flaps of the exhaust system have been acoustically engineered to create a notably loud “racing car-inspired” sound.
All those changes add up to 543bhp, peak torque of 479lb ft between 2,750- and 5,950rpm and a 0-62mph sprint time of 3.7 seconds. That power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Taking into account the extra power and reduced weight, the CSL has been granted greater overall rigidity by the addition of new strut braces in the engine compartment. So too has the suspension been tuned with revised wheel camber settings, dampers, springs and anti-roll bars.
The ride height has been dropped by 8mm compared with the M4 Competition, while standard features include adaptive suspension with electronically controlled dampers, variable ratio electromechanical steering and carbon ceramic brakes.
Also designed to cope with track use is the traction control system that allows the driver to set individual limits for wheel slip, with settings one to five allowing for controlled drifts and settings six to ten intended to maximise traction and stability. The wheels, shod in stickier high-performance tyres, are 19in in diameter up front and 20in at the rear.
As expected, the CSL’s interior isn’t packed full of creature comforts. The seats, for example, are described as “marked out by their self-supporting CFRP structure and purposeful rejection of comfort-enhancing features.” Although they can be manually moved back and forward, the angle of the backrest is fixed and, should drivers need to adjust the height, this has to be done in a workshop using a three-stage screw linkage.
The seats’ head restraints are detachable and allow the use of a six-point belt system and, if the track-focused nature wasn’t sufficiently underscored yet, there’s a storage unit in the rear for two helmets.
Hardcore as the CSL’s interior is, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in tech. There’s a system for recording lap times, for instance, as well as a 12.3in digital instrument cluster and 10.25in control and infotainment display with navigation and smartphone integration as standard.
Visually, the CSL also gets a few exterior tweaks setting it apart from other M4 models. Three colours are available with the metallic Frozen Brooklyn Grey as standard, while solid Alpine White or metallic Sapphire Black are also available.
Two indentations in the CFRP bonnet that aren’t painted in the body colour, but which are outlined in red, provide the confirmation that the bonnet is indeed made from carbon.
If that lot doesn’t make it clear that you’re looking at the M4 CSL, it also comes with yellow headlights, reminiscent of GT racing cars and as used on the BMW M5 CS.
Production of the new M4 CSL will begin in July and will be strictly limited to 1,000 units. Only 100 have been allocated to the UK market, making it a rare care indeed on these shores. But with rarity and track upgrades comes cost, and the 2022 BMW M4 CSL price of £128,225 makes it a clear rival to the Porsche 911 GT3, which is absolutely sublime.
Getting hold of either may prove tricky, given the limited production numbers, so it’s worth remembering that from just £74,475 you can pick up a BMW M4 Competition, which is less hardcore but still great fun to drive and has a power deficit of just 40bhp.
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