Could the E46 M3 CSL be the best car to come out of BMW M division? And can BMW build another one just as good?
CSL stands for “Coupe Sport Lightweight”, a moniker first given to the legendary race winning BMW 3.0 CSL. First appearing in 1972, the 3.0CSL homologation special model was very successful in racing, especially in the European Touring Car Championship and the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, thus securing BMW’s position amongst motorsport giants.
The first BMW M3 CSL appeared in 2003 and wowed enthusiasts all around the world with its use of racing technologies applied to a street car. Among these technologies was a modified version of the usual 3,246-cc S54 inline-six that lacks a conventional mass airflow meter. Instead, intake air is calculated directly by the DME, making for a much quicker engine response. Further changes include modified camshafts and exhaust valves, plus a lightweight exhaust system constructed of thinner steel. The CSL-spec engine is rated at 360 hp at 7,900 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm.
The E46 M3 CSL is most notably distinguished from the standard E46 M3 by its various lightweight components. The signature differentiation is the Carbon Fiber reinforced roof panel (GFP) which weighs 13 pounds less than the conventional roof. The front bumper support is also constructed of GFP, as well as the unique “Single Air inlet” front bumper. At the rear, the lower rear valance is made of GFP, while the reshaped trunk lid is made of SMC (sheet molding compound). Fiberglass-reinforced plastic is used for the rear bumper supports and this material is also “sandwiched” with thermoplastics and foam to create the trunk floor and rear bulkhead. As a final weight-saving measure, the rear window glass is extra thin. BMW claimed that the M3 CSL weighed 3,054 pounds, or roughly 10 percent less than the normal model.
The M3 CSL is equipped exclusively with the SMG II transmission featuring a special launch control mode that automatically shifts at the optimum point for maximum acceleration. This is mated to the standard E46 M3 final drive and M locking differential. Also, the DSC system of the M3 CSL can be switched to an exclusive M Track Mode via the steering wheel-mounted button. This raises the threshold at which the system intervenes to allow for some degree of sideways fun.
The suspension of the M3 CSL is based on that of the standard E46 M3. However, it does incorporate a number of changes: shorter stiffer springs and shocks with different rates (for both rebound and compression), plus larger anti-roll bars in the front (30.8 mm) and rear (22.5 mm). In addition, the normal aluminum front control arms (shared with the standard E46 M3) are joined by aluminum rear suspension links with stiffer ball bushings. Rounding out the chassis upgrades is a quicker ratio steering rack (overall ratio: 14.5:1) and larger 13.7-inch cross-drilled front brake rotors. Finally, the M3 CSL rides on lightweight cross-spoke alloy wheels measuring 8.5×19-inches in front (0.5 inches wider than the normal M3) and 9.5×19-inches in the rear. These are shod with special Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires sized 235/35ZR19 (front) and 265/30ZR19 (rear).
Conventional tires mounted to the 19-inch forged M Double Spoke II wheels from the standard E46 M3 were also offered as a no-cost alternative.
Serving the lightweight purpose of the M3 CSL, the interior could be specified without climate control or a radio. However, both were made available at no additional cost.
A total of 1,358 CSLs were produced for European track junkies between June and December of 2003, in both left-hand drive (823 built) and right-hand drive (535 built). South Africa received only 65 of these Right hand drive units of which many have been written off by inexperienced drivers…rumours are that less than half of the original 65 remain on the road today…
Well…we are proud to announce that one of these beautiful machines is currently available. We have in stock NO.3 of 65 which can be yours today…