BMW Confirms Classic 'CSL' Badge To Supersede 'GTS'

BMW clarifies its five-tier performance car designation scheme.

1974 BMW 3
Heritage Images—Getty Images

Last October, we learned of BMW's bids to secure trademark rights to the name "CSL," which it originally made famous through its 3.0 CSL, built as a homologation requirement for the company to field the car in the European Touring Car Championship. The CSL moniker has not adorned a BMW since the M3 CSL exited production in 2004, but the above trademark activity foretold BMW's efforts to revive the name, and a brand spokesperson confirmed to The Drive over the weekend that "CSL" will take the place of "GTS" on the company's most hardcore performance cars.

"CSL is still alive, and replaces GTS on further cars which are appropriate to get a CSL version—generally speaking," stated the spokesperson, in a communique outlining a five-tier hierarchy of performance cars.

Footing the naming scheme will be the company's current M Performance models, like the M240i, which rides the line between being just another 2-Series and a full M car. Above M Performance models are the M cars themselves, such as the M2, which yield the third tier to M Competition variants like the M2 Competition

Atop these sit M CS and M CSL tiers, denoting "Coupe Sport" and "Lightweight" respectively. Only the M4 has a CS variant known to the public, though pre-launch rumors of the M2 Competition conflated the CS and Competition badges. With CSL replacing GTS, that leaves the M4 GTS as an equivalent to the hypothetical M4 CSL.

Not every BMW with an M Performance model—like the X6 M—will receive faster variants, according to the BMW spokesperson.

"This hierarchy won't automatically come with every model, just where it makes sense. E.g. there won't ever be an X5 M CSL."

We now have knowledge of the CSL nameplate's return and BMW's pursuit of the CSL trademark in the U.S. as applied to its M2, M4, and M8. Between these two factors, it is not unsafe to assume BMW will roll out M2 CSL and M8 CSL models in the U.S. in the future, and with the known quantity that is the M4 GTS, BMW already has a standard to which its modern CSL cars will be held, independent of the golden oldies. It'd almost be an unfair comparison, no?

1992 BMW E34 M5 -- TEST/DRIVE
The Drive