2023 BMW M4 CSL: The Lightweight Legend Is Back After 18 Years

BMW’s latest track special gets unadjustable seats, very artsy taillights, and a whole lotta carbon.

byChris TsuiMay 19, 2022 6:01 PM
A gray 2023 BMW M4 CSL is powersliding on a racetrack.
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Of all the performance suffixes you can attach to a BMW, CSL (short for Competition Sport Lightweight) may just be the one that creates the highest of expectations. Hopefully, BMW has brought its A-game here because following in the footsteps of the legends that were the 3.0 CSL and E46 M3 CSL, is the new 2023 BMW M4 CSL, the latest in a long line of lightened, tightened, limited-run Bavarian coupes.

To create it, BMW took the already-feisty M4 Competition and gave it more power, less weight, and a stiffer, more track-ready demeanor. The M4's twin-turbo, 3.0-liter straight-six engine has had its boost pressure turned up and now makes 543 horsepower—40 up from the Comp—while curb weight is down 240 pounds, tipping the scales at 3,640 pounds total. Peak torque, however, is unchanged from the M4 Competition's 479 pound-feet, but the CSL makes it available for 450 additional rpm at the high end. New stiffer mounts hold up the engine, as well as the eight-speed automatic transmission that funnels power exclusively to the rear wheels.

As a result, the M4 CSL gets from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, that's 0.2 secs quicker than the rear-drive M4 Comp but 0.2 seconds slower than M4 Comp xDrive. The CSL reaches 120 mph in 10.5 seconds and boasts an electronically limited top speed of 191. The company also says it is the fastest production BMW to ever lap the Nürburgring, making its way around the Nordschleife in 7:20.2.

To shave off all that weight, the M4 CSL uses carbon for its hood and trunk lid in addition to its roof. There's a carbon front splitter and a duckbill spoiler molded into the trunk lid for the benefit of downforce. To both give the car an airflow-optimizing racecar look and, of course, send more actual airflow to the radiators, the kidney grille has fewer slats inside. Despite the controversy it has generated, BMW is seemingly doubling-down on the bucktoothed look, giving the CSL's hood a pair of exposed carbon sections that mirror the grille and feature red surrounds that blend into the double-bubble-style roof. Those funky-looking BMW badges, by the way, are there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the brand's M division.

That kidney grille is flanked by yellow DRLs mimicking the ones on GT race cars as well as the marvelous M5 CS. Around the back, laser taillights feature a very cool string design that adds a little art to the functional brutalism that defines the rest of this car. Like, for example, the very beefy-looking aluminum strut brace found under the hood is apparently made specifically for the M4 CSL.

Riding 0.3 inches lower than M4 Comp, the double-joint spring strut front axle and multi-link rear axle has, of course, been retuned and optimized and is aided by new, CSL-specific anti-roll bars front and rear. The rear subframe is connected directly to the body with no rubber parts in between while four additional ball joints in the rear axle replace rubber joints and are said to have zero play. Adaptive dampers smooth out the ride when a hard one isn't necessary but can also stiffen the car up for maximum attack.

Standard lightweight carbon-ceramic brakes measuring 15.7 inches up front, 15 inches in the rear, and weighing 31.5 pounds less than the regular M Compounds hide behind unique forged light-alloy wheels measuring 19 inches up front and 20 inches in the rear. Surrounding those are a set of ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires sitting 275 mm wide in the front and 285 mm in the back. For those looking for more daily-friendly rubber, the same tires off of the M4 Comp are available as a no-cost option. Regardless of which tire you choose, a titanium rear exhaust silencer gets the weight down by another nine pounds and pairs with two electronically controlled flaps to give the CSL its own motorsport-inspired noise coming out of a quartet of matte black exhaust tips.

In the interest of saving another 46 pounds of weight, the rear seats have been removed. Cutting another 53 pounds are a pair of standard full M Carbon, almost industrial-looking racing front buckets. As yet another part developed specifically for the M4 CSL, these front seats (as selling points) do not have heating, lumbar, or power adjustment. What's more, the angle of the backrest is fixed while adjusting the height requires a "three-stage screw linkage." You can, however, move these forward and back by pulling a lever like most other non-power seats but, unlike most other seats, the CSL's headrests can be manually disassembled to better accommodate race helmets. If these are a little too hardcore, more pedestrian M Carbon buckets with heating and full power adjustment can be added back as a no-cost option and are still 21 pounds lighter than the standard M4 Comp chairs.

Less and lighter sound insulation cuts another 33 pounds but, to my knowledge, cannot be added back as a no-cost option. If you can't take the noise, stay out of the CSL's kitchen.

Coming in Frozen Brooklyn Gray, white, or black, the 2023 BMW M4 CSL will be limited to just 1,000 units worldwide and start in the U.S. at $140,895. Production will begin this July. Say what you will about this generation of M4's front-end styling but having driven the Competition model on which this is based and knowing what BMW is capable of when the letters C and S come into the fray, I have incredibly high hopes for the M4 CSL.

Got a tip or question for the author about the M4 CSL? You can reach him here: chris.tsui@thedrive.com