So with BMW bringing out the new E92 M3 GTS, I thought to myself, “Well, here’s the closest thing to a CSL we’ll see from BMW for the current M3.” But then I started thinking, “Could this actually be closer to that of the E46 M3 GTR?”
The GTR was made in such limited numbers that only five are believed to be in existence. The GTR was also the first factory V8 powered M3. It had a a 4.0L V8 producing roughly 380hp DIN and 288lb-ft of torque (DIN is the modern German standard for horsepower ratings. It can be seen as DIN or PS. It also is measured in Metric Horsepower, instead of the American way of Mechanical Horsepower. DIN hp is measured at the output shaft.), or roughly 374hp in our standard. All this was to power an amazingly light car of only 2,976lbs.
The only reason that the GTR was made was to go along with the Le Mans rules stating that any vehicle raced must be produced in certain numbers for a certain length of time before the racing car starts its season. Since the Le Mans M3 GTR was a V8, the road car had to be, as well.
There was one big problem, though…
Porsche complained once BMW started beating them in their second season. In 2002 BMW won 6 of 8 races in the GT class along with taking a driver’s title and the manufacturer’s title. But since BMW’s M3 street car wasn’t a V8, the governing body of the American Le Mans Series was going to force them to add 220 pounds and a new restrictor plate. BMW opted to just hang it up and continue their efforts in Formula 1.
The CSL was a much different story for BMW, on the other hand. It was built as a more tuned and special version of the E46 M3. It wasn’t a racing car, but it was meant for the track and less so for the street. It was quite a bit more than the standard M3, but then again, it was quite a bit more of a car. Gone were the fog lamps, gone were the seats, air-con, stereo, rear glass, and so many other things. One big thing that went that should have been kept was the manual transmission. It was replaced with BMW’s SMG II transmission… Ugh.
But, it was still a monster of a car. It had the same 3.2L inline-6 as the regular M3, but it now put out 360hp instead of 333. The CSL also came with slick racing tires, which weren’t meant for anything less than perfect street conditions to drive in. The M3 CSL set the Nürburgring afire with a 7 minute 50 second lap time, which was, at the time, 3-seconds slower than Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS (the sportiest of all 911s), it is also the same lap time that Porsche set with its 2009 911 Carrera S with PDK, and 9-seconds faster than Cadillac’s current hot shoe, the CTS-V. Just watch the Top Gear episode above and see what Jeremy Clarkson has to say about the M3 CSL and watch how fast it is around the Top Gear test track.
The M3 GTS and the M3 CSL have a lot of similarities. They both come standard with lightweight CSL wheels, of which the CSL was the first BMW to get. Both cars also come with a carbon fiber roof, racing seats with racing harnesses, stripped out interiors (no radio, air-con, etc.), revised suspension, brakes, aerodynamics and engines and paddle shift gearboxes. The CSL could, however, be outfitted with stereo and air-conditioning… The GTS also comes without a back seat, whereas the CSL came with two racing style bucket seats in the rear.
The M3 GTS and the M3 GTR also have some similarities. They both have adjustable suspension and rear wings, along with racing seats and the same types of trim that the GTS shares with the CSL. Although the CSL came with special wheels, the GTR rode on the same 19″ factory performance wheels. The GTR still had upgraded cross-drilled brakes, like the CSL did, and much like the GTS does today. The only difference is that the E46 M3 had standard non-cross-drilled or slotted brakes, unless it was a CSL, GTR or ZCP model. The E90 series M3s all come standard with cross-drilled brake rotors.
Both cars also did without a rear seat and had roll cages for racing purposes, along with racing harnesses for seatbelts. The only differences are that the GTR was made to be a special street version of the M3 GTR racing car. The M3 GTS is made to be either a weekend track racer, similar to that of the 911 GT3, or it can be turned into a fully functional race car.
With all that said, is the new M3 GTS more like the GTR or the CSL? Well, really, it’s a variation of both. Where the GTR had to be made by the rules of Le Mans racing, the CSL didn’t have to be made, and neither does the GTS. So, in that way it’s more like the CSL. But, the CSL has no adjustable rear wing like the GTR. I could go on and on for days about what each one has and doesn’t have in comparison to the other. But what’s most important is that the GTS is a successor to both the CSL and the GTR. All three come with carbon fiber bits and body panels all over to make them lighter and faster. It’s like both of them in numerous ways, and unlike both of them in other ways.
Story by Josh at RawAutos