Advertisement

BMW M3 E46 CSL- The Best Performance Car BMW Has Ever Built?

BMW M3, Featured Posts | May 30th, 2011 by 74
links_car_bmwblog_300x250

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? …

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.

BMW M3 E46 CSL  The Best Performance Car BMW Has Ever Built? 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.

BMW M3 E46 CSL  The Best Performance Car BMW Has Ever Built?

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).

BMW M3 E46 CSL  The Best Performance Car BMW Has Ever Built?

With more and more BMW vehicles “gaining weight” as new generations come to market, could BMW M build another street car like the iconic M3 CSL? Well, at a smaller and exclusive scale, they recently have built an unique M3. The new E92 M3 GTS is a spiritual successor to the E46 M3 CSL.

Although the M3 GTS is slightly quicker in a straight line than the E46 CSL, the lap times around the Nurburgring are surprisingly close. According to FastLaps.com, the 450 hp GTS is faster than the 360 hp CSL by a mere 2 seconds. 7:50 vs 7:48.

What the E46 M3 CSL lacks in horsepower over the M3 GTS, it makes up for in sheer driving feel and balance. Some consider the E46 chassis to have been the best BMW has ever built, making the CSL one of the best performance BMW ever.

BMW M3 E46 CSL  The Best Performance Car BMW Has Ever Built?

Let’s round up some other opinions from BMWBLOG team members:

Andrew Murphy – Editor

It’s BMW at its best.

The M3 CSL is just an honest, straightforward performance BMW. The CSL managed to combine many of the most identifiable traits of a BMW of the period into a single package. Naturally aspirated 3.2L inline-6, light weight materials, and hardcore near-slick tires wrapped around 19 inch wheels. The M3 CSL managed to deliver more performance than the standard E46 M3 at a still-reasonable price point.

The result of Garching’s hard work? A car that is worth much more than the sum of its parts. The CSL was the remind of BMW’s original roots – a sports sedan that car usher you around in style or a competent, wonderfully balanced track monster.

Misha Nikolich - Contributor

To me, the E46 CSL is the epitome of BMW M engineering and driving dynamics. It combines the roots of M’s early sports coupes like the E30 M3 with modern technology and lightweight materials. Result – a precise, no frills, pure motorsports inspired machine that touched the soul of those gearheads who crave pure driving nirvana.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaeldorian Michael Dorian Bach

    This is hands down my favorite BMW of all-time. At least coming from my generation. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaeldorian Michael Dorian Bach

    This is hands down my favorite BMW of all-time. At least coming from my generation. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaeldorian Michael Dorian Bach

    This is hands down my favorite BMW of all-time. At least coming from my generation. 

    • HeSam

      Same here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLNtmLQ2Rtw

  • David A

    Without a doubt THE best BMW of modern times. What a fantastic car. Even to date the design looks fresh and beautiful.

    Too bad we won’t see one in the US, the M3 EVO will probably be again an European only model

  • Brett

    Hopefully the new 3-series will have a CSL. It would sell well in the US and Europe.

    • Mateo

      yes, but without high-revving Naturally aspirated straight 6 it won’t be CSL no matter how many CSL badges the put on car

  • Brett

    Hopefully the new 3-series will have a CSL. It would sell well in the US and Europe.

  • Pingback: Anonymous

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=51500531 Andrew Murphy

    Yes Manny, yes it is the best performance BMW to date!!

  • LexusLVR

    The most overrated BMW for sure. How can one expect performance from this car when it will most likely break down under pressure? BMWs are not known for quality.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=51500531 Andrew Murphy

      They’re also not known for unintended acceleration like other manufacturers…

      • LexusLVR

        It was proven that the unintended acceleration of Toyotas and Lexus cars was due to the owners messing up. Sort of like the 80% of BMW 1 series owners that think their car is FWD…

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=51500531 Andrew Murphy

          Perhaps – I’m sure those who buy the hackneyed IS-F feel the same about their cars.

          • Stefan8656

            With everey new post your stupidity becomes increasingly evident…

          • Nnnn

            He’s not stupid, just somewhat negative.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hubert-Jadczak/100000325894622 Hubert Jadczak

            True, is-f is a hackneyed cheap part of piece of junk from toyota :)

    • Manny Antunes

      Amazing how this car is 8 years old and Lexus still has no answer for it! Oh wait, except for a $300K car….. SMH

    • Manny Antunes

      Amazing how this car is 8 years old and Lexus still has no answer for it! Oh wait, except for a $300K car….. SMH

      • Stefan8656

        Amazing how bmw has over 30 years of experience in the field of motorsport and Lexus f marque is only five years old but already builds way faster cars than bmw.

        • Manny Antunes

          …….and won how many races, grand touring championships, Formula 1 season championships over the last 4 decades???????? 

          EXACTLY!!!!

          Lexus is NO Motorpsort company……………

          • Stefan8656

            Yes that’s my point. Bmw has very much experience in motorsport which lexus has not. But still Lexus builds the lfa which is faster than anything bmw has ever build.

          • Manny Antunes

            So tell Lexus to put the LFA in Endurance racing and in GT class racing and let’s see who’s the king….

            Your argument doesn’t hold water with the LFA. it’s a $300K car. Give me $300K to build a lightweight Supercharged M3 and I’ll show Lexus how it’s REALLY done!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=744918851 Mike Meisner

            …yea and when any supercar mfg. like Mclaren wants a good engine, who do they turn to? Oh ya…BMW. I’d take an e46 M3 any day of the week over a sloppy Lexus.

          • BMWE30M3DTM

            Really because BMW built the mclaren f1 6.1 liter v12 back in the 90s and that had 627 hp which is a lot more than that piece LFA and the BMW m1 procar turbo I6 engine was capable of 850 hp. BMW hasn’t tried yet to make supercars (besides the M1 in 1971), the M8 prototype was supposed to have 550 hp and who knows how fast 0-60. Plus the lexus ISF went around the nurburgring in 8:18 and the CSL did 7:50. BMW has had so much success in making performance sedans and coupes that they probably don’t need to make a supercar.

        • Mateo

          funny hing, yamaha made some parts of V10 for lexus, that’s just LAME!!!!

        • Bayer Kraft

          Lexus is Toyota and Toyota have been in the motorsports for a long time, at least 30 years. If you understand this, it may explain a few things for you.

          Personally I think E46 M3 CSL is the best sports car BMW have ever made. I’m sure the 360 hp is intentional HP under estimate from the factory. There are videos where it keeps up with E39 M5 and audi rs6 at high speeds..

        • Rtcalo

          Anyone can build a fast car, it’s that BMW handling/steering, fun to drive feeling that takes years to perfect. The ISF might be faster but the M3 out handles it and its a way better driver’s car.

        • M3Guy

          M cars are not built for speed there built for the track, however get a horsepower freaks e46 M3 and it will smoke your ass all day!!

    • Free_estimate

      lexus is something I woudnt drive. Doesnt hold a candle next to any m3 old or new! face it you just drive a leathered out toyota

  • Torsnow

    Like Michael said, my favourite ever. Would give my left nut to drive one of these one day :)

    • Nnnn

      and if you double post……

  • Torsnow

    Like Michael said, my favourite ever. Would give my left nut to drive one of these one day :)

  • Malosmani92

    The answer is very simple… No
    As long as bmw will be using forced induction + efficient dynamics none of their cars will even come close to the legend. Don’t get me wrong i approve all these but however, i think that they shall be used only on normal cars not to M cars, they should remain pure for at least another decade.
    Bmw M3 CSL best car ever

  • Александр Солодников

    The CSL-spec engine … 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. Missprint?

  • Александр Солодников

    The CSL-spec engine … 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. Missprint?

  • Александр Солодников

    The CSL-spec engine … 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. Missprint? 373 more likely

    • Manny Antunes

      273 ft/lbs is correct. That engine could never muster up 373 ft/lbs. 

    • Guest

      The csl enginge has 273 ft-lbs which equals 370 nm but it produces them at 4,900 rpm.

  • Pingback: Video: BMW 1M vs CSL on the Nurburgring | labmw.com

  • Ksdjafkljdf

     very nice car i want to one a car

  • Mateo

    2003 BMW M3 CSL
    2005 BMW M5 E60
    1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution – 500 examples
    1992-1995 BMW M5 E39 3.8 340 hp

    if i were a football player, i would buy one of these instead of some Aston ,ferrari, mclaren………

    also i would buy 120i coupe and make it a csl, no radio etc. and 2 litre I4 would go to at least 250 hp!!! weight would be about 1250 kg, just 50 more than 1990 BMW M3 Sport Evolution!!

    only car apart these BM’s would be Maserati quattroporte GT S

    • Mateo

      update, it’s 1992-1995 E34 M5
      and 250 hp in 1 coupe would be of course naturally aspirated high-rev

    • Anonymous

      Very nice choice indeed. For me, there are a few more to be reckoned…

      1996 BMW 850 CSi
      2001 BMW E39 M5
      2008 BMW E92 M3
      2011 BMW 1er M Coupé

  • Rtcalo

    Definitely the best BMW  performance car ever built!! Too bad it didn’t come in manual form.

  • Pingback: Photoshoot: ///M Family Reunion

  • Pingback: Photoshoot: ///M Family Reunion | labmw.com

  • Pingback: Photoshoot: ///M Family Reunion | Digest about Car's news

  • Pingback: Photoshoot: ///M Family Reunion | BMW TV

  • Hamza

    watch thestig963 if you want to see bmw rule

  • Pingback: Two new cars that are sure to change how Americans drive | Cool Rides Online®

  • Pingback: History of sound : BMW M3 GTS / CSL / CRT / M3 Competiton Pack / 1M

  • Pingback: History of sound : BMW M3 GTS / CSL / CRT / M3 Competiton Pack / 1M | labmw.com

  • Pingback: History of sound : BMW M3 GTS / CSL / CRT / M3 Competiton Pack / 1M | Bimmerpedia

  • Pingback: What two BMWs would you own if they were the only cars you could have?

  • Pingback: BMWBLOG interviews BMW M CEO – “Yes there will be a follow up to the 1 Series M Coupe” | labmw.com

  • Pingback: BMW Super Bild: M3 - BMW BLOG

  • Pingback: BMW Super Bild: M3 | labmw.com

  • Pingback: BMW Super Bild: M3 | Bimmerpedia

  • Pingback: 50 BMW M3 CSL celebrate 10 year anniversary

  • Pingback: 50 BMW M3 CSL celebrate 10 year anniversary | labmw.com

  • Pingback: How the BMW M3 CSL came to life

  • Pingback: How the BMW M3 CSL came to life | labmw.com

  • Pingback: 7/2013 – M3CSL, E46 questions: What did CSL stand for on this model and what year? How much lighter than the usual M3 was the CSL?

  • Pingback: July 11, 2013

  • wissam

    check out How to keep your BMW E46 in top shape http://logicum.co/how-to-keep-your-bmw-e46-in-top-shape/

  • Pingback: Rumor: BMW M4 "CSL" lightweight scheduled for 2016

  • Pingback: Rumor: BMW M4 “CSL” lightweight scheduled for 2016 | labmw.com

  • Pingback: BMW says no M3 CSL or M4 CSL planned

  • Pingback: | Carbon Fiber Sunroof Delete Panel Installed in the M3 | Right Foot Down

  • Pingback: Spotted: E46 BMW M3 CSL

  • Pingback: Spotted: E46 BMW M3 CSL | labmw.com

  • Pingback: The Affordable Supercar: The Ultimate E46 M3 Buyer’s Guide - SAL Blog

  • Pingback: Did You Know BMW Built An M8 Supercar? | labmw.com

BMWBLOG

NEWSLETTER