Now that the BMW M3 CS is here, it’s naturally going to be compared to the M4 CSL. With both cars being lighter-weight versions of the M3/M4 and sharing similar names, they’re going to ride into BMW’s history books together. However, as similar as they are in many ways, they’re also very different. So let’s take a look at how they compare back-to-back.

Up Front

Both cars have extremely similar faces. That’s no surprise, really, as their standard versions look alike as well. They both feature the same frameless grille, with lateral ‘Y’ shaped grille inserts, the same aggressive from air intakes, and the same carbon fiber front lip. The headlights are the same as every M3 and M4, not just the CSL.

However, the only real difference is with the stripes on the hood. The two strips on the hood of the M4 CSL are black with red accents, while the exact same stripes on the M3 CS are just black, no red accents. Riveting stuff, I know.

From the Side

OK, so this one is sort of nonsense because one is a sedan (M3 CS) and the other is a coupe (M4 CSL). Aside from their door count, though, they’re very similar cars in profile. They have the same wheels (although they can come in bronze on the M3 CS), the same side skirts, the same side mirrors, and even the same Air Breather front fender vent. It’s like BMW just copied and pasted the M4 CSL’s design cues onto the M3 CS.

Out Back

This is where the two cars differ the most. For starters, they have drastically different taillights but that’s due to the 3 Series and 4 Series having different lamps. They also have very different rear spoilers. The M3 CS’ is just a little carbon fiber lip spoiler that was tacked onto the truck lid, while the M4 CSL’s spoiler is an integrated ducktail that’s built into the truck, a la the E46 M3 CSL. Obviously, the M4 CSL’s spoiler is more interesting and more expensive looking than the M3 CS’ little glued-on piece of plastic.


BMW really copy and pasted here. Aside from the back seats being obviously different, as the M3 CS is a sedan with a rear bench seat and the M4 CSL is a coupe with a rear seat-delete, the two cars are virtually identical inside. They both have black and red color schemes as their only options, both have Alcantara steering wheels, and both have carbon fiber sport buckets. The M4 CSL can be optioned with manually-adjustable racing buckets and the M3 CS cannot. And the M3 CS’ seats have more accents, but they’re mostly the same. Even the center armrest, or lack thereof, is the same.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, though. The two cars have similar names, similar purposes, and similar performance, so it make sense that they also look similar. However, under the skin, they couldn’t be more different. The M4 CSL is far more hardcore, more stripped out, lighter, and rawer. While the M3 CS is a bit heaver, more comfortable more practical, and comes with all-wheel drive. So as close as their designs are, there are very specific reasons to buy one instead of the other.