Lightweight Legend.The BMW M3 CSL.

CSL: three letters that give every sports car fan goose bumps. The BMW M3 CSL is regarded as an icon and the crowning achievement of the third M3 series. What's more, the M3 CSL still occupies the same unrivalled position amongst the various models in that series as it did when it was first launched. With it, BMW M took everything the top echelons of motorsport had to offer in 2003 and once again raised the sports car to a new level.

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  • 01 Special edition of the BMW M3 E46
  • 02 Max. output: 265 kW (360 hp)
  • 03 Number produced: 1,383
  • 04 Two ex works colour variants
  • 05 First CFRP roof in a BMW M production car


Lightweight construction was not just a promise with the M3 CSL: it is deeply rooted in the DNA of this unique sports car. With a curb weight of 1,385 kilograms, the engineers at BMW M reduced the already finely honed M3 Coupé's weight by an impressive 110 kilograms. In addition to reductions made in the body and the interior, a refined engine, transmission and chassis all made their contribution. The engineers also used a special, thin-walled exhaust system to save further weight.

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BMW M3 CSL engine


The proven S54B32 in-line 6-cylinder engine of the BMW M3 remained in the M3 CSL as the S54B32HP (HP means High-Performance), but now offered even more power. By adapting its camshafts and valves, the engineers at BMW M were able to generate a further 17 hp and an additional 5 Nm torque. A special highlight of the engine is its airbox: not only is it particularly light, the carbon component also gave the engine the uniquely characteristic intake noise that became so popular with fans.

In conjunction with other extensive lightweight construction methods, the M3 CSL achieves an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 3.85 kilograms per hp. More than anything else, that measurement is made possible by the consistent use of lightweight materials. Composite materials familiar from motorsport were used in the rear diffuser, front apron, intake manifold and some parts of the interior. In addition, the bonnet was made of aluminium and the rear window of special thin glass. The highlight, however, is on top, with the M3 CSL the first M model to sport a visible carbon roof – a feature that has become an integral part of the BMW M repertoire.

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BMW M3 CSL front left
BMW M3 CSL emblem
BMW M3 CSL exhaust


On the outside, the CSL can be identified by numerous details, such as the special door sills, the curved spoiler lip on the boot lid and, of course, the addition of those three special letters on its rear. The single ‘porthole’ on one side of the front apron, which gives the engine the necessary oxygen by means of an enlarged intake air duct, is also very striking and unique to this model.

BMW M3 CSL door sill
BMW M3 CSL shift paddle
BMW M3 CSL interior

Inside, the BMW M3 CSL receives its occupants with plenty of motorsport-typical purism, such as special door panels and bucket seats for maximum lateral support when accelerating hard. Buyers who were really serious about performance also renounced the comfort provided by features such as the radio and automatic climate control.


BMW M3 CSL colours


Connoisseurs usually don't even need to see the details that make the M3 CSL so unique, given that above all it is best known for the unmistakable and instantly recognisable sound emanating from its two twin tailpipes. A sports car that was still highly suitable for everyday use, it came off the production line in two exclusive colour options: Sapphire Black and Silver Grey.

The special CSL rims, on the other hand, soon lost their status as a distinctive feature of this classic model. As part of the 2005 Competition Package, they could also be ordered for the standard M3 production vehicle.

BMW M3 CSL Profil

By the time you’re sat behind the wheel, it becomes clear to every driver just how special the M3 CSL is. An even lower centre of gravity due to subtle lowering, shorter springs on the front axle, more powerful stabilisers, an increased camber at the front and rear wheels, a track width extended from 1,508 to 1,518 millimetres and the semi-slick tyres fitted as standard all ensure extremely sporty handling and unexpectedly rapid acceleration. Incidentally, anyone who presented a C racing licence when purchasing the M3 CSL could have its standard 250 km/h speed limit raised to 280 km/h.

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BMW M3 CSL SMG II transmission with Drivelogic

Shifting gears like in a racing car.


Radically agile, the M3 CSL is distinguished by its razor-sharp steering. To achieve this, perhaps the most uncompromising model in BMW M’s history was exclusively equipped with the powerful SMG II transmission with Drivelogic. Not only does this give the feeling you would expect from a racing car, in conjunction with the modified engine it also provides a driving performance to match. As a consequence, the speedometer needle hits the 100 km/h mark in just 4.9 seconds, and when the M3 CSL was tested on the legendary Nordschleife, it achieved a remarkable lap time of 7 minutes and 50 seconds.



In the footsteps of the M3 CSL.


Just a few years after the legendary BMW M3 CSL E46 series, the BMW M3 GTS (E92) appeared and got ready to fill the big footsteps of the CSL. Whether this could succeed, clarifies our vehicle portrait to the BMW M3 GTS.