2023 BMW M4 CSL First Drive Review
|3.0L I6 Turbo
|543 hp, 479 lb-ft
|US fuel economy (MPG):
|CAN fuel economy (L/100KM):
|Starting Price (USD):
|$140,895 (inc. dest.)
|As-Tested Price (USD):
|$140,895 (inc. dest.)
|Starting Price (CAD):
|$168,980 (inc. dest.)
|As-Tested Price (CAD):
|$168,980 (inc. dest.)
The hardest running event in track and field was never the longest. It was the 400 meter race.
At a much earlier, thinner, healthier time in my life, I faced this race for the first time. Should I sprint early or save my energy for the back half? “Yes” was my coach’s answer, effectively: he wanted me sprinting everywhere. There’s no time to relax. No time to catch your breath. Keep focused, push yourself well past your comfort zone, and bask in the post-event afterglow. You’ve got nothing else to do while you regain feeling in your legs, anyway.
The 2023 BMW M4 CSL is the 400m race. It is on, fully and completely, 100 percent of the time. It isn’t for everyone, both because of its rarity (BMW will produce just 1,000 for global consumption), and its extreme nature. This hardcore coupe is specialized, demanding more of its driver, but on a track, the CSL capable of delivering highs previously inaccessible in the G82/G83 generation of M4.Get a Quote on a New 2023 BMW M4
BMW doesn’t toss the Compact Sporting Lightweight badge out there all willy-nilly. This is the first one in nearly 20 years, and true to its name, the M4 CSL doesn’t fuss the scales as much as the normal M4.
The official figure is 3,639 pounds (1,651 kilograms), or 238 pounds (108 kg) lighter than the M4 Competition. The savings come from all over, and typically fall into two categories: straight-up parts removal, or replacements made of more exotic materials. Deleted rear seats (46 lb / 21 kg), less sound deadening (33 lb / 15 kg), and a few other changes fall under the former. A titanium exhaust slices off 9 lb (4 kg), standard carbon ceramic brakes and lighter alloy wheels a further 46 lb (21 kg). There are some impressively thin new carbon-backed bucket seats inside too, which account for a huge 53-pound (24-kilogram) savings on their own.
Exterior changes are subtle—or at least, as subtle as they can be on BMW’s big-grilled bruiser of a coupe. Those nostrils now feature fewer elements, allowing the CSL to suck down more air for its more powerful engine. An increase in boost lifts the turbo inline-six to 543 horsepower; torque remains at a peak of 479 lb-ft. All that power is funnelled to the rear wheels only by way of a reprogrammed eight-speed automatic transmission.
A standard carbon roof matches the aggressive lip spoiler skimming the pavement. There’s no big picnic table rear wing here, just a sweet ducktail trunk. On either side are redesigned taillights, featuring a pretty 3D wave design of the inner elements. The whole car rides 0.3 inches (8 millimeters) closer to the ground which, when combined with the standard graphics package and very cool yellow DRLs, gives the M4 CSL serious GT3 racer vibes.
Capping the whole look is a unique M badge which, along with the CSL itself, celebrates 50 jahre of BMW M. The half-century celebrations are why we’re here at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, after all. There are all manner of blue-violet-red beasts to tame, but right now, it’s CSL time. It’s the only one in the country, and the track is cold and wet. No pressure, then.
Raw, focused, fun
Unlike that high school 400m race, I had the chance to build up to the CSL here, by first doing two stints in xDrive Competition versions of the M3 and M4. The AWD models are super quick, and offer enough locked-down traction to explore the racing line as well as the drying line. A bit of trail braking helps them tuck into corners.
Trail braking has a much more dramatic effect on the M4 CSL. Stay on those massive carbon stoppers as you turn in and the back end wants to swing wide. There’s simply so much grip up front, the turn in is so sharp, and the electronic nannies are more laidback, that the CSL gives an impromptu lesson in conservation of momentum. Corrective steering straightens the car as quickly as the tail skewed out—wheel’s a touch light, but the size and directness are Goldilocks-level—but it’s the first sign that the CSL requires a more considered approach than the AWD cars.
We’re out on the less extreme Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires, on account of the drizzle and single-digit (Celsius) temperatures. Cup 2 Rs are standard, but would struggle to get up to operating temperature here. A few laps in is enough for the PS4s, and the CSL starts to gel, nipping at the apexes with confidence. There is zeroIn a straight line the carbon brakes are simply epic, hauling the CSL down far quicker than anything else here.
The M4 CSL is obviously a Faulkner fan, because this thing has both the sound and the fury in spades. With most of the sound deadening excised, the interior is engulfed within the inline-six’s howl, drowning out anything else—even the instructor, unless they’re shouting. The CSL requires patience out of the corners, especially the low-speed Moss complex. Get it pointed straight, and slowly squeeeeze the throttle. It’ll still spin the two feet of rear contact patches well above highway speeds if you’re not careful, so gently lift on the Andretti straight’s crests for best results. Touch 130 mph (210 km/h), throw the anchors out, snake through the final S-bends and start the lap all over again. Every lap, a learning experience.
A quick peek under the featherweight hood after the laps explains the CSL’s eager front-end. That is one serious shock brace.
Sadly, our drive didn’t also include a public road portion. The on-track stuff shows off BMW’s answer to Porsche’s RS models: a no-nonsense sports car that sacrifices some everyday softness in the pursuit of not only quicker lap times, but more enjoyment while setting them.
Business-class interior: the business of going fast
Post-laps-blitz, I’m able to further explore the interior. BMW builds some of the most stunning interiors out there right now, with the iX and new 7 Series delighting in design, material use, and comfort.
The M4 CSL doesn’t care about the wow factor. If it isn’t actively part of the process of slashing lap times, chances are it’s in the bin, like the deleted center console storage. Or the entire rear bench, replaced with a cargo net for helmets.
There’s carbon fiber every-freaking-where: the dashboard, the center console, those extreme new seats. Heavily bolstered from thigh right up to (enlarged) shoulder padding, and retaining the leg-separating hump, these buckets eschew heating, ventilation, and even recline. I love how secure they kept me out on the track, but it’s impossible to get in (and especially out) with any semblance of grace. I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t have fit had we done the laps after lunch.
Dollars and sense
The Porsche RS comparisons carry over to the Monroney, too. BMW charges roughly double the base M4 price for the privilege of the CSL experience, starting at $140,895 ($168,980 CAD) including destination. Hey, at least there aren’t many options to swell that figure even further.
No doubt about it, that’s a huge sum of cash for something that shares its basic makeup with a 430i. In fact, it’s more than the similarly hardcore Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS I drove earlier this year. The BMW is a vastly different proposition—front-engined versus mid, turbo torque versus stratospheric revs—yet offers a similarly multilayered experience. It could take years to discover everything it offers. At these heady heights, sense doesn’t matter anyway.
With just 1,000 across the globe, it’s unlikely BMW will have any trouble at all shifting the entire CSL run. There are 42 going to Canada, and they’re already all spoken for. That will no doubt translate to other markets, too.
Final Thoughts: 2023 BMW M4 CSL First Drive Review
There are two types of people who are going to gravitate towards the 2023 BMW M4 CSL. As is often the case with limited-production cars, a proportion will be the Bring A Trailer crew, looking to effectively bubble-wrap a future classic in the hopes of a payday down the line. The CSL’s gargantuan talents are wasted on these people.
Then there are the folks looking for the most extreme M4 out there—no, the most extreme BMW. The one with the most power, sure, but that’s almost academic. The CSL trims out the fat, for a drive that is thrilling, edgy, and pure. It asks more from its driver, but there’s a pendulum effect: you give more, and you get more in return. A short drive on the track showed that, like the 400m race, this isn’t an easy challenge to master. It’d sure be fun taking the time to learn, though.
How much does the 2023 BMW M4 CSL cost?
Technically it starts from $140,895 ($168,980 CAD), but every CSL is spoken for, so expect it to go for more, at least for now.
When can you buy the 2023 BMW M4 CSL?
Is the BMW M4 CSL available with a manual transmission or AWD?
Neither; this is rear-drive only, and strictly with the eight-speed automatic.
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- Track-ready performance
- Baby GT3 looks
- Listen to that I6 sing
- Double the price of an M4...
- ...and that's before speculators
- Carbon buckets body shamed me
Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.
More by Kyle Patrick