Since I started contributing to Speedhunters, my main area of focus has always centred around drifting and with that, predominantly its been about the Prodrift Series. Of course I have no complaints about this area of work, but I often find myself wanting outside of these tight JDM orientated circles. When Rod dropped me the line to say that September was to be BMW Month, I knew, I just knew I had to find an M3. I don't know a whole lot about the history of BMW but I do know what I like. With big thanks to the guys at Driver.ie for helping me source this particularly awesome example, I present to you, arguably the greatest M3 of all time, the E46 CSL.
The CSL (Coupe Sport Lightweight) was limited to under 1400 units in 2003, making this hardcore M3 rare by any standards. I can't even begin to imagine what it would feel like to have something like this sat in my garage, but strangely, it's one of those cars (much like the Porsche GT3 RS) that would be very difficult to improve upon from the factory spec.
The owner of this CSL has only made some small changes to the factory specification. One is this Angel Eyes conversion which just perfectly accentuates the shape of the front of the car. Imagine being sat at the traffic lights and these roll up behind you, you just know that something serious is behind you.
One of the things I learned on this shoot, on how-to-spot-a-CSL, is the intake in the front bumper. The front bumper is of course an entire carbon fibre piece, with the front splitters left unpainted, as perhaps a cue to the purpose of the car.
The profile remains identical to the standard E46 M3, except for the longer boot spoiler. I just have to say, for a standard (ish) car on standard wheels and standard suspension, BMW really nailed the stance of the car. Although BMWs definition of 'standard' may be higher than yours or mine.
The other changes that were made was powdercoating the original CSL wheels black. With the rims painted black, they perfectly frame the uprated AP Racing brake calipers and discs. The tires are the factory recommended, almost semi-slick, Michelin Pilot Sport Cups.
The carbon fibre theme continues at the rear, with the bootlid and rear diffuser being composed of the black weave.
The weight saving continues to the inside, with one-piece bucket seats …
… and more carbon fibre on the door cards.
Under the bonnet / hood, your greeted by this carbon fibre air intake and a strut-top located body brace to help reduce flex during hard cornering.
I have to admit, to giggling like a little girl when I spotted how large the intake butterfly is. You could honestly lose a small animal in there. Awesome.
During my reading on the CSL for this I did learn a few things that I thought might be of interest to some of you. I never knew that the car was never exported to the USA, mostly due to not meeting DOT and EPA standards, so this is a Euro only car. To be honest, its a little bit of a shame. I know earlier that I said its a hard car to improve upon from standard, but the US tuning scene has produced some awesome M3's, so it really would of being interesting to see what you guys across the pond could of come up with.
One of the CSL's party pieces is its unpainted carbon roof. Although the E90 M3 comes with this as standard, I still think the original was best.
BMW's attention to detail is simply exquisite. What normally would be treated as 'just' a vent, BMW used it as another opportunity to reduce weight. The standard M3 has four chrome bars, where the CSL has four carbon fibre ones. The weight saved must surely of being minimal, but it just shows how every detail was looked at whilst overhauling the standard M3.
A stone chipped front bumper, just a small indication that this car is being used as BMW intended it to be.
The E46 CSL also holds the M3 production record around the Nordschliefe at 7 minutes and 50 seconds, a testament to the focus BMW had whilst creating this, what has to be the ultimate M3. Even by that other industry standard, the CSL was faster on a very wet day than an SL63 Black was in the dry around the Top Gear test track. It has also scalped a 996 GT3 RS, a Lotus Exige and a Lamborghini Murcielago to name but a few around the Dunsfold Park venue. With the E90 M3 CSL in the pipeline, BMW have set themselves what seems a very high standard to succeed the E46 CSL. I for one, will be waiting to see how they manage to improve upon this, but have no doubt that they will.
- Paddy M