At 274 km/h (170 mph) on the Autobahn A94 Munich-Passau in a BMW M4 CSL 2023, we mustered up the last bit of courage and stretched our right leg out completely. Guess what happened? It dropped to seventh position. At a ridiculous 5800 rpm, 1400 rpm is below the red line—ignoring the danger to the driver’s old-fashioned heart. At 300 km/h (186 mph), it climbs to eighth again, still accelerating, but now with digital speed readings increasing by 1 km/h each time. (It’s 5:30 a.m., and there’s no traffic in sight, so the relative risk is lowest.) Theoretically, this last M car was capped at 191 mph. But what seemed at first like a barely perceptible kink in front of the freeway suddenly felt like a Very Serious Corner. “Never picked up”? T-shirts rarely tell true stories, but the rearview mirror always does. And it shows the driver grinning from ear to ear.
The M4 CSL is BMW’s answer to the upcoming Porsche 911 GT3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance. Like the toughest-core 911, this BMW is strictly rear-wheel drive, and it shows, especially on wet roads with Michelin Cup 2 R tires, which should only be legal in sunny states, not Bavaria. Compared to this beast, every other M4 is a kitten. For starters, the CSL is claimed to be 190 pounds lighter than the base model. You can feel the weight saving, and you can hear it too. Stripped of its rear seats, the rear compartment has mutated into a giant boom box. The roughly 24 pounds of sound-absorbing material removed exacerbates the acoustic attack, with a carbon fiber roof covering the resonance chambers, and a titanium exhaust designed to give goosebumps. A whopping 53 pounds was saved by replacing the standard seat with carbon fiber screw clamps billed as a sports bucket. Increasing the seat pain coefficient is a lowered and stiffened suspension.
The first 20 miles was this I-hate-car experience. The 275/35ZR-19 and 285/30ZR-20 tires squirm like a quartet of eels. The dampers in Sport Plus are devoted entirely to shock, not absorption. The steering wheel was too light at first to believe. And every blink of the throttle strikes your nervous system like lightning. You never relax on the M4 CSL, but the initial anxiety eventually subsides as curiosity takes its place, followed by the first bout of let’s call it confidence. At Sport, with tire temperatures finally where they should be, we finally ventured to dive into the car’s deep pool of talent and snorkel for all the revelations it holds. Like more cornering grip than a gallon of Loctite and more calm than such a zero-tolerance arrangement should be allowed to deploy.
The CSL engine is the main variation of the division’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight-six engine. Output is boosted from the base model’s 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet to 543 horsepower and 479 pound-feet. That’s the good news. The bad news is money matters. With prices starting at $140,895, one can buy two basic M4s at the cost of CSL with several options. And BMW has closed the order book even before the first of its 1000 limited edition models is delivered to customers. Scarcity alone should make this striped-and-wing light car special as an instant blue-chip investment—but really? While the CSL is heavily engaged and outright faster than its brethren by some margin, our estimated zero-to-60 time of 3.3 seconds was eclipsed by the relatively unobtrusive M4 Competition xDrive, which may drop 40 horsepower but has the same torque and punch. . 60 in 2.8 seconds, all around $60K cheaper.
After more than 200 miles, we had to find some fuel. Mileage? OPEC friendly 12 mpg. But what? The rain has finally stopped, and the winding route back to Munich promises the familiar Garden of Eden, dotted with twists and free from radar traps. Time to forgo the tame preset M1 program and play the devil’s M2 composition instead. The preferred algorithm looks like this: engine in Sport Plus, gearbox in S3 fast shift setting, chassis in Comfort (compliance is control), DSC in MDM (M Dynamic Mode), steering and brakes in Sport.
Despite certain NVH quirks, the CSL drivetrain epitomizes absolute refinement. The brutality of violent acceleration shone through time and space, accompanied by a howling, growling, barely filtered soundtrack. The initially explosive, then progressively forward thrust has its antidote in stunning carbon-ceramic brakes. There’s no doubt about that: This car makes your eyes pop in one take just to flatten the earlobes in the next. It’s quite simple changing the Ultimate Driving Machine.
2023 BMW M4 CSL
Vehicle Type: front engine, rear wheel drive, 2 passenger, 2 door coupe
twin-turbocharged and DOHC 24-valve inline-6 intercooler, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 183 inches32993 cm3
Power: 543 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm
Automatic 8 speed
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Length: 188.7 inches
Width: 75.6 inches
Height: 54.6 inches
Passenger Volume (CD approx.): 54 feet3
Rod Volume: 12 feet3
Restraint Weight (CD approx.): 3650 lb
SHOW (CD EST)
60 mph: 3.3 seconds
100 mph: 7.3 seconds
1/4-Mile: 11.2 seconds
Top Speed: 191 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 18/16/23 mpg
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