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Article highlights:

  • BMW was seen testing a modified BMW M4 in Germany
  • What will the CSL badge mean for the M4?
  • Can we expect an M3 CSL soon?

Over in Bavaria, three letters carry arguably as much weight as the fabled “M” badge itself: CSL. That’s BMW-speak for Coupe Sport Leichtbau (Lightweight). Obviously, this notch above the M badge is reserved for only the most bonkers, hard-core BMW M models. Now, the BMW M4 appears to be getting the fabled CSL treatment.

What the hell is CSL?

A BMW M3 CSL sits beneath a Williams/BMW Formula 1 car suspended from the ceiling
The BMW M3 CSL changed what CSL means | Giuseppe Cacace via Getty Images

First, we’d be remiss to not discuss the history of the CSL badge pre-BMW M4. Those three letters have made various notable appearances throughout BMW history, such as the 3.0 CSL. However, things really kicked off for the CSL moniker in 2003, with the introduction of the badge to the legendary E46 M3. To this day, the E46 generation M3 CSL is one of the most sought-after M cars of all time.

It also fits the CSL ethos to a “T.” Or rather, to an “M.” BMW made a host of changes to the M3 to make it lighter and more responsive. For starters, the engine was given a custom intake manifold made of carbon fiber, and anything unnecessary was removed to save weight. That includes thinning the glass and remaking the roof in carbon. It was a serious machine in its day and still holds up 18 years later.

The BMW M4 CSL wants to be faster than fast

A blue BMW M4 shot in profile on a forested road
The current fastest M4: The Competition | BMW

That’s quite a lot for a new BMW M4 CSL to go up against. Controversial kidney grille aside, the new model is heavier, taller, and more luxurious than the E46. Those are not necessarily things that work well in a pared-back race car for the street bearing the CSL badge. While the Competition spec BMW M4 gets 80% of the way there, BMW still has their work cut out for them.

So, how does BMW take the portly M4 and make it a CSL? Well, rumors indicate the Competition-spec 503 hp twin-turbo motor stays. That means the luxuries of the BMW M4 have to go. More carbon fiber? Almost a certainty. An annoyingly absent armrest like the M2 CS? Likely. However, we could also see the BMW M4’s AWD drivetrain take a hike in favor of lighter RWD. That’s not all that’ll be taking a hike either.

The new CSL could ax the manual transmission

A blue BMW M4 shot from the front 3/4 on open tarmac
The new M4 CSL will take things to the next level | BMW

The BMW M4 CSL is supposed to be the fastest way to experience the M4. Automatic transmissions are much faster than your arms and three pedals, so we’ll likely say goodbye to the stick in the M4 CSL. BMW did it in the E46, and it’ll likely happen here too. That said, if BMW is able to strip some weight from the M4’s 3,880 lb frame and make it more track-oriented, we’re all for it.


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