2023 BMW M4 CSL new car reviews

Photography by J.A. Ackley

The latest BMW M4 CSL holds the record for fastest lap around the Nürburgring Nordschleife of any production BMW: 7:20.2. While we had only a brief taste of the car on the streets of Palm Springs, California, we can confirm this: It wants to go fast–and you want to go fast in it.

This variant is far more than just a retooled M4, according to John Kelly, project manager for M cars.

“The M4 CSL is the pinnacle of the M4 lineup,” says John. “It uses the M4 Competition as the starting point. We increased power and we’ve reduced the weight.”

[ICYMI: The BMW M4 CSL is a 543-horsepower celebration of the M Division’s 50th birthday]

More power? Less weight? That’s a great combination, of course. But, there’s more to it than that sound bite.

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J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley
Senior Editor

Show me the power

Let’s start with what’s under the hood.

The M4 CSL uses the same 3.0-liter M TwinPower Turbo inline-6 engine as the M4 Competition. However, it gains 40 horsepower, upping the total to 543. It achieves this primarily through 5.8 psi of additional boost.

John added that BMW recalibrated the 8-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission specifically for the more powerful M4 CSL.

To further put things in perspective, the engine puts out 181 horsepower per liter, and achieves 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds, per BMW.

We put that to the test on I-10. Sadly, we didn't get to run it on track, where we could take full advantage of the performance it offers. Getting up to highway speed, as you could imagine, was no problem–and it will certainly put you back into the seat while doing so.

How did BMW save 240 pounds?

CSL stands for competition, sport and lightweight. Check, check and check. That last part is impressive.

BMW cut 240 pounds from the M4 Competition to create the CSL. They trimmed the fat by taking away some of the creature comforts one might enjoy of a typical Sunday cruiser.

Full carbon-fiber front seats, with zero electronic controls, account for 53 pounds of the savings.

Removing the rear seats and integrating the partition between the cabin and luggage compartments cut another 46 pounds.

Ceramic brakes and forged alloy wheels, plus lighter springs and struts, reduce weight by another 46 pounds.

Using lighter sound insulation–and less of it–saved 33 pounds.

CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) components on the outside and inside of the M4 CSL shaves 24 pounds. Example of the use of that material comes with the hood and trunk lid, which saves 3 and 15 pounds, respectively.

The titanium rear silencer on the exhaust eliminates 9 pounds and helps create that distinctive CSL exhaust note.

Engineers trimmed another 8 pounds from detail modifications to the grille, rear lights, floor mats and automatic climate control.

Heck, they even used carbon fiber for the center console, saving 9 pounds.

In the end, the car weighs 3640 pounds and achieves a power-to-weight ratio of 6.7 lbs./hp.

But, Wait, There’s More

Having more power and less weight is great, but how does it corner? Well, BMW engineers went to work on that, too.

“Retuning of the entire chassis is a significant part of this,” says John. “That’s what makes the car feel so nimble, so responsive, so light on its feet. You have different spring rates [than the M4 Competition]. The adaptive dampers have been recalibrated. It has different sway bars, different bushings, it even has different engine and transmission mounts. The rear suspension, a couple of the bushings have been replaced by ball joints. It’s all these little details that individually is a small detail, but the sum of the parts transforms the whole driving experience of the car.”

The tires, of course, play a role, too. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires measuring 275/35 ZR19 at the front and 285/30 ZR20 at the rear were developed specifically for the CSL.

Our Thoughts

With a 45-minute session confined to city streets and I-10, it’s hard to truly assess the full potential of a car geared to go beyond highway speed. All we can say is that it wanted to go in the baddest of ways. The devil on our shoulder wanted to give into those instincts if it weren’t for our conscience–and that police car seemingly around every corner.

What we can do is provide an educated guess on how it would fare on closed circuit course. We did take a 2022 BMW M4 Competition on track a few months ago. The car felt extremely light through the turns. It had an incredible amount of forward thrust off the corners. If the M4 CSL multiplies those factors, which it felt like it could do from our brief street rendezvous, we don’t think you would be disappointed by its track performance. Far from it.

The BMW M4 CSL is limited to 1000 units and starts at $139,900. With the Frozen Brooklyn Grey Metallic paint ($4500) and destination charge ($995), the one we drove came to $145,395.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
11/11/22 12:00 p.m.

Must be nice to be able to look at a $200,000 track toy and be like "Yeah, I could swing that."

calteg SuperDork
11/11/22 2:12 p.m.

Article idea: This car versus a 2007 335i on corn juice, straight pipe and a tune.  Even in this market, I see early 335's under $10,000 all day long, sometimes even under $5000. 

Be interesting to see how much more speed the extra $150,000 buys you...


KyAllroad MegaDork
11/11/22 4:34 p.m.

I get that they needed to get more air in to cool all those ponies.  But what a fugly nose on that thing.   Man BMW's design team is just awful.

JoeTR6 Dork
11/11/22 7:23 p.m.

I'll bet it still can't outrun ugly.

STM317 PowerDork
11/11/22 8:06 p.m.

$145k is a whole lot of money. It's nearly $100k more than the entry price for a 4 series (easily over that with a small dealer markup).

Other hardcore track options at the $145k price point:

Porsche GT4 RS

C8 ZO6 with ZO7/full carbon package and ~$20k left over

2 Camaro ZL1 1LE's

Didn't Ford try a front end design that ugly in the 50's ?     Edsel v.2

LanEvo GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/11/22 9:56 p.m.

Two friends of mine have these new M3/4 models with the giant nostrils. I have to say, they look a lot better in real life than they do in pics. One is in a metallic green color that really looks pretty sweet.

They also look a LOT better with "rest of the world" license plates. A long, thin, Euro-style front plate bisects the nostrils and balances things out quite a bit. I'm sure BMW designers had those plates in mind. 

Huggs New Reader
11/12/22 1:00 a.m.

In reply to STM317 :

~60 grand for 40hp, 240 pounds (to still be over 3600 haha), and... exclusivity? That hurts before the competitors, and reading those hurts. And you're 100% in carrera S territory.

dps214 Dork
11/12/22 1:05 a.m.
calteg said:

Article idea: This car versus a 2007 335i on corn juice, straight pipe and a tune.  Even in this market, I see early 335's under $10,000 all day long, sometimes even under $5000. 

Be interesting to see how much more speed the extra $150,000 buys you...

Well unlike a tuned $5k 335i, it'll finish a lap without blowing up. So a pretty big time difference.

Having seen an M4 in real life, it's not as bad as it looks in photos, I'd even say it's decent looking in the right situation. Dark colors are very much their friend though.

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