It’s freezing outside, it’s raining, or at least the place is soaked, and I haven’t even had time to drink my first coffee of the day; what exactly am I doing at CTMP (or Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) on this cold Tuesday morning of October?
You have to be a little crazy to drive the 475 km that separates Montreal and the famous Ontario circuit, but when you’re talking about a very special car, one that will be produced in only 1,000 units worldwide, 42 of which will be distributed to a handful of wealthy customers and Bavarian brand enthusiasts in Canada – and quite a few more in the U.S. (the official numbers haven’t been revealed) – let’s just say that it’s worth the trip.
This beautiful 2023 BMW M4 CSL pictured here is also a great anniversary gift for the M division that opened its doors 50 years ago in 1973. As you probably learned through our pages in the last few weeks, BMW is also working on a modern version of the 3.0 CSL, another special gift for this noteworthy anniversary.
But let’s get back to this 2023 M4 CSL which, as its name suggests, is more special than the already very special M4 Competition. CSL stands for Competition. Sport. Lightweight, three words that say a lot about the character of this race car with a license plate, because yes, this M4 CSL can be registered as a road car, even if its clearly a closed-circuit toy.
A unique M4 coupe
The new, very sporty version of the M4 is impossible to confuse with the more “regular” M4s. First, this Frozen Brooklyn Grey color is exclusive to this variant and is the only official option available in Canada. BMW also offers two other colors, Alpine White or Metallic Sapphire Black.
Through the matte gray muscular bodywork, thin red stripes can be seen here and there to accentuate the presence of carbon fiber, including the rocker panels, the hood, the roof, and the trunk lid, which is shaped in a very beautiful and “à propos” ducktail shape, a nice touch in my opinion.
The 827M multi-spoke wheels in matte black also add a touch of motorsport flavor, with a diameter of 19 inches at the front and 20 inches at the rear. Consumers can choose between tires designed for closed-course use – Michelin Cup 2 R tires – or high-performance tires that are a little easier to live with daily – Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires. In any case, we predict that of the few hundred that will be delivered over the next few weeks on both sides of the Canada/US border, very few will be used on a daily basis. It can, on the other hand, be a lot of fun to drive to the track in one of these things.
The brakes have more bite thanks to carbon-ceramic discs, the suspension has been reworked mostly up front, and the M4 CSL, despite having more power than the M4 Competition, even lost a few pounds in the process. In fact, no less than 108 kg (or 238 lbs) have been cut from the weight of a production M4 Competition. This includes 24 kg saved thanks to the two one-piece carbon fiber seats, 21 kg saved thanks to the rear seat delete and its seat belts, 21 kg saved thanks to the new wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes and new suspension components, not to mention the soundproofing which is 15 kg lighter. The M4 CSL is also 11 kg lighter thanks to the hood, roof, and trunk lid, 4 kg or so from this lighter titanium muffler and an additional 4 kg thanks to thinner carpets in the cabin, lighter parking lights, this new front grille, and a new setup for the automatic air conditioning.
Inside, it’s business as usual with the usual 3/4 Series dashboard, but with lots of carbon fiber, an Alcantara suede covered steering wheel, a wrist rest adorned with the CSL logo and these superb one-piece carbon fiber buckets. And to add to the “motorsport” vibe of this M4 CSL, the rear seat has disappeared in favor of these two cavities overhung by these retaining nets with the sole purpose of carrying a pair of helmets!
This track day was supposed happen earlier in 2022, but the supply crisis continues to haunt the automotive industry, which is why we put Canada’s first-ever M4 CSL through its paces on a cold, soggy track, which is tough enough for a two-wheel-drive coupe equipped with the Michelin Cup 2 R tires or the more roadworthy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S option that came with our test model. In fact, the track was so cold on that October morning that the manufacturer had to impose the Sport driving mode for the very few drivers that got to drive the car on the 3.9 km long circuit. The Sport Plus mode would have to wait for a warmer day!
As soon as you sit down in those race car inspired seats, you realize that this M4 coupe is far more easy-to-live than your “average” M4 Competition. You see, the M4 CSL comes with only two-wheel drive (at the rear), a stiffened suspension, very precise steering, and a louder exhaust system, thanks to the lack of soundproofing. By the way, I’m not complaining, the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 delivers 40 more horsepower than the M4 Competition, at 543, with the same torque at 479 lb-ft and it sounds so amazing, especially at higher rpms. The transmission is still the eight-speed automatic unit, but let’s just say the shifts are more violent when you push hard in the straights.
After a first reconnaissance lap of the track – also used to get acquainted with the car – I was able to push a bit more, especially on the long straight where the digital HUD stopped at around 215 km/h… on a wet pavement, I might add! At high revs, the M4 CSL spits its venom through the exhaust system, an experience worthy of a race car, nonetheless. Fortunately, the brakes are reassuringly effective, so much so in fact that most of my braking was done a little too soon before the corners. The steering column is very precise, and the gear changes are extremely quick and even abrupt, and this is only in Sport mode(!) The big issue that day was that the high-performance tires never got up to their optimum temperature to get the grip the car needed. The grip was indeed minimal.
And even with all the driver aids on, the M4 CSL gave me a scare when it briefly drifted out of a corner with too much speed and too much steering input. Fortunately, this brief episode had no impact on the rest of the day or my test drive.
Buy it now or later
It’s no surprise that the vast majority of the 2023 M4 CSLs have been snapped up, despite a much higher-than-usual entry price. In fact, this very sharp variant has already reached collector’s status, not only because of its rarity, but also because of this adrenaline rush in honor of the 50th anniversary of the letter M. And just because if that, you should already prepare to buy a used unit when it shows up in the classifieds or on one of those online auctions. Yes, it’s that good!
Reduced soundproofing = a more convincing engine note
The potential of a road-legal race car
Uncomfortable on the road (most likely)
The asking price (!)
A car this sharp is not for everyone