We’ll get some flack for that. But to understand the new M4 CSL, you need to understand the previous two CSLs. The Germans like patterns and this new M4 CSL follows the patterns developed in the 3.0 CSL of 1971, as does the BMW M3 CSL of 2004. The aim is to create an extremely capable road car with the engine plastered and the suspension is rounded off by a strict diet. This new BMW M4 CSL follows the same recipe but in a 2023 way. Does it have the same magic as BMW’s previous two CSLs? let’s find out
Leaving aside prejudices that many of us have and a critical look at the new BMW M4 CSL 2023, it’s hard not to fall in love. Yes, it’s heavy at 3,640 lbs and yes, it sort of looks like a Mustang (unfortunately, all 4 Series coupes do). But BMW has managed to build a car that feels fast, comfortable and exceptional. There’s a commitment and capability that’s clearly a step above the standard M4 or the M4 competition.
Disadvantages? Beyond the overall shape, there are a few. Let’s start with this 8-speed automatic. It’s just the wrong gearbox for this car. Cut the torque and give it a manual, or invest in a dual-clutch alternative. Certainly BMW has plenty of data and powerpoints that can explain why they didn’t do both, but the result is a transmission that never fits seamlessly into the experience. Whether it’s a hair late in the shifts or not responding to input in the way you’d expect, it just can’t deliver the pure experience that the rest of the car offers.
While we’ve only driven the M4 CSL on slick California roads, we imagine its suspension setup would leave a lot to be desired on the Pott-marked roads of Britain or the US Midwest. After all, this is a big car and so its natural habitat isn’t the narrow ravine roads that a last-gen M2 CS would eat alive. Instead, this is a car that feels at home on a fast-flowing track like the BMW Performance Center in Thermal California or the sweeping mountain roads nearby.
For $139,900 you get a lot of M4 plus the scarcity of a model BMW has only produced three of in 50 years. And it’s a model that feels like there’s very little competition from Europe. The closet car Porsche makes at this price point is the GT4, which is a scalpel compared to the CSL’s blunt approach.
Where is the M4 CSL? In short, the CSL is a car that gets the job done, delivering incredible performance in a unique package. It’s not perfect and (like the E46 M43 CSL) is held back by its transmission. But on the whole it’s an outstanding M car that years later will likely stand as one of the highlights of the pre-hybrid era.