2023 BMW M4 CSL: The Heaviest-Hitting M-Car


The weight is down, the power is up and the new 2023 BMW M4 CSL is the fastest road-going BMW ever built. Only 1,000 M4 CSLs will be built after it launches this July, and that will guarantee that a good slice of the world’s M4 CSL population will see out their days in air-conditioned, humidity-controlled comfort as collectors’ items.

The rest will hopefully be driven as BMW M intends them to be—hard.

Late last year Forbes Wheels got to sample both the M3 and M4 Competition models, already hot numbers, but the CSL turns the heat up even further.

Short for “Competition, Sport, Lightweight,” these peak performers follow in the footsteps of tuned up, lightened Bimmers dating back to the 3.0 CSL “batmobile” of the 1970s, with its then-pioneering aerodynamic body kit.

2023 BMW M4 CSL
Lighter wheels save 46 pounds and reduce unspung weight, but the weight savings are integrated into a vast array of changes, up to and including deleting items like the head-up display. BMW

A Racecar for the Road

The new M4 CSL uses the same twin-turbo S58 inline-six as the Competition but gets a 40 horsepower bump over the M4 Competition and goes on a 240-pound diet. The result is a zero-to-60 time of 3.6 seconds. It’ll also run to 124 mph (200 kph) in a supercar-like 11.5 seconds and wind all the way to 190 mph.

The M4 CSL effectively runs the same engine as the racing-only M4 GT3 but without that car’s dry-sump oil system. The key to the power hike is partly due to the new exhaust but mostly due to M moving the maximum turbo boost pressure from 1.7 bar (or 1.3 bar in the manual) to 2.1 bar.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there will be no manual. M4 CSLs will drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission, which can cope comfortably with the 479 pound-feet of torque (unchanged from the M4 Competition) and shift faster than Hans-Joachim Stuck.

There have been massive suspension tweaks, including lowering the ride height via new springs, to cope with the extra grip from the all-new Michelin Cup2R tires, which run to 275/35 ZR19 rubber upfront and 285/30 ZR20s at the rear.

2023 BMW M4 CSL grille
2023 BMW M4 CSL decklid

Dressed to Brawl

The most discussed, and controversial, aspect of both the 4 Series and the M4 is its face. The gigantic grille still sharply divides opinion, and if the internet has anything to say, fans aren’t necessarily in love with the more extreme versions, and the CSL inserts yet more fussiness. Its raw speed and raucous exhaust, however, might be a perfect match for these in-your-face visuals. 

That said, the M4 CSL will tick the visual boxes with yellow daytime running lights (that are legal, officer, and only come with the laser-light option), a hugely scooped bonnet and a rear ducktail spoiler, rather than a sticky-outy rear wing.

There will only be three colors—this Frozen Brooklyn Grey metallic paint, plus Black Sapphire and Alpine White. Sadly the vivid hues of the M4 competition won’t be added. The CSL’s brake calipers are all painted red instead of gold, but that’s the only change to the braking system.

2023 BMW M4 CSL seats
The optional sport seats in the M4 Competition are aggressively bolstered to keep you in place at the track, but the M4 CSL takes racing seats to another level. If you want to adjust the recline, you’ll need to break out your tools. BMW

Weight Right There

A raft of carbon-fiber pieces—including the hood, the roof and the shaped bootlid—and deleted components help pull 240 pounds out of the M4 Competition to weigh in at 3,580 pounds. 

“We were searching for 100 grams in the interior at the end, though. I know 100kg sounds like a convenient marketing number, but nothing more was possible,” Robert Pilsi, BMW M’s project manager for the M3 and M4, told Forbes Wheels. He admitted that a bit more—maybe 20kg—could be found if the M4 CSL didn’t have to meet the more restrictive crash regulations in the US, but it does.

Some of the weight reduction measures, like the carbon fiber pieces, were obvious, but some were not. A single-zone climate control system replaces the standard dual-zone, the rear seat and seatbelts are deleted, 33 pounds of sound deadening were removed, forged alloy wheels save 46 pounds, a titanium exhaust saves 7 or so pounds and is louder to boot, to name but a few modifications.

2023 BMW M4 CSL interior
2023 BMW M4 CSL seat mounts
2023 BMW M4 CSL rear seat delete
2023 BMW M4 CSL dashboard

With contrast red and silver stitching, the extreme, full carbon-fiber front seats are fixed and fitted to just one driver and adjust only fore and aft. Well, they can be adjusted for rake angle, but it takes a workshop, using a three-stage screw linkage.

They have detachable head restraints to allow a six-point harness to be fitted for track work. There is a “normal” carbon-fiber seat that does without the two-color stitching if buyers opt for it.

Removing the head-up display and the backup camera, found the last pieces of weight for global models, but backup cameras are required in the U.S. BMW admits that some people care less about weight than others, so it is willing—for a price—to put back in some of the stuff it has taken out.

2023 BMW M4 CSL
Your author with the M4 CSL in Munich. The style may split opinions, but the performance won’t. Nor will any aesthetic concerns hold back BMW superfans and collectors, the likely audience for the CSL. BMW

Internal Affairs

While it has been developed with the track in mind, there is no option for a roll cage, which makes it fully road legal. “It’s more in the direction of motorsport, like the M4 GT4, and less from the flash of the Competition model,” Pilsi said.

Its track-day credentials include modifications to the driver-assistance systems and a 10-step adjuster to change the drift angle—and that can even be done mid-corner for the brave or the foolish.

The first five stages of the M Traction Control (aka drift mode) are for executing controlled drifts, while the final five are copies of modes developed for touring car racing, to find maximum speed depending on tire temperature and wear and surface conditions.

2023 BMW M4 CSL front strut brace
This massive strut brace is held on in eleven different anchor locations under the hood, and is just part of the reinforcing that goes on to ensure the CSL’s high dynamics limits. BMW

The M4 CSL is 8mm lower at both ends, and that’s mostly achieved via new springs that also dictated new mapping for the active dampers at each corner. One of the keys to the added (predicted) track pace is an enormous die-cast engine bay strut, to add rigidity to the front end’s ability to bite. The hollow strut bolts down in 11 places—so it’s a serious piece of hardware—and it even weighs 3 pounds less than the M4 Competition’s engine-bay strut.

The aggressive front splitter is also in carbon fibre, with two exposed grooves, and the carbon bonnet also hosts the new, 50th anniversary BMW M heritage logo, which can be ordered for any BMW M car built this year. The optional laser lighting—and those throwback yellow running lights—adds little weight, but they look great. Without this option, the DRLs are white.

The standard equipment includes the M Drive Professional system that includes a drift analyzer and a lap timer, among other doo-dads. It comes with the Live Cockpit Professional with a 12.3-inch digital multimedia screen and a 10.25-inch instrument cluster. It integrates navigation, wireless charging, smartphone integration and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

2023 BMW M4 CSL profile
The M4 CSL will start at a heady $140,895, which is enough to buy yourself a trio of base-model 430i Coupes. BMW

Prepare to Spend Big

From nothing to the biggest market, the United States will snare a quarter of the BMW M4 CSL’s total production run of 1,000 cars. Germany gets 150, the United Kingdom 100 and Australia 30, among the top 10 target markets. 

While those other countries don’t have confirmed pricing yet, Americans do. When the order books open in a few weeks, the M4 CSL will cost a cool $140,895. Expect them to be sold out by Labor Day.

This article, 2023 BMW M4 CSL: The Heaviest-Hitting M-Car, originally appeared on Forbes Advisor.

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