RE: BMW E46 M3 CSL: Spotted

RE: BMW E46 M3 CSL: Spotted

Wednesday 9th January

BMW E46 M3 CSL: Spotted

Yep, the Coupe Sport Leichtbau. Still brilliant. Still rare. Still chuffin' expensive



The E46 M3 is a legend in automotive circles for far more than just being an excellent driver's car. It's also revered for restoring faith in the M3 moniker following the slightly paunchy E36, delivering the sort of pulse-raising performance we'd expect from a maker claiming to build The Ultimate Driving Machine. Also, it was the very competent base on which to build the E46 M3 CSL, which even today, remains one of the M division's finest models.

Arriving in 2003, the CSL was a culmination of research, engineering and, after 80,000 miles of Nurburgring running, testing. It was launched three years into the life of the E46 M3, so expectations were very high. Unlike the regular performance model, this special variant was not so concerned with comfort, refinement or practicality, and instead had a sharp focus on intimate driver engagement in a most sporting Bavarian package.


Every alteration and addition to the CSL was made to improve its performance. You need only to glimpse its carbon fibre roof and rear diffuser or fixed-back bucket seats to know this is no ordinary M3. Start one up, and the mechanical howl of the carbon airbox-fed 3.2-litre six-cylinder is a more conspicuous confirmation that something special is going on.

Beneath the bonnet of the CSL lived a reworked version of the E46's S54 six, producing 360hp to enable a 4.9 second 0-62mph time, which bettered the M3's stats by 17hp and three tenths respectively. Of course, much of the pace improvement came from the CSL's 110kg weight loss, provided in part by the fitment of those aforementioned carbon bits, aluminium doors and a plastic boot lid, as well as lightweight 19-inch wheels.


Michelin provided the boots, a set of Pilot Super Sport Cups, which worked with the M division's 'Ring-developed chassis setup, comprised of bespoke springs and dampers and thicker anti-roll bars, as well as a quicker steering rack, to turn the CSL into a completely different beast. Only the mandatory fitment of a robotised manual, BMW's single-clutch SMG II six-speed gearbox, provided this sweet recipe with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Truth be told, for its day, the 'box was crisp and - when set to its fastest mode - a far cry from the frustrating hardware of the E60 M5. When you really worked it hard, the SMG II's shifts were actually quite savage, and some people thought this added to the whole experience. But many remained unconvinced and believe that BMW should have offered its top M3 with a manual, as it did with the subsequent, less-focused CS model.


Now, though, with the E46 M3 CSL is in its sixteenth year, we can appreciate it in a different light - one that recognises its place as an M division peak for naturally-aspirated six-cylinders of fairly (compared to today's cars, anyway) compact dimensions. The market knows this, of course, and prices have long reflected the CSL's position as the ultimate E46. Six years ago, you'd need Β£30k for one. Today, you can double that.

See the rather lovely 32,000-mile-old car here, which has had just one owner from new and is described as being in "exceptional condition". If a full service history that extends all the way back to when it was run in isn't enough, perhaps the lack of stone chips on the front bumper's carbon bits and kerb mark-free wheels will confirm this CSL has been well looked after. Perhaps the only question a prospective buyer might ponder is whether the car's asking price - which, let's not forget, makes it about twice the price of a similarly healthy CS on the classifieds - has reached the top of the bubble yet.


SPECIFICATION - BMW M3 CSL (E46)

Engine: 3,246cc 6-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed robotised manual
Power (hp): 360@7,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 273@4,900rpm
MPG: 23.7
Top speed: 155mph
Price new: Β£58,000
Yours for: Β£63,995

Click here to see the full ad.

Author
Discussion

Griffgrog

Original Poster:

619 posts

194 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
I had one after selling my 997 GT3RS. It was quite disappointing, nowhere near as good as the 911 in any aspect. They're expensive because they're rare and that's about it.

Augustus Windsock

1,850 posts

103 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Bizarre, I was looking at this very advert last night (whilst lying in bed, ahem..)
Certainly an iconic car and one whose type we will never se again thanks to the regulation-fanglers.
As an aside, the carbon (fibre) air box won’t make a mechanical howl, it’s an inanimate object, I think what is meant is the that it resonates and amplifies induction sounds? And if you’ve ever heard a CSL pass by at warp factor 6 then I’d agree that the sound is indeed an intoxicating ‘howl’....

DoubleTime

1,389 posts

90 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Fine looking machine but I’ll never understand why someone would fork out that much when you can simply modify a regular manual m3 (and in a more modern package) for so much less than that of the csl.

Yes yes I get it, but it’ll never be a csl etc etc

At least the article didn’t claim that they had blueprinted engines (snigger)

dxbtiger

3,930 posts

121 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
The best looking 'modern' BMW for me.

Crazy price though.

smartypants

42,122 posts

117 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
It’s a car I would like to own, but it was just about justified when they were around the 20k mark, at this price it’s a good advert as to how stupid the “classic” market has become.

LaurasOtherHalf

15,910 posts

144 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
I think my black one was on 33k miles when I traded it against my new R26.R. Got about low £20ks for it after being for sale for months without a buyer, how times change eh?

LaSource

2,389 posts

156 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
They are nice cars with a good back story and intent from BMW (a bit like a 911 RS vs GT3)

Being a manual gearbox obsessive I went the route of getting a nice manual (non sunroof) E46 M3 and making suspension, weight, brakes, seats, intake, exhaust, etc mods to give something that works on road and track. Some of this you would need to do to a CSL as well if intending to track it (which I suspect with rising values less people will do).

If the CSL had been available with a manual option then it would have been irresistible smile Great for those who are happy with semi-automated gearboxes.







Edited by LaSource on Wednesday 9th January 08:24

g3org3y

14,233 posts

139 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
^^Looks lovely. coolthumbup

cerb4.5lee

13,002 posts

128 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
It is a car that has never really appealed to me, very expensive over the standard car(for what you got in return) and the noise it made didn't really float my boat. Plus I've never been a fan of two pedal cars which counted against it for me.

It is such a very highly regarded car though, and the owners love them and journalists fell in love with them too. Maybe if I had a go in one it would change my opinion.

BFleming

1,538 posts

91 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Augustus Windsock said:
... the carbon (fibre) air box won’t make a mechanical howl, it’s an inanimate object, I think what is meant is the that it resonates and amplifies induction sounds? And if you’ve ever heard a CSL pass by at warp factor 6 then I’d agree that the sound is indeed an intoxicating ‘howl’....
I've been on trackdays at certain UK circuits and seen CSLs get black flagged for their drive-by noise. They do indeed howl, and it's something that you can't replicate on a 1/2 redline static noise test.
Although a fair few still frequent Touristenfahrt days on the Nordschleife, you rarely see CSLs at UK circuits any more. I suspect value is the main reason.
I remember the SMGII box in these being ok; a friend had the E46 M3CS with this box, and it went well enough. That was his everyday car, and AFAIK he had no issues.

Chapppers

4,476 posts

139 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
So, I have one of these. Mine is now sitting at 138,500 miles and I'm wondering what to do with it. I love driving it, I've done 25,000 miles in it since I've owned it. It's in need of a little TLC... it is, after all quite a lot of it is still a 16-year-old three series, despite the buckets of money various people have spent on keeping it pristine over the years.

My car is the answer to that common post of "shame it's been stored in a garage all its life instead of being used as intended". The problem with using aa special edition as intended is that just like any other car, things go wrong and have to be replace. Except with a special edition they have to be replaced with exactly the correct parts otherwise you lose providence, you can't cut corners or stick an aftermarket part on here and there because if you ever come to sell it you'll drop to the bottom of the list very quickly.

Mine isn't worth anything near the £64k of the one in this article, closer to mid-30s I suppose but every time I drive it I struggle to think what I could replace it with for the same sort of money. For me the noise is very hard to beat, the balance of it is absolutely sublime and the stripped out nature of the interior keeps me focused whereas in more modern cars tend to have so much going on I get distracted fiddling with things. Sounds absolutely clichéd but it's true. After a recent trackday, it still holds its own, it's still about as quick as a well-driven M2 which is something to be said after 16 years of development.

Anyway, I'm going to spend a bit of money next year on it and see how I feel. I think the air con could do with a refresh, and some bodywork needs looking at. Shall I get a manual conversion finally? Or just sell it and move on? I still have a deposit down on the M2 CSL should it ever appear, but there's no way it could possibly feel as raw as what I have now.



s m

18,248 posts

151 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
It's always interesting on these type of threads to read people's opinions on what they believe a car is worth

outnumbered

2,525 posts

182 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Another owner here. I view mine as a keeper as I just don't know what I'd replace it with. More modern cars just seem too capable and sanitised. I like that it has the ultimate NA version of BMW's classic 6 cylinder engine, it sounds amazing, it's great fun to drive, and can still hold its own in performance terms. Mine is still worth more than I bought it for, but running costs of a 16 year old high performance, low volume car, aren't low either !

So I'm looking forward to making almost the same remarks at the 20, 25... year anniversaries too.



greenarrow

1,811 posts

65 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all

I love threads like this as its fun playing the "What could I buy for that money" game.

So on Autotrader currently, almost the same amount of money buys you a similar mileage 996.2 GT3.

Both were rivals when new, I remember the EVO article when they tested the GT3, M3CSL and Noble M12 GTO - plus a tricked up Spec C Impreza Turbo... was one of my favourite tests. The GT3 won overall.....the M3 as I recall wasn't all that loved at the time.

So purely as an armchair fan, I couldn't choose the M3 over a GT3......

Also draws attention to the value in an E90 M3. Is a CSL really worth more than double a low mileage, newer E90 M3? E90 M3s are getting really cheap now.... I guess its worth whatever anyone pays for it, ultimately!!!

smartypants

42,122 posts

117 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
I'd much rather have a standard E90 M3 than an E46 CSL. That car does not get the recognition it deserves, I'm a massive lover of the E46 (especially the M), but the V8 in the E90 is a masterpiece. Coupled with the DSG box, it's an outstanding package.


NicoG

531 posts

156 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
I bought mine in 2013 for mid 20s and sold a little under two years ago for nearly double...

It was an amazing car, very special to drive, but I couldn't bare to use it for commuting, nor for the 400-mile round trip to my Son in Devon.
Basically it didn't get used much; one year it did about 90 (yes 90) miles between MOTs at the dealer, and that was a 60-mile round trip.

I bought it as I fully expected its value to go up rapidly, and whilst that might be shameful to some, I couldn't justify buying a dream car like that if it wasn't financially sensible.

It cost me several thousand in upkeep, storage, servicing and repairs over the 3 and a half years I had it, so, to keep these pristine, even with extremely limited use, is not cheap.

Take asking prices as you like, but mine (last time I looked) is still for sale at the indi I sold it too for thousands less than they paid me for it....


BFleming

1,538 posts

91 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Chapppers said:
My car is the answer to that common post of "shame it's been stored in a garage all its life instead of being used as intended". The problem with using aa special edition as intended is that just like any other car, things go wrong and have to be replace. Except with a special edition they have to be replaced with exactly the correct parts otherwise you lose providence, you can't cut corners or stick an aftermarket part on here and there because if you ever come to sell it you'll drop to the bottom of the list very quickly.
That's something I hadn't thought of. So whilst every other E46 driver will polybush everything that can be polybushed, you can't (read: shouldn't) do that with a limited edition car? Brake upgrades?
Does the CSL have that many unique maintenance parts, or is it a case of OEM only to preserve provenance?
I'm genuinely curious.

Mr_Tickle

186 posts

126 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
I owned one of these and I thought it was a great car (though I'm never owned a GT3). I loved the way it drove, the noise, the engine, the looks, the excitement, everything. I even liked the gearbox, though I would have preferred a manual. It perhaps wasn't the most comfortable car ever, but can't have everything. I'm glad I owned one when I did as I would struggle to justify one now.

CS Garth

2,102 posts

53 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Griffgrog said:
I had one after selling my 997 GT3RS. It was quite disappointing, nowhere near as good as the 911 in any aspect. They're expensive because they're rare and that's about it.
I ran a manual CS for some years as for me the CSL trinkets didn’t compensate for the lack of a box and the extra cash. Great car.

I then sold and got a 997 GT3 - the latter is clearly better but given a good CS is mid-late teens I don’t think it is 5x better.

A lot of people don’t get the s54 and can’t drive to its strengths - it needs to be kept above 4.5k to be appreciated.


Alpinestars

13,150 posts

192 months

Wednesday 9th January
quotequote all
Mr_Tickle said:
I owned one of these and I thought it was a great car (though I'm never owned a GT3). I loved the way it drove, the noise, the engine, the looks, the excitement, everything. I even liked the gearbox, though I would have preferred a manual. It perhaps wasn't the most comfortable car ever, but can't have everything. I'm glad I owned one when I did as I would struggle to justify one now.
They are very different cars, despite the similar ethos.

The balance of both cars is the main difference, with the CSL having a much more mobile chassis, and it feels like a 50:50 front to rear balance - not sure if it is.

It can be a real hooligan car, and the reduced weight, noise, seats, steering, mapping, seats etc make is significantly different to a standard E46 M3.