To finally experience the sensory overload from behind the wheel - the pared-back carbon fibre clad cabin, the feedback from the chassis and the figure-hugging one-piece seat and Alcantara surfaces - was bracing and brought back memories etched into my mind.
I mentioned some reservations with the car in my CSL 10th anniversary diary and how today you have to view it as something of a classic, but setting my rose-tinted spectacles to one side, the CSL was still sublime; everything I'd hoped it would be.
In Sport mode the throttle response is so good it's as if the pedal's an extension of your right foot. And the engine's mapping is so smooth and of such high resolution that it never hesitates or stutters when you ask for the gas - even at low revs and in a high gear. Prodding the Sport button opens up a flap in the airbox to give you the full hit of noise, too. Apart from adding around 10hp from the ram air effect, it goes all Spinal Tap on you, turning everything up to 11. It's the defining characteristic of the car.
I could feel the CSL itching to devour some corners on the autobahn on the way down - even if the straight-line blasts were good fun and better to listen to than the shockingly tinny stereo...
I had to wait a few days, but it duly delivered when the roads presented the opportunity. The steering feels so direct - it's quicker than the standard E46 M3's and combines with a beautifully balanced chassis that means you feel confident in pushing the car hard early on.
It's rewarding when you do, too. Grip is abundant, but not so strong that it'll ruin any fun. Stiffer and more focused than any normal M3, the point at which the CSL let's you know you're taking liberties is strongly defined, but it does warn you when you're getting close.
I'm glad I met my hero.
Additional photography: John Brookes