From the April 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
One tour around the BMW M4 CSL is all you need to size it up. With its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, prominent ducktail spoiler, and deep front splitter, the CSL is clearly a track-focused thoroughbred. That impression continues inside, with an empty space where the rear seat used to be and standard carbon-fiber front buckets that scoot fore and aft but require an allen wrench for any angular or height adjustments. Lift the hood and you'll realize it's an immaculately built hunk of carbon fiber (as is the trunk), with stripes on top that are merely unpainted swaths that show through. A plastic engine cover blocks your view of the 543-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, but the exquisite birdcage brace that connects the radiator core support, strut towers, and firewall is worth its own Instagram post.
On the test track, the launch control's synchronization of the engine and transmission isn't fully baked. We gained a few tenths by going full Skywalker and switching off launch control, regulating wheelspin with our right foot and manually pulling the upshift trigger.
Still, the 3.3-second 60-mph result trails the M4 Competition xDrive and its superior all-wheel-drive launch by a half-second. The setback is temporary. Leave your foot in it, and the CSL draws even at 6.9 seconds to 100 mph, then pulls well clear after that, hitting 120 mph in just 9.5 seconds and 150 mph in only 15.4 ticks.
The Cup 2 R tires utterly bolt down the CSL to the tune of 1.10 g's around the skidpad. But the Bimmer's 148-foot stop from 70 mph is only two feet better than what the M4 Competition xDrive managed. From 100 mph, however, the CSL's 278-foot stop bests the xDrive's by a full 24 feet. Put all of that together and it's no wonder this bad boy clocked a 2:47.5 at Lightning Lap (where the dash to 60 mph means little) to become the quickest BMW around the place.
But that doesn't necessarily mean a riotous good time on California's canyon roads, which are less than racetrack smooth. The car has a hard time putting down power if corner exits have any imperfections, and it seemingly hates getting out of tight hairpins, where echoes of its transmission hesitancy make their presence known. Despite weighing 1483 pounds more, a BMW i4 M50 we took through the same section strikes us as being much more engaging and compliant, plus quicker point to point. The CSL feels somewhat more connected when the corners are smooth and flowing, and the powerful brakes never give up when you're charging back downhill through tight sections. But this BMW is never a grin machine.
What unseals the deal is what you must tolerate driving home after the adrenaline drains away. The CSL tramlines like a slot car. The fixed buckets become a literal pain in the ass. And the ride is so unforgiving that even the softest mode is the very definition of head toss. Finally, we'd actually prefer a cupholder over the wireless phone charger, especially since the seat's weird central ridge makes the old-school thigh-clamp method untenable.
Track focus can go too far.
2023 BMW M4 CSL
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
Base/As Tested: $140,895/$145,395
Options: Frozen Brooklyn Grey metallic paint, $4500
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 183 in3, 2993 cm3
Power: 543 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 15.7-in vented, cross-drilled carbon-ceramic disc/15.0-in vented, cross-drilled carbon-ceramic disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R
F: 275/35ZR-19 (100Y) ★
R: 285/30ZR-20 (99Y) ★
Wheelbase: 112.5 in
Length: 188.7 in
Width: 75.6 in
Height: 54.6 in
Trunk Volume: 12 ft3
Curb Weight: 3580 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 3.3 sec
100 mph: 6.9 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.2 sec @ 131 mph
130 mph: 11.1 sec
150 mph: 15.4 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 4.4 sec
Top Speed (mfr's claim): 191 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 148 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 278 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.10 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 17 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 18/16/23 mpg
Dan Edmunds was born into the world of automobiles, but not how you might think. His father was a retired racing driver who opened Autoresearch, a race-car-building shop, where Dan cut his teeth as a metal fabricator. Engineering school followed, then SCCA Showroom Stock racing, and that combination landed him suspension development jobs at two different automakers. His writing career began when he was picked up by Edmunds.com (no relation) to build a testing department.