2023 BMW M4 CSL Is a Track Monster


From the April 2023 issue of Car and Driver.

One lap around the BMW M4 CSL is all you need to make it bigger. With its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tyres, 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 rock front and rear, but require an allen wrench for any angle or height adjustments. Lift the hood and you’ll notice it’s an impeccably built piece of carbon fiber (as is the trunk), with stripes on top that are simply unpainted tracks peeking through. A plastic engine cover blocks your view of the 543-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six, but the beautiful birdcage strut that connects the radiator core support, strut towers, and firewall is worthy of its own Instagram post.

On the test track, the launch control’s synchronization of the engine and transmission wasn’t quite baked. We gained a few tenths by going full Skywalker and turning off launch control, regulating wheelspin with our right foot and pulling the upshift trigger manually.

2023 bmw m4 csl

marc urban|Car and Driver

Still, the 3.3-second 60 mph result trails the M4 Competition xDrive and its superior all-wheel drive launch by half a second. The setback is temporary. Put your foot in it, and the CSL even pulls to 100 mph at 6.9 seconds, and then pulls well after that, hitting 120 mph in just 9.5 seconds and 150 mph in just 15.4 ticks.

HEIGHT: Crushing acceleration from the top end, fantastic on the track, lasts for days.

The Cup 2 R tires completely bolted the CSL to the tune of 1.10 g’s around the skidpad. But the Bimmer’s 148-foot stop from 70 mph is just two feet better than the M4 Competition xDrive managed. From 100 mph, however, the CSL’s 278-feet bests the xDrives by a full 24 feet. Put it all together and it’s no wonder this bad boy recorded a 2:47.5 at Lightning Lap (where the dash to 60 mph means little) to become the fastest BMW around.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean a riotously good time on California’s canyon roads, which are less than racetrack smooth. The car struggles to put down power if corner exits have any imperfections, and it seems to hate getting out of tight hairpins, where echoes of its transmission hesitation make their presence known. Despite weighing 1483 pounds more, a BMW i4 M50 we took through the same section strikes us as much more attractive and compliant, plus quicker point-to-point. The CSL feels somewhat more connected when the corners are smooth and fluid, and the powerful brakes never let up when you’re charging back through tight sections of descent. But this BMW is never a grin machine.

LOW: Unbearable seats, unforgiving on the road, steering has a mind of its own.

What unlocks the deal is what you have to endure driving home after the adrenaline wears off. The CSL tram lines 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 definition of headbanging. Finally, we actually prefer a cup holder to the wireless phone charger, especially since the seat’s weird central ridge makes the old-school thigh-clamp method untenable.

Lane focus can go too far.

2023 bmw m4 csl

marc urban|Car and Driver

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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 Gray metallic paint, $4500

twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 183 inches32993 cm3
Power: 543 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm

8-speed automatic

Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 15.7-inch ventilated cross-drilled carbon ceramic disc/15.0-inch ventilated 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 inches
Length: 188.7 inches
Width: 75.6 inches
Height: 54.6 inches
Hull volume: 12 feet3
Curb weight: 3580 lb

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 show 1 foot deployment of 0.3 sec. away.
Roll 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
Road holding capacity, 300-foot skid road: 1.10 g

Observed: 17 mpg

Combined/City/Highway: 18/16/23 mpg


Header from Dan Edmunds

Technical editor

Dan Edmunds was born into the world of cars, but not in the way you might think. His father was a retired racer who opened Autoresearch, a race car build 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 section.