BMW M3 E46 – the perfect blend

A lot has been said about the previous generation M Power BMW M3 E46. Critically acclaimed, it was the obvious choice for a petrolhead that wanted 4 seats and very little compromise in performance and handling. The CSL, “Coupe Sport Leichtbau”, is the halo model and has arguably had more said about it. Everyone seems to want a CSL, which took the M3 and turned it up to 11. Lightweight seats, carbon air box, revised exhaust, carbon panels and a host of other changes made the M3 CSL exceptional. Power was up by 17 bhp and weight was down by 110 kg which is enough to set it apart from a regular M3. F1 technology was employed and the weight saving was focused on reducing the centre of gravity as well as kerb weight, hence the lightened carbon roof, fibreboard boot floor and thinner rear window. For the collector it makes a great investment because of the limited numbers (422 in the UK and 1400 worldwide), it’s impeccable reputation and also the fact that the standard M3 is so highly regarded.

With low mileage M3 CSLs changing hands for over £30k, there is now a strong case for buying a standard M3 and building up your own CSL equivalent. Not only will you save a large amount of money, you will also be able to base your car on a manual transmission M3. This is a huge benefit as the CSL was only available with SMG paddle shift, one of the key links to F1 technology. For a everyday and occasional track car the manual transmission is preferred, as it makes the car more adjustable and enhances the feedback. The standard M3 can be bought for little over £7k, a car that is 8 tenths of the phenomenal CSL, and it will not take much to make it close to the full ten tenths. I have listed the parts and changes below.

M3 CSL Airbox
M3 CSL front bumper
New exhaust system including manifold
Full suspension replacement and setup
Forged alloys and aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup semi slick tyres
Carbon panel for bonnet and boot lid
Lightened front carbon seats
Remove spare tyre and replace with puncture repair spray
CSL steering rack
Performance Brake pads and discs
Poly bushings

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