The BMW M3s We Never Got

Paul Barshon
#BMW, #M3

The Michelins lied-they weren't fully warm, and the CSL's rear steps to the side. Faster, more communicative steering makes the slide easy to catch, and the SMG automated manual will obediently hold whatever gear you ask of it. Too bad it has such a hard time moving the CSL smoothly off the line or shifting without attempting to either break your neck or smoke the clutch.

As you drive the CSL, it's immediately clear that this M3 was pushed to the absolute limit. It seems thatneither the engine, the transmission, the suspension, nor the body could handle another ounce of performance. Like all E46 M3s, the CSL looks restrained, dignified, and elegant, but underneath, the CSL is raw performance ready to burst at the seams. And isn't that the whole point of an M3?

The E46 M3's real successor?
While in Munich, we had the opportunity to sample a new M car that might, philosophically, be the closest thing to an E46 M3 successor: the 2011 1-series M coupe (pictured at top). We drove camouflaged mules, and BMW was hush-hush about the details, but a peek underneath revealed suspension, brakes, and a limited-slip differential that looked suspiciously like those in the current M3. The straight six under the hood appears to be the twin-turbo N54HP found in the Z4 sDrive35is. The shifter is short, the seats are aggressive, and the flared fenders are huge. After a quick drive, we were left wanting for only two things: some more engine noise and the disposable income to afford one.


U.S. M3
PRODUCTION: 40,522 (2001-06)
ENGINE: DOHC 24-valve I-6
POWER: 333 hp @ 7900 rpm
TORQUE: 262 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
REDLINE: 8000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
0-62 MPH: 5.2 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph

Euro M3 CSL
PRODUCTION: 1400 (2003)
ENGINE: DOHC 24-valve I-6
POWER: 355 hp @ 7900 rpm
TORQUE: 273 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
REDLINE: 8000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed sequential manual
0-62 MPH: 4.9 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph

This is an interesting article, and good reading.I have an E36 M3 here in Australia. We got the "Euro spec" cars (Called "Evo" in the UK market). Not that it's a big difference but the power output is not 317bhp but 321bhp at 7,400 rpm, with a 7,500 rpm redline. This was an important design goal to BMW as it was their first road legal car to put out over 100bhp per litre. One of the significant advances (excuse the pun) of this engine is that the VANOS was not stepped, as noted above but was continuously variable, on both camshafts. The power delivery is very smooth and there is a lot of it. Although the maximum power is at 7,400 rpm, the maximum torque (258 lb/ft) at only 3,250 rpm. That was the great achievement of this engine design and it was evolved through the following series of M cars. The Euro M3 has a stronger (and heavier) limited slip differential and a fairly long list of other differences including those in the braking and ABS systems. The US car came close to the "rest of the world" car in the chassis but unfortunately not in the propulsion department. All M3s are exceptional cars, I agree.

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