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Broadcast date: 11th April 2004

BMW M3 CSLThe BMW M3 CSL name plate is derived from the highly successful lightweight racing coupes built by BMW Motorsport in the 1970s. CSL, roughly translated from German stands for Coupe, Sport LightMetal.

The modern rendition of the BMW CSL, as applied to the successful BMW M3, relies on a lot more technology than just lightweight metal to distinguish itself from the M3, an already highly accomplished sports coupe.

Virtually every area of the BMW M3 CSL has been re-engineered to provide an exacting, responsive high performance drive. This includes the use of lightweight alloy components and special bushings and bearings in the suspension, re-calibrated spring and damper rates, advanced electronic programs for the engine, gearbox and traction aides, and painstaking attention to weight-saving measures

At first glance the CSL is not that different from a standard M3. The most easily distinguishing feature is probably the use of special 19-inch alloy wheels with a really exquisite spoke pattern.

And of course these wheels are shod by the latest Michelin Sport Pilot tyres, ultra low-profile semi-slick tyres that are road-legal. Just.

Starting from the front of the car, the bumper area has a deeper, wider air intake, as well as an additional air-intake, that round hole on one side of the main intake. This provides a straight through air passage to the deep-breathing engine induction system.

The front bumper is made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, or CFP, and includes the aerodynamic wings leading into the front splitter, to manage airflow beneath the car. The bumper and wing combo is claimed to reduce front lift at high speed by as much as 50 per cent.

The bonnet is also of lightweight construction, being made in aluminium, as it is on the standard M3.

On the front fenders you have that elegant side louvre, with metal ribbing and the CSL badge. This is a nod to BMW's vast motorsport history and is reminiscent of the classic 328 sports racers of the late 1930s.

Opening the driver's door, the metal scuff plates  again bear the CSL legend, and there is an additional manufacturer's plate confirming that this is a genuine example of just 65 BMW M3 CSLs to be imported to South Africa .

The roof of the car has in fact been created in carbon fibre reinforced plastic, similar to the  lightweight material used for Formula One construction. Very expensive to manufacture, carbon fibre is both much lighter and stronger than steel.

The boot-lid too is made of a very special compound called Sheet-Molding Compound, which uses plastic as its base. The boot lid also incorporates a distinctive, integrated wing which again visually identifies the CSL from the standard M3.

The rear bumper is once again formed in CFP for weight reduction and strength, and carbon fibre reinforced plastics are used in the support stays for the bumpers.

The BMW Mototrsport staff  also went to great lengths to save weight in unusual areas. For instance the luggage compartment lining is a made out of a paper-sandwich material much lighter than conventional board matting. And the rear seat backs are made of lightweight fibreglass.

Inside the cockpit, carbon fibre door panels again save weight and add a racer's touch to the cabin.

Cosmetically, a special touch is the use of suede leather on the steering wheel and the instrument shroud, making the driver of a CSL feel he or she is in control of a rare machine.

Weight reduction is what it is all about with the BMW CSL and total weight loss amounts to about 110 kg. That may not sound much, but weight saving has been made in vital areas giving an ideal 50-50 weight distribution between front and rear.

Together with stiffer suspension, those wide tyres and revised steering geometry the CSL has cat-like reactions.

Indeed, the CSL remains  one of a handful of production cars that has dipped under the eight-second barrier at the famous Nurburgring long circuit race track, which is 22 kilometres long and features over 100 daunting curves in this German mountain region.

Owners of the CSL will love raising the bonnet, just to gaze at that carbon-fibre air intake. This intake system provides a fair proportion of the extra 13 kW produced by the 3,2-litre, 24-valve six cylinder engine.

Maximum power on the CSL is 265 kW at 7 900 rpm, but even more pleasing than the extra power is the ominous roar from the induction system, when the sporting programmes are used on the engine-and gearbox management system.

An extra flap in the airbox automatically opens at about 3 000 rpm for a real racer or Touring Car engine note.

Inside the car there is a real no-compromise approach to sports driving. The seats are identical to race buckets and offer minimal comfort but maximum support over long journeys. If its comfort you are after, stick to the standard M3

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