CHRIS HARRIS' COLUMN - WEEK 3

Even if the new CSL is a slightly lame way to celebrate such an inspiring brand, I’m glad they made it.

CHRIS HARRIS' COLUMN - WEEK 3

Celebrating a milestone isn’t an easy business if you’re a car company in 2022. Most of the time your marketing department is apologising for being a car company in the first place and having to make noise about electricity and how there aren’t enough chips about. A poor place from which to begin celebrations, but that’s just the start of it.

Take the new BMW M4 CSL. A car built as four-wheeled-bunting on the occasion of 50 years of BMW M. I can’t think of many car brands that deserve a large party more than Munich’s finest. It has given us so many enduring, brilliant machines it’s hard to know where to begin, but what I can say for sure is I’m glad I wasn’t charged with defining and developing the CSL that has just been revealed. That must have been a tough job.

First, it has to be based on the awful looking G82 M4 which, from a styling perspective, is like laying a log on the potter’s wheel and expecting Ming porcelain. Then there’s the spec of the standard M4 Competition to overcome - finding much more performance from that box of tricks without resorting to silly turbos and broken transmissions is a tall order. The car has a carbon roof and so much trickery as standard that it really doesn’t leave much room to, as they say, add lightness. But why - you may ask - didn’t BMW authorise BMW M to produce a stand-alone M car the way Mercedes did the AMG GT? A new M1? Because the Merc didn’t make any money, and the days when car companies green-lighted loss-making exercises in the name of cool are sadly over.

So a fancy M4 it was. The car enjoys some new suspension, a better located rear axle, some slightly altered bodywork and the majority of the claimed 100kg saving comes from some lighter front seats and no rear seats at all. The dynamic package is actually very impressive on paper, and we have to assume it’ll be a belter to drive given how outrageously good the M5 CS is. But even accounting for a Nurburgring lap-time which is firmly in the ‘shit the bed’ category for sheer speed, why is it this car leaves me so cold?

Maybe it’s just the fact that I find the base car so unappealing to look at. Perhaps it’s that BMW showed us a concept CSL a few years ago that I thought looked so fantastic that I wished it was going to be built as the 50 year celebration machine. But I will repeat what I said above: the absurd improvement from M5 Comp to M5 CS suggests that this car could be an absolute belter to drive.

But why do we need to rely on a car maker to produce its own celebration? Far better, surely, for M saddos like me (and probably you) to buy something from the M back catalogue for a fraction of the price that reminds us just how exceptional its cars have been. I have owned most of them at some point - the ones I’d revisit are the E39 M5 and the unloved 3.0-litre E36 M3. The one I’ve not owned that I would like is an E30 M3 Convertible, but they’re very valuable these days. Oh, and it goes without saying that I need an E61 M5 Touring at some point to complete my masochistic bucket list, but a pal of mine had one which needed an engine replacement under warranty and then decided to burn itself to the ground.

Even if the new CSL is a slightly lame way to celebrate such an inspiring brand, I’m glad they made it.

Chris Harris' column is a new weekly initiative where Chris will get stuck into the latest topics from the automotive world and other conversation points. The column will be published on the Collecting Cars platform and available to read in our new publication 'Club//Sport' that is distributed at our events around the world.