The crew over at Carfection have returned with their latest episode in a series focusing on the very best BMW M3 models ever produced. This week, Henry Catchpole jumped into the cockpit of a BMW E46 M3 CSL.
Those who know a thing or two about M3s will be very familiar with the E46 as it’s widely regarded as the best generation M3 ever produced. Sure, subsequent M3 generations are faster and more powerful but the E46 was perhaps the perfect balance between power, balance, and precision.
The E46 was the fourth-generation 3-Series built and enjoyed a near-decade-long production run from December 1997 through to August 2006. The M3 was sold between 2000 and 2006 and featured BMW’s iconic S54B32 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine which pumped out 338 hp in European guise and 333 hp in U.S. form. BMW later followed up the ‘standard’ M3 with the lightweight M3 CSL, complete with 355 hp and 273 lb-ft (370 Nm) of torque.
The M3 CSL was limited to just 1,383 examples and only sold in Silver Grey Metallic and Black Sapphire Metallic. It was stripped-back, hardcore, had a 50:50 weight distribution, and improved suspension and braking systems. While the normal E46 M3 was available with a six-speed manual, the M3 CSL could only be purchased with the controversial SMG II transmission which featured an electrohydraulically actuated clutch pedal.
This gearbox is far from brilliant ,but as Catchpole discovers, the car offers driving thrills which are hard to match with modern alternatives.