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Watch The Legendary BMW M3 CSL Battle The 2015 M235i

Illustration for article titled Watch The Legendary BMW M3 CSL Battle The 2015 M235i

Top Gun. Top dog. The best of the best. That's how I would describe the M3 CSL version of the E46 BMW M3. This Euro-only special edition dropped the weight and added the paddle-shift SMG transmission to make a great car even better.

The M3 CSL may be a decade old now, but it was so good I'd be wary of pitting any modern BMW up against it. But that's exactly what Auto Express does in this track test, where they attempt to see if the new 2015 BMW M235i can topple a legend.


The M235i may not be a "real" M-car because it wasn't done up by the folks at the M division, but it still packs a twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight six with 322 horsepower and a traditional manual. But it's also heavier than the CSL and down on power; that car put out 360 horsepower.

As Auto Express notes, they're similar in price these days. Which is really better to drive and to take to the track? The results of this test will surprise you.

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Here's the funny thing. I owned an E46 M3 for about 5 years. The engine doesn't sound anything like the dozens of video reviews I've ever watched. It sounded good, it sounded raspy, but honestly some of the best descriptions came from my friends. They said that under hard acceleration when the VANOS switched over around 3k RPM it really sounded like a tin can with either angry bees or small pebbles in it. Very raspy and also metallic ringing noise. Again not quite what the videos portray. The car wasn't powerful enough so I put an ESS supercharger on it. That honestly didn't hurt the sound of the engine at all and low speed and low RPM you could just barely hear the whine. There was also a blow off value on it, not a nasty EVO/WRX obnoxious one, just functional. It sounded great every time you switched gears. My particular car put down 394 RWHP so maybe around 465 HP... After owning it for 2 more years with the SC on it I will tell you that's how much power that car should've had from the factory. Honestly I don't see why the CSL gets so much attention. 360 HP and a slightly modified suspension is not worth all the fuss, not even close.