It has been since some of our readers were just toddlers that the CSL designation has adorned the rear of a BMW. Even with the long amount of time since we have last seen it, only two models have held the designation. Ever.
CSL, which stands for Coupe Sport Light (Coupe Sport Leichtbau in proper German) has only had two cars good enough to be called one. The first was the legendary 3.0 CSL that was introduced in 1972. It was a homologation special used to ensure legality in the European Touring Car Championship. So many road cars had to be built in order for the competition car to be considered valid for competition. I, for one, love homologation specials.
The second instance of the CSL showing up in a BMW is the e46 M3 CSL. This is the same model BMW I had, however, could not be further from what I owned. The M3 CSL was produced in a limited 1400 vehicle run but, unlike the 3.0 was not a homologation for racing, just a special edition. It was still a legend by all rights though.
So the CSL is coming back, as what?
So far there is no indication of what model(s) will bear the name from BMW. The news of the return, though, comes from BMW M’s Frank Van Meel who didn’t elaborate on much. There is still much speculation to be had; we can assume an M4 as the CSL will replace GTS, which there is a current M4 in the German brand’s lineup.
Based on the Coupe Sport Leichtbau ethos, we can reason there should be CSL variants of the M2 and M4. This can mainly be assumed as they are the two lightest coupes in the current model lineup at BMW.
I do not believe BMW will bring the CSL name to the 6 series, as it is a large and heavy tourer. This, from the start, is counter to the whole point of the CSL name. It would not make for a great track monster.
The 8 series MIGHT be a car that could bear the name, largely because it is already racing. Also, it would be relatively easy for BMW to create a toned down “homologation” kind of car with this series. This is mainly due to it being a a street-legal racer with some favorable interior bits.
It is fun to speculate.
No matter which cars of BMW’s end up getting a CSL treatment, they have to be able to hold their own with the absolute best of the best. Only two CSL’s have ever been produced, so it won’t be something that is thrown around frivolously like some other brands (I’m looking at you Ford with the Edge ST). Van Meel has reportedly said the X5M will never be a CSL. So you can count that out right now.