BMW M3 CSL E46 Shows What It Can Do On The Autobahn

Watch as the BMW E46 M3 CSL goes way beyond its official top speed with absolutely zero performance modifications

Even today, the BMW M3 E36 is still regarded, by many, as one of the best driver’s cars out there. Three years after the German performance coupe debuted, a lighter, more track-focused version came out. It was the BMW M3 CSL and it was, essentially, what the RS was for the Porsche 911 GT3 – less weight, slightly more power, and more aggressive aero. The E46 M3 is a quick car even by today’s standards, and just in case you want to witness the capabilities of the hotter, M3 CSL, the YouTube channel AutoTopNL has provided a video showcasing its capabilities on the Autobahn.

Slightly more power and a lot less weight

BMW M3 CSL E46 Shows What It Can Do On The Autobahn
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The BMW E46 M3 CSL features extensive amounts of lightweight material, including some of the M3’s body panels being swapped out for carbon-fiber equivalents.The result is a curb weight of 2,888 pounds (1,310 kg) versus the standard E46 M3’s 3,296 pounds (1,495 kg). The glorious S54B30, 3.2-liter, inline-six engine has been massaged to extract 360 horsepower (265 kilowatts) and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm) versus the standard model’s 343 horsepower (256 kilowatts) and 269 pound-feet (365 Nm).

The result is a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time of 4.7 seconds, which is 0.2 seconds quicker than the normal BMW M3 E46. Regardless of the version, the E46 M3, supposedly, has a speed governor, which limits the top speed to 155 mph (250 km/h). This is the German equivalent of the Japanese Gentlemen’s agreement, which limited power output to “280 horsepower”. We all know how true that was, and as you will see in the video, it’s not any different with the “155 mph” speed limiter, at least in this case.

An almost perfect package

The BMW M3 E46 has it all – a balanced chassis, an exciting engine, and even enough practicality to be used as a daily driver. The CSL version, however, had one big problem and that was the lack of a manual transmission. The E46 came out around the same time paddle-shift transmissions were becoming popular. Unfortunately, those were not the refined automatic transmissions we see in most modern cars but robotized manual transmissions, which in most cases, had terrible programming.

The SMG transmission in the M3 CSL was just that. Still, as the video shows, the faster you drive it, the better it gets, and it only shows its clumsiness at low speeds. As for the acceleration and speed of the M3 CSL, you’ll be even more impressed by them.


Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Dim's fascination with cars began when he was just six. Born into a family of car enthusiasts and racing drivers, he started learning basic mechanics and driving from an early age. While he loves writing for any car, Dim is most interested in exploring obscure and forgotten cars as well as finding the best deals on the enthusiast car market. His passion took him to car restoration in the Malta Classic Car Museum, where he briefly worked on a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Junior. In Malta, he also graduated Media and Communications, which further improved his skills as an automotive journalist. Dim is always ready to get behind the wheel of any car and tell you all about it later.  Read full bio
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