BMW M4 GTS v M3 CSL: The latest and greatest at the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour

In and of itself, this year's 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour truly was an epic affair – just read Rob Margeit's race-day recap or Tom Fraser's BMW M6 GT3 behind the scenes special.

The folks at BMW Australia invited CarAdvice along to the monster Bathurst 12 Hour race weekend held at the iconic Mount Panorama Circuit, and they also surprised by giving us limited access to two very special vehicles: the 2017 BMW M4 GTS and the 2003 BMW M3 CSL.

With time short, a full-tilt CarAdvice Old v New comparison would’ve been a stretch, however, having the two cars side by side was simply too good an opportunity to miss. So, the decision was made instead, to put together a quick-snap Old v New-type photoshoot – similar to our previous Nissan GT-R R35 v R32 piece from last year. And on that note, here we go…

2017 BMW M4 GTS

Starting with the latest of our pair, the 2017 BMW M4 GTS sent BMW-loving hearts all aflutter when it was first revealed ahead of its 2015 Tokyo motor show unveiling.

Priced from $294,715 (before on-road costs), the F82 BMW M4 GTS is the pinnacle of performance in the BMW M4 line-up, sitting atop the $154,900 (before on-road costs) BMW M4 Competition.

Limited to 700 units worldwide, from its inception, the M4 GTS was always going to be a rare sight on public roads. Add in the fact that BMW Australia could only secure 25 of the tarted up M4s for our market, and, as you can imagine, spotting one casually getting about Australia is even rarer.

Powered by a wound-up version of the standard M4’s 317kW/550Nm twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine, the M4 GTS outputs 368kW of power at 6250rpm and 600Nm of torque between 4000-5500rpm. By comparison, an M4 Competition ‘only’ gets 331kW at 7000rpm and 550Nm between 1850-5500rpm.

Exclusively paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch (DCT) transmission with shift paddles and a launch control function, the rear-drive BMW M4 GTS claims 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds and an electronically-limited top speed of 305km/h.

BMW claims the M4 GTS is the first production road car in the world to be fitted with a water injection system, designed to improve not only engine power and torque (by lowering intake air temperatures by around 25-degrees Celsius) but also reduce fuel consumption and the risk of knock. Despite most of the action happening under the bonnet, much of the system lives under the M4 GTS’s boot floor, including a five-litre water tank, a water pump, sensors, and valves.

Measuring 4689mm long, 1870mm wide, and tipping the scales at 1510kg, the M4 GTS claims to use 8.5 litres of premium unleaded fuel very 100km – down 0.3L/100km compared with the heavier M4 Competition and standard M4.

Created as a key part of BMW’s ‘30 years of M3’ celebrations, the M4 GTS was designed to stand out. And stand out it does.

Parked up mere minutes away from the hallowed tarmac of Mount Panorama, the BMW M4 GTS looks simply menacing.

Finished in matte-look Frozen Dark Grey paint, with its blacked-out front grille, newly designed ventilated bonnet, and Acid Orange-tipped two-stage adjustable front splitter, the GTS most definitely looks the part.

Throw in the model's exclusive Acid Orange-highlighted style 666 M 19-inch front/20-inch rear light-alloy forged and polished wheels, and the point is rammed home even further. This thing means business.

And, while the tyres are wrapped in track-friendly Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (265/35 front, 285/30 rear), it’s the lightweight carbon-ceramic brakes (410mm up front) and gold-painted M-stamped six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers, along with the car’s LED headlights, OLED tail-lights, and adjustable carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) rear wing that really tie it all together.

With a focus on cool as much as weight saving, lightweight CFRP is used far and wide on the M4 GTS. This means not only is the roof CFRP – seen on M4s and M3s before – but the material has also been selected for the construction of the bonnet, boot lid, front splitter, rear diffuser, engine strut tower brace, and even the GTS’s fixed-back Alcantara and Merino leather bucket seats.

You may have also already spotted the Acid Orange-finished half-cage in the back of thing too.

Part of a no-cost ‘Race Package’ option that also includes a fire extinguisher and Schroth Racing harnesses for driver and passenger, the drool-worthy cage is joined by a glass-fibre-reinforced plastic (GFRP) shelf and a carbon-fibre rear panel. Both lovingly upholstered in Alcantara, BMW says all up, the semi-stripped rear equates to a weight saving of around 40 per cent.

On top of the rear seat removal, the M4 GTS’s carbon-fibre bucket seats are claimed to weigh around 50 per cent less than the standard M4’s sports seats, while additional weight saving is achieved thanks to the use of lightweight door cards. A titanium muffler also brings with it a weight saving of 20 per cent, along with blessing the GTS with easily the best exhaust note yet to come out of a street-legal M4.

Finally, a 7min28sec lap of Germany’s legendary Nurburgring-Nordschleife doesn’t often happen by mistake. But making the time achievable in the M4 GTS – at least, with the right person behind the Alcantara-wrapped M steering wheel – is specially-tuned three-way M coilover suspension, modified anti-roll bars, an “optimised” electromechanical steering system, and an electronically-controlled active M multi-plate limited-slip rear differential, with hollow output shafts.

No doubt a future classic, the BMW M4 GTS is one hell of an entertaining package and one that shows that, regardless of some occasional misses produced by the brand in recent times, it most definitely still knows what it’s doing when it comes to building a proper sports car.

With the latest done, let’s now take a brief look at what many M3 enthusiasts consider the greatest (or at least one of them): the 2003 BMW M3 CSL.

2003 BMW M3 CSL

Previewed by the M3 CSL Concept Car revealed at the 2001 Frankfurt motor show, the E46 BMW M3 CSL was, and most definitely still is, one very special vehicle.

With only 1400 units ever produced – double the number of M4 GTS – BMW says 23 CSLs were officially sold in Australia, with the Coupe Sport Lightweight (or Coupe Sport Leichtbau) priced from $210,000 (before on-road costs).

Sound expensive? It was – $68,000 more than a standard $142,000 M3 at the time. And, interestingly, that $210,000 figure roughly works out to around $290,000 converted to today’s money – less than $5000 off the price of the M4 GTS.

If the M4 GTS is all about exhaust noise, the M3 CSL is all about induction. Lots of it.

If you thought the GTS’s maximum revs of 7600rpm screaming out its 80mm-wide laser-engraved M tailpipes was cool, you need to hear the M3 CSL’s naturally-aspirated 3.2-litre straight-six sucking air through its 90mm-wide engine intake at its 8000rpm redline.

Attached to the CSL affix – referencing the legendary 1972 E9 BMW 3.0 CSL – lightweight design is clearly at the core of what the E46 M3 CSL is all about. However, it’s pretty damn hard to ignore the classic model’s incredibly addictive and intoxicating engine.

Smooth and linear in its power delivery, the in-line six-cylinder develops 265kW of power at 7900rpm and 370Nm of torque at 4900rpm.

Up 13kW and 5Nm from the standard 252kW/365Nm E46 M3, the CSL was not only equipped with a CFRP front air dam, but also an additional air intake, that previously mentioned engine intake, and a carbon-fibre air collector. And, combined, the aural assault when on wide-open throttle is simply outrageous – particularly so with the windows down.

Exclusively teamed to a six-speed single-clutch Sequential Manual Gearshift (SMG) automatic transmission with shift paddles and a launch control function, in its day, the M3 CSL claimed 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds – 0.3 seconds sharper to triple figures than a standard M3 – and an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h. BMW also reckoned the CSL could hit 200km/h from a standstill in 16.8 seconds, and return 11.9L/100km on the combined cycle.

At 4492mm long and 1780mm wide, the M3 CSL measures in 197mm shorter and 90mm narrower than the M4 GTS. But with the extensive use of lightweight materials – such as a sheet moulding compound (SMC) boot lid, a CFRP roof and rear diffuser, an aluminium bonnet, and extra-thin rear window glass – the 1385kg CSL not only weighed around 110kg less than a then-standard M3, but is also 125kg leaner than the M4 GTS.

Designed from the outset to be “full of purist driving dynamics,” according to BMW anyway, the M3 CSL was equipped with unique springs and dampers, revised steering, and upgraded brakes.

Rolling out of the factory on model-specific 19-inch aluminium wheels, the CSL was fitted with specifically developed Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres (235/35 front, 265/30 rear), and all told, the uprated, upgraded, lightweight M3 package resulted in BMW breaking the eight-minute mark around the Nurburgring-Nordschleife.

Exclusively offered in either Black Sapphire Metallic or the Silver Grey Metallic pictured, the CSL was just as cool inside as out.

Keeping things respectfully ‘CSL’, seat heating and satellite navigation were removed from the cabin, a radio and air conditioning were optional, and CFRP trim inserts were joined by manually-adjustable fixed-back glass-fibre-plastic bucket seats – the latter finished in Amaretta and fabric, and complementing the CSL’s (now well-worn) Alcantara-trimmed M steering wheel. Oddly, the rear seats were kept, and the car’s ‘pop-out’ rear quarter windows were powered.

As we indicated at the start, our time with these two incredible cars was rare and special. However, at their most basal, that’s exactly what these two cars are. We thank BMW Australia for flicking us the keys this time, and hope we can align the planets in such a way that we may be able to do this again sometime soon, with a little more time and a little more driving…

In the meantime, tell us which car you’d pick if you could only have one, the M4 GTS or M3 CSL? Let us know in the comments section below.

Click on the Photos tab for more 2017 BMW M4 GTS and 2003 BMW M3 CSL images by Tom Fraser.

- shares