As the anniversary year comes to a close, BMW M GmbH is presenting the most exclusive special model the company has ever produced – a masterpiece of engineering embodying the essence from 50 years of racing passion and expressing its historic roots in a legendary model designation.
The BMW 3.0 CSL (fuel consumption combined: 11.0 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 249 g/km WLTP) combines a unique design with a pure performance experience in two seats and in doing so provides a truly unique and contemporary interpretation of the concept created in the 1970s - applying racetrack technology designed for sheer driving pleasure on the road.
The BMW 3.0 CSL was developed with the intention of combining the best of five decades of racing expertise from BMW M GmbH in an automobile with a highly emotional aura. All facets of its character – dynamic exterior elegance, a classic sportscar cockpit, intelligent lightweight construction, a straight six-cylinder engine, manual transmission and rear-wheel drive – are based on traditional principles of a BMW M automobile. These elements complement each other and combine with the latest technology to create the ultimate top performer in the style of the brand that has been successful for 50 years. A ride in a BMW 3.0 CSL is therefore not only an exclusive high-performance experience, but also an emotional encounter with the past and present of the world’s most powerful letter.
Produced as a limited edition incorporating elaborate craftsmanship.
The BMW 3.0 CSL is produced in a strictly limited edition. To mark the anniversary, exactly 50 consecutively numbered units of the special model will go on sale. Right from the start, this gives the BMW 3.0 CSL the status of a rarity that will find its place in the vehicle collections of particularly loyal and enthusiastic fans of the BMW M brand.
The production of all vehicles will take around three months. Each and every one of them is created with absolute dedication to excellence in craftsmanship and precisely coordinated technologies in an elaborate manufacturing process at the BMW Group Dingolfing plant in Moosthenning, Lower Bavaria. The exclusive interior carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) components are hand produced by specially assigned bodywork specialists in Munich and at the BMW Group component factory in Landshut.
A specific process was also conceived for the paintwork of the BMW 3.0 CSL, in which craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology complement each other to provide each individual part with its characteristic colour design. In addition, a team of 30 specially qualified and experienced technicians are responsible for the configuration and assembly of the vehicles. Due to the complexity of the manufacturing processes, each BMW 3.0 CSL passes through eight assembly cycles at as many production stations, a procedure that takes up to 10 days in total.
The extremely high proportion of individual manual work means that the time required to assemble a BMW 3.0 CSL is many times higher than that of a conventional BMW M automobile. After completing the manufacturing process, each vehicle will undergo a multi-stage quality inspection and approval process at the main Dingolfing plant before it is released for delivery to the customer. The BMW Group Plant Dingolfing is the company’s largest European production site. In addition to building several BMW M automobiles, the luxurious BMW 7 Series and body components for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are produced there.
The successful touring car – a role model in its time.
As the reincarnation of a legendary sports car both for the racetrack and the road, the BMW 3.0 CSL possesses all the characteristics of a pure M car. It embodies the joy of classic driving and an awareness of the traditional roots of BMW M GmbH in a uniquely exclusive form. Its eponymous role model is considered the first automobile to carry the DNA for maximum driving pleasure and passion, an unmistakable feature of BMW M automobiles to this very day. In the founding year of BMW Motorsport GmbH, it was developed for use in touring car competitions, where it became the most successful racing car of its era.
The racing version of the historic BMW 3.0 CSL won the European Touring Car Championship during its inaugural season in 1973 – and repeated this title win five more times in succession from 1975 to 1979. Drivers such as Toine Hezemans, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Chris Amon and Niki Lauda left the competition behind at the Nürburgring and numerous other circuits, followed by BMW’s first victories on US circuits as early as 1975. All these successes helped the works racing cars to gain international popularity.
“Coupe, Sport, Lightweight construction“: New interpretation of a legendary formula.
The road version of the racing car, which was developed for homologation purposes, became a widely known symbol of inspiring driving pleasure focused on the essentials, especially in its final stage of development. CSL – this combination of letters in the model designation stood for “Coupé, Sport, Leichtbau” (Coupe, Sport, Lightweight), a concise summary of the two-door car’s recipe for success.
In addition to wide wheel arches, its coupe-shaped body also received an eye-catching aerodynamics package, which included a front spoiler, air bars on the front side panels and a roof spoiler. Completing the design modifications vs. the other coupes in BMW large series was a rear wing that optimised the grip of the rear wheels. It was not approved for road use and therefore lay in the boot when the vehicle was delivered, but nevertheless received much public attention, earning the automobile its “Batmobile” nickname.
With an increased displacement of 3,153 cubic centimetres and a maximum output of 206 hp, the most powerful straight six-cylinder engine with direct injection ever used in a BMW model ensured sporty power delivery. The powerful drive system was combined with refined suspension technology. Its unladen weight was just 1,270 kilograms.
The reduced weight was achieved through comprehensive lightweight construction. The doors were made of aluminium, as were the bonnet and the boot lid, which were supported on retaining rods after opening. Numerous other body components such as the roof, side panels and luggage compartment partition were made of particularly thin sheet metal, and the chrome bumpers were replaced by plastic skirting. Lightweight bucket seats and the omission of insulation material, power steering and electric windows ensured optimal weight reduction. An overall power-to-weight ratio of 6.2 kilograms per horsepower was achieved.
The new BMW 3.0 CSL is the contemporary reinterpretation of all these features anchored in its model designation. Its coupe-shaped body sets traditional accents for sporty elegance and expressive dynamics. Its drive and suspension technology stems from the latest developments for racing cars and high-performance sports cars from BMW M GmbH. And the intelligent lightweight construction reaches an outstanding level, above all through the extensive use of carbon. The power-to-weight ratio of the BMW 3.0 CSL is a mere 2.9 kilograms per hp.
As an independent model from BMW M GmbH and despite the limited number of units, the BMW 3.0 CSL has undergone a complete series development process. In addition to the extensive quality and function tests and the driving dynamics tuning test drives under a wide range of conditions from city traffic to country roads and motorways to the racetrack, the BMW 3.0 CSL has also undergone comprehensive aerodynamic testing. Around 200 working hours were spent on optimising the airflow and aerodynamic balance of the vehicle, including 50 hours in the wind tunnel of the BMW Group’s Aerodynamic Test Centre. In addition, two pre-production vehicles of the BMW 3.0 CSL had to undergo frontal and side crash safety tests to meet road legal requirements.
Unique, M-typical design, geared to the technical demands of outstanding performance.
With its classic coupe proportions and a traditional vehicle concept that combines a front engine and manual transmission with rear-wheel drive, the BMW 3.0 CSL follows in the footsteps of its historic ancestor. Distinctive air deflection elements, powerfully shaped wheel arches, a striking rear spoiler and numerous other details are unmistakably based on the design of the legendary coupe from the 1970s.
At the same time, its appearance is characterised by the principles that have always applied to BMW M automobiles: The specific exterior features are based on the technical requirements for cooling air supply, aerodynamic balance and driving dynamics, which form the basis for delivering compelling driving performance. The BMW 3.0 CSL expresses timeless racing passion in an emotional and authentic way.
Powerful aesthetics pay tribute to the historical ancestor.
Power and athleticism are signalised by the front end of the BMW 3.0 CSL, which sits low on the road. At its centre is the distinctive BMW kidney grille with a lattice-shaped insert in a diamond structure. Its upright position relates to the front design of its historic ancestor. Like the side window surrounds, the kidney frame is finished in satin aluminium – a design feature that emphasises the special status of the BMW 3.0 CSL. Together with the BMW kidney grille, two generously dimensioned recesses in the front apron, reminiscent of the air intakes on the 1970s model, ensure reliable cooling of the drive and brake systems. Sculpturally shaped air fins on the bonnet emphasise the classic lines.
With their flat contours, the headlights create a characteristic focus on the road. The BMW Laser Light headlights shine in yellow, both during the welcome scenario after unlocking the doors and when the low and high beams are activated, thus making reference to successful GT racing cars. This detail is a subtle reference to the strong connection with motorsport and the BMW M4 GT3, which won both the drivers’ and team DTM championships in 2022 and whose power unit is based on the same straight-six engine as the power unit inside the BMW 3.0 CSL. The BMW M4 GT3 achieved championship success right at the start of its racetrack career, much like the historic BMW 3.0 CSL, which once won the European Touring Car Championship in its inaugural season.
Viewed from the side, the long bonnet and wide wheelbase lend the BMW 3.0 CSL an appearance that is both sporty and classically elegant, with the brand-typical three-box coupe design proportions also contributing to this. Particularly wide, diagonally offset side panels and wide side walls underline the dynamic appearance of the coupe even when stationary, with an air deflector extending along the roof line.
Wide wheel arches, central locking wheels produced exclusively for the BMW 3.0 CSL’s tyres.
Muscular wheel arches give indication of the large track widths that contribute significantly to the vehicle’s high cornering dynamics. They offer space for the forged light-alloy wheels in a Y-spoke design, these being 20 inches on the front axle and 21 inches at the rear. With their intricate spokes, a gold-coloured paint finish in the style of the 1970s and a centre lock, they represent design and driving dynamics highlight adapted directly from racing. The integration of the model-specific wheels into the pre-assembled axles of the BMW 3.0 CSL is part of the manufacturing process at the BMW Plant Dingolfing. At 930 Nm, the torque applied during the assembly of the centre locks achieves the highest value for a BMW Group production vehicle.
The forged light-alloy wheels are fitted with Michelin tyres developed exclusively for the BMW 3.0 CSL. They bear the number 50 embossed on the tyre sidewalls, providing another subtle reference to the anniversary of BMW M GmbH.
A tail wing in the style of the “Batmobile“.
The rear view of the BMW 3.0 CSL is also characterised by powerful aesthetics and reinterpreted design features of its ancestor. The most striking feature is the rear wing, which is enclosed at the side and translates the characteristic appearance of the “Batmobile” into a modern design language. Designed to generate additional downforce and optimise traction on the rear axle, the air deflector encloses the entire rear section, thus becoming a dominant visual element. For the benefit of aerodynamic balance, it is combined with a strongly pronounced carbon diffuser in the rear apron which optimises underbody airflow.
The four tailpipes of the exhaust system, which are arranged in an arrow shape in the centre of the rear apron and feature a particularly lightweight titanium rear silencer, also provide a striking accent. The rear lights of the BMW 3.0 CSL use innovative lighting technology to generate an exclusive night design and a particularly vivid radiance. This is achieved by laser light threads that appear to be free-floating inside the lights and create an expressive and precise 3D effect.
Elaborate paintwork in the style of classic racing cars.
Right from the very beginning of the 1970s, BMW Motorsport GmbH became imprinted in the memories of fans worldwide thanks to spectacular racing successes, but also because of the team’s unmistakable appearance. Just like the competition cars, the drivers’ outfits, the vehicle transporters and all other team equipment featured uniform stripes in blue, purple and red on a white background – a novelty at the time and a globally recognised trademark to this day. The BMW 3.0 CSL picks up on this tradition with a paint finish in non-metallic Alpine White and an elaborately applied stripe decor in the BMW M GmbH colours. The lines on the body effectively reflect the dynamic surfaces, thus bringing to the fore the powerful aesthetics of the coupe even more clearly.
Both the base colour and the M stripes, known in motorsport as the livery, are applied largely by hand, involving an extremely high level of time and effort. A total of 22 individual parts are painted in a process specially designed for the BMW 3.0 CSL. Particular attention is paid to a highly precise arrangement of the body surfaces and livery stripes finished in visible carbon. Most of the exterior in Alpine White comprises carbon components which are hand-painted by specialists. This high-tech material is only visible in the lettering on the roof and the rear wing. To precisely position the livery stripes in the BMW M GmbH colours, the painters use masking using laser projection as well as customised contour films.
Each component with a livery paint finish has a throughput time of six working days. During this time, it completes up to eight paint processes, each with the necessary intermediate work steps such as sanding and masking the colour stripes. This results in a total of 134 paint processes for each vehicle, adding up to a total of 6,700 manual work sequences in the paint shop for the entire small series of the special model.
The number sequences on the doors and roof of the BMW 3.0 CSL, designed in the style of early racing cars, build a bridge from the past to the present. Their design in the style of racing numbers is based on the historical model of the first BMW M automobile developed for touring car racing, whilst the number 50 refers to the anniversary of BMW M GmbH. The two BMW logos on the C-pillar provide another nod to the 1970s, positioned directly behind the counter-swing of the side window graphic known as the Hofmeister kink.
The most powerful straight six-cylinder power unit ever used in a road-legal BMW M automobile.
The BMW 3.0 CSL features the most powerful straight six-cylinder engine ever used in a road-legal BMW M automobile. This is also a tradition: in its final stage of development, the predecessor of the same name marked a new record with an engine output of 151 kW/206 hp – not only for six-cylinder models but for all BMW production vehicles produced up to that point.
Since then, the straight six-cylinder engine with M Power has undergone impressive development. Engines of the same design mobilised an output of 204 kW/277 hp in the BMW M1 as early as 1978 and 250 kW/340 hp in the second-generation BMW M5 from 1991. The fifth-generation BMW M3 was launched in 2014 with a 317 kW/431 hp straight-six engine featuring M TwinPower Turbo technology.
The straight six-cylinder engine of the BMW 3.0 CSL possesses the same technological roots as the power unit used in the current DTM winning car. The 3.0-litre power unit offers spontaneous high revving thanks to the typical M high-revving concept and comprises, among other things, an extremely rigid crankcase in a sleeveless closed-deck design, a forged lightweight crankshaft and a cylinder head core featuring 3D printing technology. The cooling system and oil supply are also designed for extremely dynamic driving situations. For its championship win in the DTM, the BMW M4 GT3 was powered by a version of the latest straight six-cylinder engine with around 600 hp which, in its version designed for large-scale production in the current models of the BMW M3/BMW M4 series, delivers up to 375 kW/510 hp.
The version of the drive system with M TwinPower Turbo technology, which was further developed exclusively for the BMW 3.0 CSL, mobilises a maximum output of 412 kW/560 hp. The new record for straight six-cylinder models from BMW M GmbH with road approval underpins the special status of the vehicle. Its engine develops a maximum torque of 550 Nm with a linear power delivery up to a maximum speed of 7,200 min-1.
6-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive for particularly intense driving pleasure.
To transfer the drive power to the road, the developers of the BMW 3.0 CSL used a concept that has been tried and tested for decades for maximum driving pleasure and intensive interaction between driver and vehicle. The straight six-cylinder engine is coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox whose spread and transmission ratios are ideally matched to the performance characteristics. Precisely defined gear shift travel enables fast and precise gear changing. The gearshift knob made exclusively for the BMW 3.0 CSL protrudes from the centre console and is a luxurious accessory. It immediately arouses anticipation for the manual gearshift, lies snugly in the hand and, with its white surface, the engraved gearshift diagram and the number 50, is reminiscent of the beginnings of BMW M GmbH in the 1970s. A tribute to modern technology is the shift assistant, which uses a connection speed control to ensure slip-free clutch engagement after downshifting when braking for corners. Shift assistant can be activated or deactivated by the driver.
The drive torque is transmitted to the road exclusively via the rear wheels of the BMW 3.0 CSL. For ambitious use on the racetrack, the driver can use the typical M linear build-up of lateral acceleration forces to steer the vehicle through bends with controlled drift manoeuvres. The Active M Differential in the rear-axle transmission also ensures superior dynamics. If necessary, it prevents torque compensation between the rear wheels and, at the same time, continuously and variably builds up a locking effect of up to 100 per cent. The Active M Differential is linked to the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and precisely adjusts its locking effect to the respective driving situation. For example, traction is optimised on roads with different friction values for the right and left rear wheels. When accelerating dynamically out of bends, the driver receives noticeable feedback on the grip potential on the rear wheels and can thus optimally dose the use of the accelerator pedal.
Exclusively tuned suspension technology, including M carbon-ceramic brake system and M Traction Control.
In the configuration of the suspension technology as well, state-of-the-art technology has been combined with a methodology for the harmonisation of all components that has matured over five decades. The suspension components used in the BMW 3.0 CSL represent the spearhead of development for high-performance sports cars by BMW M GmbH: a double-joint spring strut front axle and a five-link rear axle in M-specific design, an Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled shock absorbers, the electromechanical M Servotronic steering with variable ratio and the M carbon ceramic brake system with adjustable characteristic curves.
The integrated application of all drive and chassis systems took place during intensive test drives on public roads as well as on race tracks, including the Nürburgring Nordschleife, which has been the ultimate testing ground for all BMW M automobiles for 50 years. Before testing, engineers at BMW M GmbH had designed and optimised the digital image of the BMW 3.0 CSL in every detail in a computer-aided design and development process. By incorporating virtual reality and other digital processes, it was possible to accelerate the series development process to the maximum extent. This detailed simulation and tuning process took into account the model-specific dimensions, vehicle weight and axle load distribution, the extremely high rigidity of the body and suspension connections as well as the aerodynamic balance of the BMW 3.0 CSL to ensure from the onset that typical M combination of agility, dynamics and handling precision.
Powerful deceleration performance, optimised fading stability, outstanding thermal stability and extremely high wear resistance are offered by the M carbon ceramic brake system. It combines six-piston fixed-calliper brakes and ceramic brake discs measuring 400x38 millimetres on the front axle with single-piston fixed-calliper brakes and 380x28-millimetre ceramic brake discs at the rear and features red-painted brake callipers. The M-specific design of the integrated braking system allows two characteristic pedal-feel curves to be displayed, which can be selected in the M Setup menu.
With the M Traction Control function, the driver can individually set the intervention thresholds of the wheel slip limitation. Ten levels are available for this purpose, and complete deactivation of the driving stability control is also possible via the M Dynamic Mode. The BMW 3.0 CSL is perfectly prepared for experiencing pure performance on the racetrack.
Intelligent lightweight construction with maximum use of carbon components.
In the BMW 3.0 CSL, the tradition of intelligent lightweight construction, which has been cultivated since the 1970s, is reformulated and reshaped using state-of-the-art technology. To reduce weight in the body and chassis areas, carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) is used to an exceptionally high extent alongside the minimised use of insulating material. BMW M GmbH is a pioneer in the use of CFRP in series-produced vehicles. As early as 2004, it equipped a large-series model with a carbon roof for the first time.
The BMW 3.0 CSL features CFRP components on virtually all bodywork sections. In addition to the roof, bonnet and boot lid, the front and rear aprons are made entirely of carbon. The front and rear side panel attachments, the side sills, the rear diffuser, the rear wing and rear spoiler are also made of this high-tech material. All carbon components are manufactured in small series, mostly by hand and exclusively for the BMW 3.0 CSL.
In addition, a targeted selection of materials and state-of-the-art design methods also lead to a significant reduction in the weight of other vehicle components. The roof spoiler of the BMW 3.0 CSL is made of glass fibre reinforced plastic. The titanium rear silencer of the BMW 3.0 CSL is around 4.3 kilograms lighter than a conventional steel component. The cast aluminium precision struts in the engine compartment, which connect the suspension strut domes and the front end, have a geometry that has been precisely matched to the forces acting in different driving situations. With the aid of mathematical models, agility and steering precision has been optimised with a minimum of material and weight.
Pure sports car cockpit with M carbon full bucket seats.
The use of carbon and other lightweight construction measures in the interior of the BMW 3.0 CSL emphasises its pure sports car characteristics. Instead of additional seats, the rear offers a storage compartment with two integrated helmet compartments. CFRP trim in the door panels and reduced acoustic insulation also contribute to the extremely sporty flair. The driver and front passenger sit in M Carbon full bucket seats, which convey a highly emotional and unique racing feeling every mile of the way. The diagonal connections between the seat surface and the backrest are reminiscent of the construction principle of the lightweight seats featured in the historic model. Seat height and inclination can be adjusted exclusively via a three-stage screw linkage in a workshop. The longitudinal position can be varied manually using a lever at the front edge of the seat. In addition, the M Carbon full bucket seats offer removable headrest inserts.
Over and above that, the interior of the BMW 3.0 CSL presents itself as a sports car cockpit that is pure and exclusive. Black Alcantara seat surfaces and M seat belts are combined with an M Alcantara steering wheel, an anthracite roof liner, black Alcantara and matt carbon surfaces. Contrast stitching and other accents in white correspond with the exterior paintwork of the BMW 3.0 CSL, the model lettering of which is embossed into the door sill trims and the seat surfaces. The white gearshift knob symbolises the classic form of interaction between driver and vehicle when changing gear, while the start/stop button and the M buttons on the steering wheel are finished in red. The matt interior trims in a carbon fibre finish feature sequential numbering for each of the 50 units available. This marking, documented in the interior from #01/50 to #50/50, corresponds in each case to the final digits of the suspension number, thus representing a visible and authentic reference to the individual vehicle identity.