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The E46 M3 CSL is a special variation of the standard E46 M3 coupe that features numerous lightweight components, as well as a myriad of drivetrain, chassis and cosmetic enhancements. The "CSL" moniker denotes "Coupe Sport Lightweight" and was first used on the 3.0 CSL homologation special in 1971. A total of 1,358 E46 M3 CSLs were produced to European specification between June and December of 2003 in both left-hand drive (823 built) and right-hand drive (535 built) configuration. (This figure excludes an additional series of at least a dozen pre-production M3 CSL prototypes built between September of 2002 and February of 2003.

The E46 M3 CSL is most notably distinguished from the standard E46 M3 by its various lightweight components. The largest of these is the carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (GFP) roof panel, which weighs over 13 pounds less than its conventional steel counterpart. The front bumper support is also constructed of GFP, as is the uniquely-shaped front airdam with its single intake on the left-hand side. At the rear, the lower rear valance panel is made of GFP, while the reshaped trunk lid is made of SMC (sheet molding compound). Fiberglass-reinforced plastic is used for the rear bumper supports and this material is also "sandwiched" with thermoplastics and foam to create the trunk floor and rear bulkhead. As a final weight-saving measure, the rear window glass is extra thin. BMW claimed that the M3 CSL weighed 3,054 pounds, or roughly 10 percent less than the normal model.

The E46 M3 CSL is powered by a modified version of the usual 3,246-cc S54 inline-six that lacks a conventional mass airflow meter. Instead, the air draw is determined directly by the DME for quicker calculations. There is also a more efficient air intake system made largely of GFP and routed through larger manifolds to the circular opening in the front airdam. Further changes include modified camshafts and exhaust valves, plus a lightweight exhaust system constructed of thinner steel. The CSL-spec engine is rated at 360 hp (DIN) at 7,900 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm.

The M3 CSL is equipped exclusively with the SMG II transmission featuring a special launch control mode that automatically shifts at the optimum point for maximum acceleration. This is mated to the standard E46 M3 final drive and M Differential Lock. Finally, the DSC system of the M3 CSL can be switched to M Track Mode via the steering wheel-mounted button. This raises the threshold at which the system intervenes to allow for some degree of wheelspin.

The suspension of the M3 CSL is based closely upon that of the standard E46 M3. However, it does incorporate a number of changes, including front coil springs that are shorter by one winding, different spring and shock rates (for both rebound and compression), plus larger anti-roll bars in the front (30.8 mm) and rear (22.5 mm). In addition, the normal aluminum front control arms (shared with the standard E46 M3) are joined by aluminum rear suspension links with stiffer ball bushings. Rounding out the chassis upgrades are a quicker steering rack (overall ratio: 14.5:1) and larger 13.7-inch cross-drilled front brake rotors. Finally, the M3 CSL rides on lightweight cross-spoke alloy wheels measuring 8.5x19-inches in front (0.5 inches wider than the normal M3) and 9.5x19-inches in the rear. These are shod with special Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires sized 235/35ZR19 (front) and 265/30ZR19 (rear). (Conventional tires mounted to the 19-inch forged M Double Spoke II wheels from the standard E46 M3 were also offered as a no-cost alternative.)

In addition to the aforementioned lightweight body components and unique wheels, the exterior of the E46 M3 CSL is further distinguished by a special "CSL" insert in place of the usual "M3" model designation within the decorative intake grilles on either fender. In addition, there is an "M3 CSL" badge on the trunk lid. Exterior colors were limited to Silver Grey metallic (A08) and Black Sapphire metallic (475).

Though the interior of the M3 CSL retains the standard E46 M3 dashboard (with Titan Shadow trim), instruments and general controls, it differs significantly in most other areas. The minimal door panels are constructed of lightweight GFP and lack the usual side airbags. Likewise, the center console surrounding the parking brake is also made of GFP and contains the power mirror switch that normally resides on the driver-side door. The deeply-bolstered front seats (similar to those found in the M3 GTR) have GFP backings and are upholstered in a combination of Anthracite "Reflex" cloth and Amaretta (synthetic suede). The two special individually-shaped rear seats are also covered in the same materials. The Alcantara-wrapped M three-spoke steering wheel contains only the M Track Mode switch in place of the usual audio and cruise control buttons. The parking brake handle is similarly fashioned from Alcantara and both door sills contain unique trim plates.

In keeping with the lightweight, driver-focused manner of the M3 CSL, the interior could be specified without climate control or a radio, though both could be added at no additional cost. Cost options for the M3 CSL included bi-Xenon headlights, headlight washers, Park Distance Control, rain sensor, alarm, floor mats and various cassette/CD/mini-disc audio systems.
· Publicēju marchello December 19 2011
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