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A FAST ’N’ FURIOUS FACE-OFF... ACROSS THE AGES

WORDS NATHAN PONCHARD

2015 BMW M42015 M4

BRUTAL BOOSTER

GADGETS used to be frowned upon in hi-po coupes – adding weight instead of cred – but that’s long in the past. Even a stock M4 is chocked to the gullet with luxuries such as 16-speaker, 900W stereo and electric leather seats with heaters, but it’s the active M differential and adaptive M suspension that really count. All for $150K. 15/20 THE M4’s twin-turbo straight-six produces an effortless 317kW, but it’s the 550Nm from 1850-5500rpm that delivers shove at all speeds. At 1537kg, the M-DCT M4 needs that extra muscle, though a 0-100km/h time of 4.1sec and an 8.3L/100km fuel number show what technology has done for performance cars. 17/20 UNLIKE the gloriously progressive CSL, the M4 has masses of grip until its tail steps out, which can feel a little snappy, just like the 1M did. But the M4 has a brilliant steering wheel and its chassis feels wonderfully poised regardless of the damper setting. It feels sportier as a manual, though, and deserves an M4 CSL. 17/20 BESIDES thick B-pillars and more claustrophobic cabin feel than the smaller, yet glassier CSL, the M4 aces the whole ‘practical coupe’ thing. Generous space and comfort for four adult blokes, and fold-down rear-seat backrests, not to mention great door pockets, cupholders galore and superb front seats with M badges that illuminate at night. 18/20 WITH its adaptive dampers set to Comfort, the M4 is a stupendous mile-eater, with a grand touring ability the M3 CSL has little hope of matching. Purists may argue the M4 is a bit fat around its middle, but the reality is this is a sportier car more of the time, without quite achieving the ultimate highs of the previous E92 V8 or the CSL. 16/20

83/100

2003 BMW CSL2003 BMW M3 CS

BACK TO BASICS

THE true definition of a ‘stripper’. No air-con, cruise, centre armrest, wheel buttons or proper door trims, and just two airbags. The CSL also has ESC that’s either on or off, and its front buckets have fixed backrests, making rear-seat entry a bitch. New, it cost a staggering $210K; today, $90K will buy a good one, if you can find one. 10/20 NOT mega-quick from a modern perspective – an M235i would probably see it off – though its 4.9sec 0-100km/h claim was solid for the era. But the 265kW CSL was always more about making a great noise. At 1385kg, it’s light, too, and while its single-clutch SMG gearbox now sounds antiquated, its 0.08sec shift speed ain’t too shabby. 15/20 THE CSL doesn’t hit the numerical highs of the M4, but its smaller frame, lighter feel and more progressive chassis (ESC off) mean this is a sports coupe for purists. It may not have the grip or the steering crispness of the M4, but it feels more playful, making it easier to access its deliciously raspy, sharply focused personality. 17/20 FIXED-back and heavily bolstered bucket seats mean anyone with a larger-than-average frame may have issues.

Otherwise the CSL is almost as practical as any other E46 M3. Providing you can squeeze into the back seat, there’s room for two adults, plus brilliant vision thanks to thin pillars, and its boot is usefully large. 15/20 YOU wouldn’t say the CSL rides badly, but compared to the adaptive-dampered M4 it’s very firm, though light on its feet. As for refinement, well, if you wanted that you would’ve bought a regular E46 M3. About the most uncouth aspect of the CSL is the SMG’s sometimes brutal upshifts, and its fidgety freeway ride, minus cruise control. 12/20

69/100

POINTS SCORE

V PRICE & EQUIPMENT

20 POINTS

INTERIOR & VERSATILITY

20 POINTS

PERFORMANCE & ECONOMY

20 POINTS

RIDE & REFINEMENT

20 POINTS

STEERING & HANDLING

20 POINTS

VERDICT

NUMBERS aren’t everything, as any creative type knows. So it proves for this M4 versus M3 CSL debate. In every rational sense, the M4 is a more accomplished and sophisticated car with a much broader range of talents than the E46 CSL, but there are things it can learn from its elder. Firstly, the CSL’s lithe sweetness, playfulness and predictability are qualities the M4 can’t replicate. And there’s a deliciously unadulterated flavour to the CSL’s high-revving 3.2-litre six that the M4’s mega-boosted 3.0-litre lacks, especially when muffled by the excellent and proficient, M-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch.

It comes down to what you want: to be first to the pub, or arrive with the biggest grin. The M4 is a phenomenal machine, and faster for sure. But the M3 CSL is characterful and uncouth. We love it.

FAMILY AFFAIR

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