The BMW E46 m3 CSL vs the 1M coupe, battle of the purist M cars.

The E46 has aged so well in 17 years.

In 2003 BMW went a little bit mad. They took the already talented E46 M3 and went about making it every bit the toy for the driving enthusiast. They managed to lose 110kgs from the M3’s kerb weight, now weighing in at 1385kgs. Lashings of carbon fibre, thinner glass and a lighter exhaust are the main highlights to this very special beast. Now to the heart, the S54 had re-worked camshafts and valves which extricated another 17hp, upping output to 355hp. The competition alloys made their first debut to the M3 platform along with reworked side-skirts, a carbon duckbill rear spoiler and a lower scoop in the front bumper for added induction. The CSL has a beautiful carbon fibre air-box which really helps the raspy straight 6 sing all the way to redline. The lightweight bucket seats give the interior that “serious” performance car vibe finished in Alcantara to match the steering wheel. Carbon fibre door cards and centre console make the cockpit feel like a serious and dedicated place to sit, no radio to detract from the experience either, but there are rear seats for the kids should you need them.

Who doesn’t love a carbon fibre air-box.

400 CSL’s blessed the UK with their presence when launched so it’s a rare and dedicated drivers car. I remember seeing one as a teenager in Rutland, it was sat on someone’s drive and finished in that delicious grey metallic paint, a handsome old brute I must add. The E46 M3 has aged well in my opinion even better so in CSL guise, examples with moderate mileage will cost you nearly £50,000. If I remember correctly the launch price for the CSL was around £55,000 all the way back then, so they’re a fairly sound investment if you can avoid amassing thousands of miles on one. The E92 M3 never quite captured the drama and thrill of the CSL even when in GTS spec it was heavier and with a DCT gearbox no more involving, both cars would be even better with a manual.

Look at that cockpit, crisp functional and lightweight.

So what about the 1M coupe then? It doesn’t have the heritage of the CSL, it was a bit of a secret project within BMW’s M division. Many parts stolen from the E92 M3 and limited to 450 units for the U.K it’s a hell of recipe to start with. The N4 twin turbo-charged 3 litre straight 6 produced 335hp and 450nm, this is essentially a mini E92 M3 competition but with a shorter and more aggressive chassis. The 1m is subtle and refined inside the cabin with lashings of Alcantara and orange stitching I love the simplicity of it all.

Wide arches competition wheels and a short wheelbase what else do you want?

I love the way the 1m looks it’s understated aggression, massive wheel arches dished 19” competition alloys and Michelin rubber aplenty, this is a serious drivers car. The 1M was only made in 2011 with over 6000 being produced worldwide you’re unlikely to bump into another on your travels. I’ve seen 1M’s listed for as little as £30,000 recently which in my opinion is a bargain when directly compared to the E46 CSL. Both cars are dedicated to driving pleasure without sacrifice, I really believe the 1M to be a reincarnation of the CSL, just the right amount of creature comforts to keep you sane after a few laps of Silverstone.

Could this be a daily drivable purists dream?

The 1m will deliver a 0-60 sprint of 4.8 seconds and up-to 170mph should yours be de-restricted, which sound like some serious figures to me. With the short chassis coupled to rear wheel drive it’s an aggressive little bastard, it’ll snap sideways with little provocation but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it? Wrestling with it on some twisty welsh B roads will have you both working up a sweat and grinning like an idiot. The 1M has so much character and will no doubt be a future modern-classic. My advice get hold of one as soon as you can before the prices surge North like E46 M3 CSL has. You could have a year or two or moderate playtime (5000 miles a year or so) and never lose any money if kept in standard spec. Chris Harris has a 1M albeit tuned by Litchfield and wearing a full Akrapović exhaust system, these make it quicker than the new M2 which for a 9 year old car is a bloody good effort and proves what a great recipe BMW produced back then.

We deserve more cars like this, less is more.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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