One of the most revered badges in BMW’s (mostly) illustrious back catalogue—CSL—is back and it’s been branded on the rear of the pig-ugly M4. The price? AUD$303,900.

*Spits out drink*

Three hundred thousand dollars. That works out to be approximately $120,000 more than the already capable M4 Competition. So what’s changed?

Well, for starters, they’ve put the M4 on one of the most unimpressive weight loss regimes. BMW claims the CSL boasts an “intelligent lightweight design,” pointing to the fact that it’s 100 kg lighter than the car on which it is based. It all sounds mighty impressive… until you realise it still tips the scales at a lardy 1.6 tonnes. BMW boasted in the press release about how they ditched the M4’s rear seats to save an entirely unsurprising 21kg. That's a bit like amputating your legs to compensate for your beer belly. Sure, it lowers the number on the scale but it’s not what I’d call an “intelligent” solution.

So, they’re charging more for less?

Sort of. This has always been the way.

Mind you, while weight has been removed, power has been added.

The M4’s formidable 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline-six has been tickled to produce 405 kW (up 30 kW), though torque remains unchanged at 650 Nm. And despite sending power exclusively to the rear wheels, BMW claims the CSL can manage 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds. Brisk.

Straight-line speed is all well and good but isn’t this a track car?

BMW insists that the CSL has “track driving as its raison d’être.” Bold, yes, but there’s evidence to suggest that this isn’t mere marketing fluff.

The BMW M4 CSL is the fastest series-produced BMW vehicle ever to lap the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife circuit. Its official lap time for the 20.832-kilometre (12.943-mile) circuit was 7:20.207 minutes, meaning the CSL is the quickest mid-range car to ever lap the famed circuit, beating the record held by Jaguar’s monstrous XE SV Project 8 by almost 3 seconds.

But it’s still slower than a 911 GT3.

Ah, yes. The flat-six-powered elephant in the room.

The first Porsche 911 GT3 burst onto the sports car scene in 1999 and promptly took control of the throne. It’s been the king ever since. And with a Nürburgring lap time of 6:59.927 minutes, it’s not hard to see why.

But it’s also the best part of AUD$65,000 more than the already rich M4 CSL. Perhaps a more appropriate rival for Bavarian’s bruiser is Porsche’s AUD$300,800 Cayman GT4 RS…

Isn’t the Cayman a little limp-wristed compared to the CSL?

Not in the slightest.

The Cayman may be down on power (368 kW/500 hp) and torque (450 Nm) but it’s over 200 kg lighter than the BMW (1415 kg vs. 1625 kg). That means the smaller Porsche has a superior power-to-weight ratio (260 kW/tonne vs. 249 kW/tonne). That matters. Indeed, the Cayman is near-as-makes-no-difference as quick in a straight line—at least from a standstill—and far quicker in the corners. Porsche claims a 7:09.300 minutes Nürbugring lap time.

Let me get this straight. The CSL is slower than a Cayman and less usable than a regular M4? Sounds like a compromise.

It is.

While BMW should be applauded for their efforts, there is no escaping the M4 CSL’s mid-size sedan roots. The CSL straddles the line between sports-car purism and everyday usability remarkably well, but, in doing so, renders itself something of a Jack of all trades, master of none. And that’s the CSL’s Achilles heel.

At the end of the day, the CSL is still an M4; albeit an M4 that’s been detailed with a red Sharpie and had a few more kilowatts shoved under the bonnet. I joke but the point stands.

My advice? If you want the ultimate sports car, buy a Porsche. Or, if your heart is set on a performance BMW, opt for a standard M4 Competition and a paper bag.

I just saved you $120,000. Thank me later.

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