VIDEO: Is the E46 BMW M3 CSL manual conversion Peak M3?


There’s a lot going on about the legacy now that the new G80 BMW M3 is here. The name “M3” carries a lot of weight, but it is also a name whose meaning has changed a lot in the more than three decades of its existence and which will continue to change over the decades. It is tempting to look back at previous M3s to see where the iconic model’s peak was. In this new video from Harry’s garage, we may have found it in the E46 BMW M3 CSL. But not just any M3 CSL, one that was converted manually.

When the E46 BMW M3 CSL was new, it was only available with an automated six-speed SMG manual transmission. The SMG gearbox was faster than a proper manual, but it was clunky and frustrating to use on a regular basis. Enthusiasts asked BMW for a manual version, but to no avail. In recent years, however, more and more tuning shops have switched M3-CSLs to manual transmissions, and one such shop in the UK. All M3sdid better than anyone else.

In this video by Harry Metcalf, we take a look at a manually converted E46 M3 CSL. We’ve seen a car like this in other video reviews, but Metcalf delves deeper than anyone and really shows what makes the car so special. And it is special.

BMW E46 M3 CSL 10 750x500

The sound alone, equal parts exhaust and induction noise, is enough to declare the E46 M3 CSL the best M3 of all time. The manual gearbox and the shorter gear through a differential change bring the 3.2 liter naturally aspirated engine I6 to life. Its carbon fiber intake manifold also makes the most beautiful induction noises; a tingling metallic bark and a whine that is downright addicting.

But it’s not just the noise. The steering is wonderful and the handling is second to none among other M3s. It’s just a pure, engaging and exhilarating package that after watching this video can’t be anything but the highlight of the BMW M3.

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