As just the third BMW CSL in M’s 50-year history, and the first since the M3 nearly 20 years ago, forgive us some M4 CSL words. That’s because, dubious looks and hefty price aside, a 550 hp M4 promises a lot; you only have to look at recent M cars – particularly the M2 and M5 CS – to see the potential for a new cracker, especially with the stock M4 providing such a favorable base.
However, the high price is hard to avoid, as is often the case with uber BMWs. Praised it could be very good now (and worth a ton of money), but there was a stir in 2003 when the M3 CSL commanded a price nearly £20k over the stock car for just 17hp extra. Of course, it brought the fast 3 Series M3 into 911 rival territory at the time — funny how some things never change.
Nevertheless, with a potential M4 CSL maximum spend of £131,975 (including the Ultimate Road Pack for £2,950, the BMW M 50 Years Badges for £300 and £500 tracker), there is a delectable range of track-ready alternatives on offer. Especially if you’re looking for a crushing racer on the Nürburgring. And honestly, who doesn’t…
Yes, yes, we’re over budget with the first pick, but as the car that best matches what the M4 CSL represents – a four-seater cut in half, plenty of power, a great time at the Nürburgring and a colossal price – had the Jag to appear here. The Project 8 is arguably the most viable alternative here if you like the CSL thing.
When the Project 8 was announced in 2017, a 600 horsepower V8 XE looked bold; now, just a few years later and with Jag on the brink of an all-electric rebirth, it looks like the most wondrous form of madness. While the epic supercharged V8, 200mph potential and wild looks made headlines, so much of what made the Project 8 brilliant was less obvious; remember all this effort was also for just 300 cars. Every body panel was new, the aero package was clearly bespoke (including a flat bottom), the ceramic brakes used F1 technology and the ride height was manually adjustable, allowing for a 7:23 Nordschleife lap. Not bad for something of 1,800 kg.
This one is spectacular, even by the intoxicating standards of Project 8, a single owner car with just a hundred miles on it and fitted with the £10k Track Pack which replaced the XE’s rear seats with a half cage. It’s a car that looks crazier (and therefore more desirable) by the day, especially in the lurid green. Thank goodness Jag made it happen. Let’s hope someone can experience their full (and considerable) potential soon.
Obviously a story like this couldn’t happen without a Porsche GT car – they are the favorite road racer for a reason – but which one to pick? The M4’s RRP neatly splits the old 991 generation of GT3, slightly more than the early 3.8s and undercuts the later 4.0s; £130k still buys a 997 RS, although a 15-year-old 911 seems too far off as a CSL alternative.
However, this GT3 from 2014 does give some time to think. It won’t go through every corner of the Nordschleife as skillfully as a 992, but it will still deliver a thrill like only the GT 911s can. The 475 hp flat-six will howl up to 9,000 rpm, the PDK should make the BMW’s car feel a bit sluggish, the electric steering (including 4WS for the first time in a GT3) has only been improved by later Porsches and nothing will hold up to a weekend track day just like a Motorsport 911. They really are as captivating as you’ve heard countless times before.
This one seems hard to criticize. It’s a Carrara White GT3 with the Clubsport package meaning a cage for tributes from racers on the road and good buckets to hold you tight. It’s approaching 19,000 miles and is on sale from Porsche Center Cardiff for £111,990, so it’ll even make some great roads to take on your way home. Not often a Porsche is also the most affordable of a bunch…
With the great GT R Pro and the extraordinary Black Series that have followed since then, it can be easy to forget what an impact the old GT R had in 2016. With the stock GT and GT S impressing but not quite inspired, the R was unforgettable – almost 600 horsepower, four-wheel steering, the Green Hell Magno paint and a formidable 7:11 lap of the Nürburgring made it happen, even though it had last one might need some very trick tires.
AMG really went to town on R, adding 16kg lighter manually adjustable buckets (in a Mercedes!), increasing torsional stiffness, widening the tracks, adopting four-wheel steering, summoning a ton more downforce and to equip the GT with, memorably, the nine-speed traction control learned from the successful GT3 racer. It was so clever that BMW came up with its own system for the M4, the M Traction Control, only with 10 settings…
This particular GT R Pro has the paint (last green car on the list, promised) and is in top condition with only 6000 miles in five years. There’s also a nifty saving off the list price, of just over £120k. Or, for some more old-school AMG track fun, how about a C63 Black Series? Its legendary reputation means it also takes £130k. Won’t be as sharp to drive as a GT R, but its V8 might be even more amazing…
If evidence was ever needed that heavy cars can absorb track cars (ie if there is still a suspicion that the CSL at over 1,600kg is found to be underweight), the GT-R NISMO should allay those fears. Building on the stunningly good R35, the first GT-R NISMO of 2014 was almost unbelievable. The claim of the 7:08.679 lap time on the Nordschleife was actually a bit dubious (with parts customers couldn’t buy), but the fact that something as huge as a GT-R could get as close to seven minutes was already an achievement. . Despite some naughty aero bits, 600 horsepower, a stiffer body, overhauled suspension and tacky Dunlops also did a lot of the heavy lifting. Literally: the NISMO was only 20 kg lighter than standard, and thus more than 1,700 kg.
The GT-R’s erratic ability to manage that mass and use it to its dynamic advantage has always been one of its selling points, a trademark that further cemented the NISMO. For all its dodgy reputation and long-standing demise, a GT-R NISMO can still blow you away with its mesmerizing ability – no mean feat for something now 15 years old. This 2015 car has been tweaked, seemingly unavoidably, even on the flagship. But the upgrades were done by Litchfield, so it’s work that can be trusted. And 740 horsepower sounds pretty nice, right?
Another 3.8-litre twin-turbo track car with 600 horsepower, the McLaren is the opposite of the Nissan in perception. Still, both are worth including here, which is a reflection of what a fine couple of years it’s been for the track-ready sports car. Both can get you to track day in relative comfort, lap as fast as anything else on treaded tires and then take you home again – for hundreds of thousands less than special track exotica.
For the 600LT, McLaren used the same methods that transformed the 650S into the 675LT. Extra power (in this case 30 horsepower from the 570S) wasn’t the big news; the transformation came with reduced mass and chassis detail changes, turning a fantastic supercar into an utterly magnificent supercar. The Longtail treatment wasn’t as shocking the second time around, but it was no less effective (if not more, given the better-stocked base car) for Sports Series as it was for Super Series: the 600LT was just as adept as the nimble, smooth, and engaging sports car because it was a hypercar harrying track weapon.
Without the icon status of the 675LT and now somewhat overshadowed by the 765LT, the 600 looks very good indeed. Spend £150k and it’s possible to get a three-year-old McLaren-approved car that still has four-digit mileage. That doesn’t seem like much for a car that drives so sensationally. This one gets under £5k from the CSL figure on the high end thanks to an above average (if still low) 13k; five minutes behind the wheel should be all it takes to add a lot more to it.
For anything close to the M4 CSL, there really should be a new Vantage F1 Edition here, with its 535 hp turbo V8 and – like the BMW – a curb weight that’s more plump than looks ideal. But as impressive as it has turned out, F1 doesn’t appear to be an Aston icon of the 21.st century. The V12 Vantage S, on the other hand…
You’ve heard it all before, but there’s no doubt that the S realized the potential lurking in both the Vantage and V12 engines, more powerful than the original 5.9-litre Vantage (now with 568 pk), but also more dynamically sorted . It was already the best Vantage there was, then in 2016 came the manual gearbox – which ensured legendary status.
A GT12 will be better suited for track riding, but that’s paddleshift only and more than double the money. Even as the least targeted offer here, it’s hard to imagine handing your M4 CSL cash for a V12 Vantage S manual and feeling dejected; even if, like everything else here, they are a little more money than lately. This is an Aston-approved car – what he calls ‘Timeless’ – that is sold with 21k on it. There are Speedshift cars available for less, but if there’s a manual V12 option, you’re going to take it – right?