Now that the new G80 BMW M3 is here, there’s a lot of talk about legacy. The “M3” name carries a lot of weight but it’s also a name whose meaning has changed a lot over its three-plus decades of existence and it’s going to continue changing as the decades go on. So looking back at previous M3s to see where the iconic model’s peak was is tempting. 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’s had a manual conversion.
When the E46 BMW M3 CSL was new, it was only available with a six-speed SMG automated manual gearbox. While it was faster than a proper manual, the SMG gearbox was clunky and frustrating to use on a regular basis. Enthusiasts begged BMW for a manual version but to no avail. However, in recent years, more and more tuning shops have been converting M3 CSLs over to manual transmissions and one such shop in the UK, Everything M3s, has been doing it better than anyone else.
In this video from Harry Metcalf, we take a look at a manual-converted E46 M3 CSL. We’ve seen such a car before, in other video reviews, but Metcalf takes a deeper dive than anyone else and really shows off what makes the car so special. And special it is.
Just the sound alone, equal parts exhaust and induction noise, is enough to declare the E46 M3 CSL the best M3 of all time. However, the manual gearbox, along with shorter gearing from a differential change, makes the 3.2 liter naturally-aspirated I6 come to life. Its carbon fiber intake manifold also makes the loveliest of induction noises; a spine-tingling metallic bark and wail that is nothing short of addictive.
But it’s not just the noise. Its steering is wonderful and its handling is second to none, among other M3s. It’s just a pure, engaging, and intoxicating package that, after seeing this video, can’t be anything other than pinnacle of the BMW M3.