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Naturally-aspirated vs twin-turbocharged. Manual vs automatic. Stuttgart vs Munich. Here’s where each of these two track-ready sports cars shine
Of all the sports car fans out there, you’ll probably find that Porsche and BMW fans are often the most loyal of them all. The Porsche camp believe, largely for good reason, that there’s no purer a driving experience than what the 911 offers. That naturally-aspirated engine being a highlight, distilled in the Porsche 911 GT3 with its 9,000rpm redline with a stick shift standard. The BMW camp, on the other hand, swear by the signature BMW inline-six and rear-wheel drive. And in the limited-run BMW M4 CSL, we see the 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six at its highest outputs ever, matched by the lightest version of the M4 ever.
With the BMW M4 usually going up against the Porsche 911 Carrera, both the Porsche 911 GT3 and BMW M4 CSL are right at the top of the model hierarchy. That’s in terms of power, track-specific upgrades, and of course, desirability. They’re the best of the track-ready sports car from Stuttgart and Munich, with no quarter given for everyday usability. If you’re going to be pushing these cars to the limit, which one do you choose?
If you were to pick by design, it’s a toss up. On the one hand, you’ve got the restrained aggression of the 911 GT3, with its nostril vents in the hood immediately setting it apart as special, not to mention the flared arches and massive swan-neck wing at the rear. There’s a total of 854lbs of downforce, or about 150 percent more than the old GT3, just to show how far Porsche has come with the aero. Next to a regular 911, it screams track special. But next to the BMW M4 CSL? It’s a little harder to hear, even though we think it’s the prettier car.
That’s because BMW’s taken the already-extroverted M4 and given it some liquid courage. The gaping grilles are even larger, good luck letting your eyes wander past them with red trim highlights really drawing you into their void.
Related: Here's A Custom BMW M4 CSL Which Looks Even Better Than The Original
The front splitter looks near GT-spec, and the duck-tail spoiler is the largest BMW has ever fit to any of its cars. The first-ever 3.0 CSL was fondly called ‘Batmobile’ and we think this new M4 CSL could probably scare a few people into being better citizens too.
The 911 GT3 and BMW M4 CSL are essentially road-going track cars, built with single-minded focus. The 992-generation 911 GT3 with the PDK manages to weigh nearly the same as the smaller 991-generation car at 3,164lbs. The first to go, in Porsche GT tradition, are the rear seats. But the GT3 goes the distance with lighter glass windows, seats and battery, forged alloy wheels, a carbon fibre hood, and a lightweight exhaust system that’s 22lbs lighter all by itself.
Over in the M corner, considering that the M4 Competition is a heavier car than the 911 to begin with, the 220lbs taken out of it to result in the M4 CSL is staggering! The lightweight carbon fibre bucket seats alone save over 53lbs, while the rear seats are deleted. Forged alloys specific to the CSL are standard, and lightweight suspension and brake components add up the tally in the unsprung weight department. Still, the M4 CSL weighs in at 3,640lbs. That’s 476lbs heavier than the Porsche. And we haven’t even considered that the manual-equipped 911 GT3 is lighter still.
The GT3 badge first appeared on a production 911 23 years ago, on the back of the 996.1-generation car from 1999. It’s since appeared on every generation of 911, including the model year updates and more-hardcore RS models, which makes for a total of 13 versions and countless units moved. That’s a large number, and that’s not even including the cars with GT3 hardware but not the name.
The CSL? The hallowed Coupe Sport Lightweight badge first appeared on a homologation racecar in the 3.0 CSL based on the E9 Coupe from 1972. Only 167 units were made. The next car it was placed on was the E46 M3 from 2003, of which 1,383 units were produced. Now, almost two decades later, the CSL badge has made a comeback on the M4. Only a 1,000 will be made.
Finally, we get to the heart of it. The 4.0-litre flat-six in the Porsche 911 GT3 is naturally aspirated, and its 502 hp and 346 lb-ft goes to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed PDK. Porsche claim a 0-60mph time of 3.2s for the PDK, but the tradeoff for the slightly slower manual is a connection with the car that few other sports cars can match. At the Nurburgring, the 911 GT3 decimates the time set by the M4 CSL. The Porsche manages a sub-7 minute lap of the Nordschleife, stopping the clocks at 6:59.227.
Related: The New Porsche GT3 Just Got Even Faster Around The Nürburgring
On the other hand, the M4 CSL has a published lap time of 7:20.207. It’s even a few seconds off the time set by the previous-gen GT3! But its 3.0-litre inline-six does have more impressive outputs courtesy its twin turbos. We’re talking 550 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, again channeled to the rear wheels only, via an 8-speed automatic. Claimed 0-60mph times stand at 3.6s. Importantly, the CSL will be harder hitting at lower revs, while the GT3 comes alive midway through its rev range — when you have 9,000 revs to play with that’s substantial.
For a track-focused car, there’s no question that the Porsche 911 GT3 is quicker, and more pure in its driving experience. But equally, the BMW M4 CSL offers something the Porsche can’t — the bragging rights that come with owning one of just a 1,000 cars worldwide.
From playing with HotWheels to tracking his race toy, Sam's come a long way. A penchance for translating his automotive hijinks and geekery into the written word comes in handy every now and then...