This BMW E46 M3 CSL converted to a manual transmission makes a great car even better
This car just feels like the complete package now.
The E 46 M3 C SL coupe sport light bow is wonderful, beautifully balanced terrifically tactile and sensationally songs.
It is arguably the best M3 ever.
But the bit that generally causes some argument is the SMG to automated manual gearbox.
Now however, there is a solution to that.
As these two chaps have proved.
My name is David.
I work for Jaguar Land Rover as a vehicle dynamics test driver.
Hello, my name is Dara.
I've got a history in professional motor racing from single seaters to endurance GTs to Formula One and now I've found my niche and escape plan.
I put my CSL in 2015 I first wanted one after I saw on TV in 2003.
I've owned a few cars from that era, I think I was quite impressionable as someone just learning to drive in 2003 so I also own a novel m 12 before this Focus RS.
All the greats from that year.
I've settled on a M3 CSL because it's just such a great all around car.
Practical, fast, it handles well.
It just does everything I need it to, and it's just a real The company started from just a hobby, when I was racing by myself in M3.
It seemed like the right car to drive to and from work to park up when I was away for old time while I was racing.
Went on the forms to get information from people, found out that a lot of the guys couldn't find someone decent to build [UNKNOWN] So I bought one, took it apart, worked out how they worked, decided that I would start rebuilding them, built up a little customer database in the hobby I was doing and eventually work got in the way and I handed in my notice and followed follow the dream really followed the hobby.
And that's, that's where I'm there.
The reason I bought this car is because it's a high mileage one.
I wanted to cause a drive not to keep.
It's not a garish queen.
It's, it's my I get it an easier drive.
I keep it clean, is meant to be June it's 142,000 miles Now, if you're gonna convert one, that's the one you do it too.
I've lived with the SMG system for five years now.
Now, and I've got home with it actually, you get used to it you learn to drive around there, but there were things that I didn't like about it.
And to be honest, I just wanted to change really, I think I asked about manual conversions on the forum before I bought the car, as an option, and no one had done it at that time.
And I wasn't brave enough.
It's been five years to kind of be brave enough to do it to the car because the car is rare and it's kind of held on it's clean and people worry about values, but it's mine.
So I finally got around to the i i was i think i was Thinking of selling it, and I couldn't think of anything else that could match it.
So after I met Dara, we started talking about actually.
Finally, being brave enough to convert the car and that's where we got to the SMG system.
It runs exactly the same gearbox as the manual.
But essentially what you've got is a hydraulic pump and a computer.
So, You have a hydraulic shifter, hydraulic clutch actuation which is all done through the DME, the ECU in the car hydraulically.
And basically, to do the manual conversion, we're basically deleting all of that electrical components, all the hydraulic components and putting it purely to And an analog manual car.
There is one other modification that David and Dara have recently made to the transmission of this M3.
And although not as visible, it is probably just as influential to the way it now drives.
The standard P46 M3 differential is GK and whisker lock so it has a viscous coupler so, Standard normal LSD is a plated ramped LSD, which is purely mechanical.
The the visca lock unit basically runs it's like a non Newtonian fluid, like corn flour and water mix the two together.
When you hit hard, it's when you hit it quickly.
Touch it gently, it's soft.
These tips work on that sort of principle that when it detects slow slip, it doesn't really activate but then when you get aggressive slip from the differentiation and wheel speed between the two wheels.
It basically ramps up pushes out pushes the clutches together locks The diff.
But diffs are kinda something that I really enjoy building.
And the NW Motorsport, they produce various different ratios so you can gear the car up or down.
You can make the car accelerate faster, reducing top speed.
You could, not that anyone would want to, make the car go faster and reduce the acceleration.
And what we've done on the CSL here, the standard ratio is a 362 final drive, we've put a 4.1 in there which will increase the acceleration.
I believe that that is the gear ratio that the car should have had from the factory because it puts it into It just feels it's on the power band all the time that it transforms the car is the way to go.>> Initially, I thought they'd be some pushback from like the community, but actually they've all been really enthusiastic about it.
And Derek has had quite a lot of interest now from CSL owners wanting to convert.>> So that's the backstory.
But what's the manual CSL like To drive it's pretty much as you'd expect to be honest.
I mean, there are no surprises.
The lovely thing is you get into it, and it doesn't feel like an aftermarket affair.
It's as though BMW has done it.
I mean, the shifter just looks completely normal.
The pedals well, to be honest To pedal BMW's the brake pedal to me has always felt almost too far across towards the throttle pedal anyway, they've just taken out the clutch pedal usually so there's no worries about that.
It's always been the case that the brake pedals in the right place for healing and towing Rather than left foot breaking anyway, so that feels perfectly normal.
The shift itself is initially I thinking wow perhaps Is it a little bit too weighty a bit too physical.
It's definitely heavier.
It's more positive than the set is slightly knuckly but not completely precise BMW shift that I'm used to.
And yes and perhaps the control waiting doesn't entirely match.
The steering and the pedal but it's not far off.
And actually I think it's It's sort of what you'd expect BMW to have done.
If they had produced a manual CSL.
They'd have given it something a bit more positive.
I like it, as it changed the character of the car to Not ready because there's so many other bits that make up the raw character this car, what has changed the character of this car is that new death because the way this spins up now, the whole car just feels more alive because of that.
Because the lovely thing is when you're actually using the manual gearbox more often as well, putting in more shifts and it's easier to access that amazing, amazing top end because the one thing you can't drive The CSL without talking about is the sound of that straight six.
It's just that growl or runs that flame tingling top out What an engine?
This car just feels like the complete package.
While I was driving this, I remembered having a discussion with a senior BMW engineer many years ago, I thought that three pedals should at least still be an option on the top tier of BMW M cars.
Driving the CSL with a manual box today certainly hasn't changed my thoughts on that.
It feels every bit as in keeping with the character of the car is the SMG system.
The same way that a GT three can feel great with either a PDK or a manual.
It takes a brave person to tinker with an icon.
Even the little To some, it will always be slapping Maybelline on Mona Lisa.
But as with all beers on a larger scale, eagle and the type or alcoholics in the GTA.
In this case, I really think just worth the risk.
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