An E46 GTR came to life on February 2001, powered by a 4000 cm³ V8 producing 444 bhp (race version—street version produced 350 bhp). Unlike the straight-six powered M3 versions, which were outpaced by the Porsche 996 GT3, the racing version of the E46 M3 GTR 16 was very successful in the American Le Mans Series, entered by Schnitzer Motorsport. Rivals such as Porsche pointed out that this car was more of a prototype as no V8 engine was available in the road-going BMW E46, which is in violation of the spirit of Gran Turismo. In 2001, ALMS regulations stated that cars must be for sale on two continents within twelve months of the rules being issued. To fulfill this rule, BMW put 10 road going GTRs on sale after the 2001 season, for 250,000 euros (then $218,000) each, allegedly only available for select customers.
A GTR was one of the theme cars in the 2005 video game Need For Speed: Most Wanted and returned on the new installment Need For Speed: Carbon. The racing version of the car (as seen at the 24 Hours Spa in 2004) features in the 2006 game GTR – FIA GT Racing Game 2. Both the street and racing M3 GTR’s are available in the 2004 Playstation 2 game Gran Turismo 4, Forza Motorsport for the Xbox and Forza Motorsport 2 for the Xbox 360.

Private teams also have fit 4000cc BMW V8 engines into the E46 body to race on the Nürburgring, winning some VLN races in the last years.

BMW made a limited run (less than 1,400 units) of the M3 CSL (E46) machines between June and December of 2003. The CSL (Coupe Sport Lightweight) received an aggressive weight reduction campaign, more power (up to 360 hp), and sharper handling characteristics than the standard M3, courtesy of semi-slick racing tires. From the exterior, the CSL is distinguished from its standard sibling with a different wheel design, larger integrated rear spoiler and a large air intake hole on the left side of the front bumper. Weight loss was achieved through use of a carbon-fiber roof, carbon-fiber trunk lid, lighter exhaust manifold, thinner rear glass, carbon fiber interior door panels and console, lightweight racing seats, and the removal of side air bags. Several other features available in a regular M3 as standard such as air conditioning and radio were also deleted, although these options could be added at the request of the owner. SMG II sequential manual gearbox was made standard. Owing to the small production run and the complications of clearing DOT and United States Environmental Protection Agency| standards for the North American market, BMW never exported the CSL to the United States, although some parts from it were later made available on the regular M3 as part of an optional Competition Package.

While the CSL was comparable in performance to theFerrari’s 360 at half the price, this version of the M3 is often criticized as being too racing-oriented and significantly pricier than the standard model. Focusing on weight loss, the CSL became less of the “everyday car” that the M3 is known for. Another criticism was the unavailability of a manual gearbox.


Due to this, the ALMS rules were altered for 2002 to state that 100 cars and 1000 engines must be built for the car to qualify without penalties. Although BMW could have raced the V8 with the new weight and power penalties under these new regulations, they chose to pull out of the ALMS, effectively ending the shortlived M3 GTR’s career.

Two Schnitzer Motorsport GTR cars saw a comeback in 2003 at the 24 Hours Nürburgring, winning 1-2 in 2004 and 2005, as well as entries in the 24 Hours Spa. Onboard coverage recorded in 2004 Hans-Joachim Stuck, Pedro Lamy, Jörg Müller & Dirk Müller on the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps.

Although the M3 CSL was never exported to the United States, in 2005 BMW introduced an M3 Competition Package (a.k.a. Club Sport in the UK): a $4,000 option which offered a number of upgrades taken from M3 CSL. The package includes:

* 19-inch BBS spin-cast alloy wheels
* Specially tuned spring rates for the Competition Package; this was carried over to all M3 production from 12/05 on.
* CSL steering rack: More direct steering ratio of 14.5:1 (vs. standard M3’s 15.4:1)
* CSL’s M-Track Mode DSC with a button mounted on the steering wheel (deletion of cruise control and steering wheel mounted radio controls)
* Compound cross-drilled rotors from the M3 CSL model; larger front rotor of 13.6 inches (from 12.8 inches)
* Alcantara steering wheel, gear lever and hand brake
* Interlagos Blue exterior paint available as an exclusive color option.
* Unique cube aluminum interior trim

Scribbled on November 25th 2006 in BMW M3
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