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Yellow fever: it’s the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage
“Our Hommage cars not only demonstrate how proud we are of our heritage, but also how important the past can be in determining our future,” Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s group design boss, says.
This 3.0 CSL reboot is certainly TopGear.com’s kind of determinator. Even if that’s not an actual word, it somehow fits this latest in BMW’s pre-Villa d’Este concours specials.
Last year saw the gorgeous Mini Superleggera, and before that we’ve had an M1 reboot and the unashamedly retro 328 MM. BMW has an enviable back catalogue, but this year they haven’t bothered rummaging too deeply to conjure up a surefire crowd-pleaser, and arguably the year’s best concept car so far.
The original 3.0 CSL - better known as the ‘Batmobile’ - was an endurance racing legend, of which only 1265 were built between 1972 and 1975. Men with big facial hair and names like Hans and Dieter monstered them round Spa and the Nürburgring, ripping through an atmosphere that was equal parts oil, strong lager and sausage.
These days, a good CSL will set you back close to £250,000, and it’s become a staple of the high-end classic car market.
A bewinged and tweaked version of the pretty CS coupe, the Batmobile wasn’t all mouth and no trousers. In fact, it was about very skinny trousers because, then as now, stripping out weight was a great way to go faster.
So the CSL had an aluminium bonnet and door skins, and used thin-gauge steel panels elsewhere on its body. UK cars kept niceties like electric windows and bumpers, but the 765 left-hook CSLs ditched more or less everything.
So even if the 2015 homage is a piece of showstopping eye candy, BMW is keen to join the weight-saving dots back to the original. This time it’s all about carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), a material the company has become expert in across recent M cars, its i cars, and a technology that’ll underpin this autumn’s all-new 7-Series.
That’ll be lovely, we’re sure, but it won’t be (I)this(I). The CSL hommage brilliantly manages to lift the signature bits of the original, and allows them to simmer alongside our favourite parts of the i8.
Check out the fat, wraparound front wings, the little aero blades on top a clear nod to the Seventies car. The carbon side elements suck what little excess visual weight there is clean out of the car’s silhouette.
The rear three-quarters are clearly i8-inspired, and the way the rear wing is integrated into the body compresses 40-odd years of design in one act of sublime genius. A full-length LED strip ties it all together.
It’s expressly not just a slavish update of the old car, as head of design Karim Habib says. “Some of the parallels are not immediately obvious. We wanted people to sense the family resemblance rather than see it straight off.”
BMW is currently being coy about whether there’s an M4 under here somewhere, an i8, or a new mix of both. In fact, it won’t say anything, in a most likely doomed attempt to stop the entire car universe demanding that they build it immediately.
But there’s definitely an eBoost hybrid six-cylinder under the bonnet, vented by a huge carbon fibre deflector and the angriest, sharkiest set of kidneys ever seen on a Bimmer. The headlights are laser jobs, which chuck out illumination in an X shape. There are 21-inch bi-colour alloys, with control blades on the wheel rims. Like the i8, the CSL hommage is also all-wheel drive.
The cockpit continues the CSL/i8 mash-up. It’s pretty minimal in here, with only a central eBoost charging display interrupting the wood strip that runs the full length of the cockpit, another conspicuous nod to the original. Everything else is housed in a central display on the steering column.
A pair of crash helmets are mounted in the transmission tunnel, and instead of rear seats you get what BMW describes as covers for the eBoost energy accumulators. There’s some fancy 3D reflector light trickery going on, too. And a fire extinguisher, with red anodised nozzles.
Unless the CSL turns out to be a steaming mess of mangled expectations in the flesh, there really is only one, inescapable conclusion. This car has to happen.