BMW M3 CSL Interior Layout & Technology | Top Gear
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Wednesday 6th December


What is it like on the inside?

It really is function over form in here, which given how draped everything is in either velvety Alcantara or glossy carbon, might come as a shock. This was 2003 – these materials had barely made it to supercars, never mind the options list of front-wheel-drive hatchbacks.

There’s a real racecar vibe emitted by those trimless doors, and as you thunk them shut, you suddenly realise you’re sat in a relatively austere environment. There’s much grey, lifted only by some M tricolour stitching on the wheel and the illuminated upper quartile of the rev counter, which actively moves the redline around as the engine warms. Another feature adopted by dozens of cars following the CSL’s introduction.

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While there’s a full complement of electric window switches – even for the rear glass, extremely rare in the coupe sector now – there’s a simplicity in here that feels so much more authentic than in CS versions of the M2 or M4, the latter essentially removing the arm rests and replacing the door pulls with canvas strips. BMW could probably have got away with giving it the CS badge, but drew the line. We like that.

For all their lack of colour, though, the bucket seats look fantastic, hug your love handles tightly, while they're a right old pain in the bottom to move forward to let people in the back. The seat is one solid unit, you see – it doesn’t yield at the hip point – leaving little space for humans to slink through into the rear seats.

It’s as if the CSL is begrudging of any extra kilos on board, like it’s being manned by a bouncer who really doesn’t want to let your ice cream white trainers into their nightclub. Those who do get back there will find a car exactly as special and comfy as a regular 3 Series coupe, though perhaps one a little louder, given the glass behind their heads isn’t as thick as usual.

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