BMW’s M Division is returning to its roots rather fittingly with this, its 50th anniversary present to its diehard fans: the new BMW M4 CSL. The company is offering another headline new product in this its big birthday year but, as you might have read elsewhere, it’s a curious plug-in hybrid SUV that, for reasons unfathomable to many of us, appears to have been named after a Citroen. The reasons that the BMW XM exists at all aren’t so hard to fathom, of course; but the CSL is the real party piece – not least because it’s a CSL.

BMW’s Motorsport division was founded in 1972 in order to better run its parent company’s competition efforts (if you don’t know how it happened, our own Richard Lane’s BMW M anniversary drive story is well worth a read). And its first road car was actually the memorably wild-looking homologation version of the ‘E9’ coupe: the ‘Batmobile’ 3.0 CSL.

Those three letters – which stand for ‘Competition Sport Lightweight’ – hold the most special of statuses for Munich. They have only been used on one other road-going BMW since the ‘E9’: the celebrated ‘E46’ M3 CSL of 2004, which plenty still hail as the greatest BMW M car there has yet been. And so, while limited-run M3s and M4s have used other model identities over the decades, from CRT to GTS and even GTR in a few cases, we can safely assume that this one must be an exceptional prospect. You don’t blow nearly twenty years of dust off an iconic nameplate without being sure that you’re going to deploy it properly.

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