AutoExpress being based in the UK gets the benefit of having the E46 M3 CSL and F22 M235i available to them. BMW did not bring the E46 M3 CSL to the United States because they will only bring us cars with a fat margin to pad their bottom line using the United States as a money tree. Certifying the E46 M3 and even the E92 M3 GTS models for the US would have required going through US regulations which have cost money for crash testing and BMW would rather keep the change than reward its number one market. If this comes off as bitter you came to the right conclusion.
BMW is selling the F22 M235i in the United States though and in comparisons with the CLA45 AMG it so far has shown it is the car that is more fun to drive. The M235i at least somewhat gets back to the formula of a balanced and affordable rear wheel drive BMW that puts a smile on your face when you are behind the wheel. However, it is no E46 M3 CSL and it is not deserving of such a lofty comparison to one of the best driver's cars BMW has ever built. Especially considering the M235i is not even a real M car and it does not even come with a limited slip differential as standard.
Regardless, Auto Express decided to do such a comparison. The M235i is 187 pounds heavier than the E46 M3 CSL. As far as power, the 3.0 liter N55 turbocharged and direct injected inline-6 is rated at 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Compare this to the E46 M3 CSL 3.2 liter S54 naturally aspirated inline-6 with 355 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. That is just about 111 horsepower per liter or the highest naturally aspirated specific output of any naturally aspirated production engine in BMW's history.
The E46 M3 CSL has SMG (sequential manual gearbox) standard with no manual option. This particular M235i is a 6-speed manual. AutoExpress takes the CSL around the track first and while the the driver is talking to the camera the whole time he manages a 1:13.50 lap time.
The M235i looks more tail happy during its lap and the driver remarks that it feels heavier and slower. Yet, the result is the exact same 1:13.50 lap time. How is this possible? It shouldn't be. The E46 M3 CSL does a 7:50 Nurburgring lap time. This driver achieves the same lap but considering he is not a professional driver and the timing is done while he is speaking to the camera during the test laps it is hard to take this seriously.
Regardless, the M235i is at least BMW somewhat getting back to making driver's cars. Amidst the sea of X3's, X4's, X5's, X6's, X7's, i3's, i8's, Active Tourer's, and GT's, BMW has at least one car in the lineup that is still fun to drive. It just is nowhere near the driver's car that decade old E46 M3 CSL is though.