DRIVEN: BMW M3 GTS
BMW's hardcore limited edition in its natural habitat - on the track
We're back at the purpose built race track in southern Spain and a glance at the GTS is all it takes to know that owners won't be 'making do'. Searing orange paintwork ensures it stands out, but it's the bits in matt black that are of real interest.
The huge rear wing and new front apron are both adjustable, while the kidney grille and 19-inch wheels are painted black for added menace. There's also a distinct lack of daylight between the tyres and the wheelarches.
The electrically adjustable and heated front seats from the standard M3 have been binned too, in favour of a set of deep racing buckets with a six-point harness included. The regular seat belt is retained for when you want to pop to Sainsbury's after a hard day at the track.
There are a lot less buttons to play with in the GTS too. As in the regular car you can choose from two different throttle maps via the Power button. However, there's no electronically controlled damping or multi-stage traction and stability control. DSC is either on or off and there's no messing about with holding buttons down for 10 seconds or anything. Press it once and you're on your own.
Ah yes, the engine. Is there anyone out there that thought, "You know what? That M3 V8 is a bit weak. It could do with a tad more power"? Debate about character aside (in comparison to its beloved straight-six predecessor), 420hp took the M3's performance to a whole new level. Now, so as to make it difficult to copy the GTS with aftermarket parts, BMW decided that its flagship model needed a significant power boost.
It doesn't take long to appreciate the changes. Thumb the starter button and the V8 growls into wakefulness, full of intent. No doubt the specially constructed thin-wall exhaust helps with that. It's optimised for low weight and features titanium rear silencers, which thankfully don't do their job very well. The standard M3 is oh so polite in comparison.
There's a grin painted across my chops too as we hit the first braking zone and turn in. BMW says that the 'unloaded weight' of the M3 GTS is 70kg less than the standard car at 1,530kg. That, in conjunction with the beefier engine, brings the 0-62mph time down to 4.4 seconds, while someone forgot to plug in the electronic speed limiter, so it'll do 190mph flat-out.
Someone also forgot to mention that the rear tyres were a little hot by the time I jumped in the car, which partly explains the less-than-subtle getaway and why I spent most of the next few laps doing my best to keep the rear end from overtaking the front.
Cooling down in the pits afterwards it's obvious that the GTS raises as many questions as it answers. The most pertinent is, why not call it CSL? This is a very different beast, that's why. It is a track car first and foremost; it just so happens to be road legal. An insider at BMW assured us that it will not be comfortable on our typically lumpen B-roads.