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Wednesday 14th July 2010

Driven: BMW M3 GTS

BMW's hardcore limited edition in its natural habitat - on the track



When the current V8-engined M3 was launched in 2007 at Ascari Race Resort the general consensus was that a little of the old car's personality was lost in the pursuit of technological dominance. Although performance was dramatically increased, we all lamented the weight gain that accompanied it and confidently predicted that it was only a matter of time before BMW released a CSL version.


Sorry if I'm bursting anyone's bubble by saying that it doesn't look likely now. Instead, you'll have to make do with the M3 GTS.

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.


What you won't notice (unless you lean up against them and they wobble) is that the side rear and back windows are now made of polycarbonate. Peer through them and you'll not miss the orange-painted roll bar and fire extinguisher, taking up the space usually occupied by a couple of leather chairs for rear passengers.

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.


More weight-saving measures are apparent inside, including plenty of carbon and a distinctly bare centre console. There's no iDrive, satnav or stereo. Hell, there isn't even air conditioning as standard. Otherwise it's pretty regular M3 stuff, with a dash of Alcantara here and there.

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.


The only gearbox option is the seven-speed, dual-clutch M DCT. As ever you can choose varying levels of shift speed and ferociousness. BMW has altered its characteristics to suit the new engine.

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.


A target of 450hp was set and the M Division engineers were tasked with working out the best way to get it. The solution was to increase the stroke, raising engine capacity from 3,999- to 4,361cc. Those 450 horses are let loose at the same adrenaline-inducing 8,300rpm as before. Torque is up too, from 295- to 325lb ft, and it's available lower down the rev range at 3,750rpm.

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.


So, DSC off, Power button on, fastest gearbox setting selected, pull back on the right paddle to put it into first, wait for suave-looking pit lane exit dude to wave the green flag and oh dear, we seem to have painted a couple of black lines onto Ascari's tarmac...

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.


Given the aero package - and suspension that includes adjustable ride height, damping and camber - I had half expected a car that clung on racecar-like and endowed its driver with serious fast lapping ability. It does that, but the engine's mid-range feels significantly stronger than before, so the limit of the tyres' grip is easily overcome. The result is even more throttle adjustability and engagement than the standard car, while travelling at a significantly higher speed. The brakes are bigger than before to put up with such abuse and they're easy to modulate.

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.


Despite that, 10 right-hand drive examples of the 150-unit production run are bound for our shores early in 2011. I'm sure their owners will make do.

Browse late-model M3s for sale in the PH classifieds

Shane O'Donoghue
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Author Discussion

ManOpener

Original Poster:

2,781 posts

54 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
The question is, though, is it as much fun as a GT3?

sootyrumble

295 posts

71 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Now added to BMWS i would like to own:

E30 M3 Sport Evolution
E46 M3 GTR (And behind that a CSL)
E92 M3 GTS



8400rpm

1,777 posts

52 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Way to ruin a brilliant driving experience by only having stupid flappy paddle as an option.

Completely ruined the CSL experience for me. A real drivers car needs a manual.

spad78

142 posts

61 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
1,530kg for the standard M3 and they can only shift 70kg for the dedicated track version? You have to ask why you would bother when you could have your pick of dedicated track / race cars with way better power to weight ratio and probably a more involed gearbox, specialist dialled damping etc. etc. I don't mean to be down on BWM particularly and I think the car looks gorgeous but I just can't see it fitting the bill as a precision track tool when it weighs so much, plus the lack of ability on B roads rules it out as a serious GT3 alternative when it is the same cash or more...

Lots of points above randomly made but hopefully make sense...

RobM77

25,083 posts

119 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Good write up yes

I'll give it a 9. It'd be a 10 without that ghastly orange cam cover biggrin
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Guvernator

3,412 posts

50 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
I'm not sure about this car. I'm usually a fan of M division offerings but I'm not sure who this car is aimed at. The M3 this is based on is a very decent GT car with decent handling, a good engine plus all the toys and luxuries you could need but a little bit on the heavy side for serious fun or track work but that's OK because the E46 was the same and then they released the CSL for people who wanted something a bit more hardcore.

It was more powerful, over 100kg lighter, better handling and sounded the mutts nuts at full chat but still retained decent levels of every day useability with 4 seats so that it could be used to go to Tesco's one day and then be harrying GT3's on track the next. In effect it could nearly be all things to all men and it was an example of the M sport division at the top of it's game IMO. Due to this, expectations where set very high at the prospect of a new CSL replacement. BMW would be mad not to wouldn't they?

However what does the GTS do? It's up on power but it's not significantly lighter. 70Kgs isn't that huge a reduction, especially considering that they've ripped out the plush rear seats. At over 1500kg's it's too lardy to be a dedicated track car and too comprimised to be used daily plus let's not forget the price. At over £100k it's £25k more than a GT3 and nearly the same price as a GT3 RS. I just don't get this one at all. I think I'll give this one a must try harder.

(PS Hello all. Been lurking for a while but decided to jump in with my first post)

tonym911

5,679 posts

90 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Ultimate Ring weapon?

RobM77

25,083 posts

119 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
tonym911 said:
Ultimate Ring weapon?
If you needed to get there and back in comfort, yes. For any race track the ultimate weapon doesn't wear numberplates, or at least looks out of place wearing them smile

tonym911

5,679 posts

90 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Autocar estimates the price at £116,500 yikes

Guvernator

3,412 posts

50 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
tonym911 said:
Ultimate Ring weapon?
A GT3 RS is faster, lighter and better in almost every respect, plus as stated there are other cars which would be even better as a Ring Weapon. For a car which is so hardcaroe (relatively speaking i.e. roll cage, no rear seats, very few luxuries) it's actually not that light or powerful.

sootyrumble

295 posts

71 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Guvernator said:
I'm not sure about this car. I'm usually a fan of M division offerings but I'm not sure who this car is aimed at. The M3 this is based on is a very decent GT car with decent handling, a good engine plus all the toys and luxuries you could need but a little bit on the heavy side for serious fun or track work but that's OK because the E46 was the same and then they released the CSL for people who wanted something a bit more hardcore.

It was more powerful, over 100kg lighter, better handling and sounded the mutts nuts at full chat but still retained decent levels of every day useability with 4 seats so that it could be used to go to Tesco's one day and then be harrying GT3's on track the next. In effect it could nearly be all things to all men and it was an example of the M sport division at the top of it's game IMO. Due to this, expectations where set very high at the prospect of a new CSL replacement. BMW would be mad not to wouldn't they?

However what does the GTS do? It's up on power but it's not significantly lighter. 70Kgs isn't that huge a reduction, especially considering that they've ripped out the plush rear seats. At over 1500kg's it's too lardy to be a dedicated track car and too comprimised to be used daily plus let's not forget the price. At over £100k it's £25k more than a GT3 and nearly the same price as a GT3 RS. I just don't get this one at all. I think I'll give this one a must try harder.

(PS Hello all. Been lurking for a while but decided to jump in with my first post)
You say 25k more than a GT3 but lets be honest by the time the GT3 brakes are uprated, the seats etc they will be around the same cost, also the GT3 is only 50kg lighter than the GTS but is a smaller car it is fractionally quicker circa .3 seconds on a 0-62 sprint and similar top speeds however in gear times appear to be much closer as the rear engined Porsche's allways perform well on a sprint due to traction, however i would love to see the track time comparisons as i have a feeling this GTS like the previous CSL will have very good handling.
I think this is effectively a GT3 alternative in every way both great cars in my opinion of someone who has never driven eithor :-D

Escort Si-130

1,798 posts

65 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Love this car, I had a drive in a E46 M3 CSL and was awesome, this would probably be 4kin awesome.

Nick_Johnson

311 posts

62 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
I think a lot of people are really missing the point here, the GTS doesn't have to rival anything due to its very small production run. It doesn't have to be a better car than a GT3 RS or even a standard GT3 for that matter, this is a BMW showcase see it as an engineering demonstration from the BMW M Division.

The car will be purchased by BMW fanatics and these people wont give a toss whether spending there money on a 911 would have a more sensible choice as it would have never been an option.

It is a terrific example of the most hardcore M3 yet but if it were my money, well I have a GT3 please!!!

kambites

40,442 posts

106 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
I don't get it... it's a fecking great big heavy saloon car without the practicality. Why would you possibly want to spend 116k on this when there are so many great purpose built sports cars out there?

I'm sure 150 people will stump up the cash for one, but I really can't imagine why. Still good luck to BMW if they can make money out of it and/or think it's worth producing as a halo model.

Edited by kambites on Wednesday 14th July 15:36

tonym911

5,679 posts

90 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
After watching CSLs and even ordinary M3s buzzing around the Ring, they seem really well suited to that track. I imagine this one would be even more effective. The Porsche might be ultimately quicker, but possibly only in the right hands, whereas I suspect the BMW would be a little more accessible to less gifted drivers.

British Beef

692 posts

50 months

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Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all

Still very Lardy! Essentially a 2 seat track day car with a 4lt V8 and no creature comforts weighing in at 1.5Mt+. M devision should employ the Colin Chapman mantra of adding one key ingredient to cars to make them faster - lightness.

The E39 M5 is a bigger car, with a bigger engine, 2 additional doors, 3 additional seats all mod cons, enough airbags to build a zeplin and was designed around a chasis almost 20 years ago yet weighs only 200kg more than this stripped out, track day special, 2 seater. M division: C- Must try harder.

While I dont agree with the price, it is obviously set at what BMW diehards will pay for their flagship trackday toy.


Guvernator

3,412 posts

50 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
kambites said:
I don't get it... it's a fecking great big heavy saloon car without the practicality. Why would you possibly want to spend 116k on this when there are so many great purpose built sports cars out there?

I'm sure 150 people will stump up the cash for one, but I really can't imagine [i]why[i/].

Edited by kambites on Wednesday 14th July 15:35
Exactly, nail on the head hit. It has all the compromises of a big saloon without any of the advantages of day-to-day useability. They should have either gone even more hardcore and shed a load more weight or struck a better balance of useability. I know I keep comparing the two but how can they have shed over 100kgs on the CSL while still retaining some semblance of practicality and with 8 years more experience, only shed 70kg even though they have ditched the back seats. The standard M3 isn't exactly a light weight, surely they can do better than that for £116k.

Slippydiff

6,350 posts

108 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
8400rpm said:
Way to ruin a brilliant driving experience by only having stupid flappy paddle as an option.

Completely ruined the CSL experience for me. A real drivers car needs a manual.
A good point and well made. Last weekend I heard a Mr S Loeb and a Mr M Webber constantly bemoaning the fact that their cars weren't real drivers cars as they didn't have manual gearboxes . . . smile


We're in 2010, not 1910 Would you like drum brakes, recirculating ball steering and leaf springs on your "real drivers car" too ? smile


The CSLs 'box is excellent btw;)

RobM77

25,083 posts

119 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
Slippydiff said:
8400rpm said:
Way to ruin a brilliant driving experience by only having stupid flappy paddle as an option.

Completely ruined the CSL experience for me. A real drivers car needs a manual.
A good point and well made. Last weekend I heard a Mr S Loeb and a Mr M Webber constantly bemoaning the fact that their cars weren't real drivers cars as they didn't have manual gearboxes . . . smile


We're in 2010, not 1910 Would you like drum brakes, recirculating ball steering and leaf springs on your "real drivers car" too ? smile


The CSLs 'box is excellent btw;)
I think an F1 box (or F3, FR etc) is a bit different to a road car's flappy paddle change... An F1 gearbox changes gear reallyquickly because it's a straight cut box designed to last a few hundred miles. A road car box is a synchro box designed to last 100,000 to 200,000 miles, and as such gives nowhere near the driving experience of an F1 box. The two are chalk and cheese.

The other thing worth mentioning is that in a single seater flappy paddles are getting essential these days because of how quickly they decelerate. Road cars make nowhere near the same demands on gearchanges, and as such are fine with a manual box, which many drivers continue to prefer because it gives them more control.

Like you, I like to see advancement in technology, but only if it doesn't detract from the driving experience (the speed issue) and it's necessary (the deceleration issue).

RichyBoy

2,580 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 14th July 2010 quote quote all
I wish they based it on the one series with a manual gearbox.
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