Driven: BMW M3 GTS


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

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (89) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Josco010 28 Jul 2010

    Hi i really love this carcool but once again i feel the point has been missed, it is too heavy to be a track car to sparse to be an everyday car and also too expensive compared to the GT3rs which is very focused indeed. I wish being directed at real hardcore drivers it would have had a simple reliable 6spd box like the GT3rs and reduce more weight by ditching the complex box get rid of the electric windows and door pulls to give way for carbon fibre door cards and leave the 3990cc engine and bhp alone and just make it lighter and spend that money uprating the brakes, i am certain they would have saved nearly 150kg alone and the response would be razor sharp and purpose would be clearer "a la" the e30 m3. but the agenda may be different now as it is all about bragging rights of BHP and big cc's

    I have an e30 m3 and a e34 //m5clap and for me, that was a time BMW were creating cars with motorsports running in their veins, now i feel its about competing for bhp and making targets and pedigree has been forsaken for making big bucks. A big shame reallyfrown

  • ///Mike 22 Jul 2010

    Asterix said:
    ///Mike said:
    I would still take an GT3 RS instead but this would be a very close second and more elite.
    More elite than a Porsche GT3 RS? Not sure I agree with that.
    I was making the assumption that there will be more GT3 RS's built and sold than the M3 GTS. I am not suggesting that its a better car by any stretch of the imagination.

    Maybe 'Elite' was the wrong word.

    I should have used the new 911 Sport Classic or whatever its called as an example. £140K for something that is dynamically hardly different to a 911 S at half the price.

    Edited by ///Mike on Thursday 22 July 16:04

  • E21_Ross 22 Jul 2010

    RobM77 said:
    E21_Ross said:
    RobM77 said:
    hondansx said:
    For me, a bit of a hollow article. Didn't really give an idea of what the car was like to drive, or any kind of comparison with the competition. I think the car looks ridiculous with the spoiler too, and i'd rather it was slightly less hardcore (seats and no cage) for the sake of 70kg.

    I'm really posting on here for the benefit of the ego-bulging-SMG-haters though. I regularly hear chatter about 'real drivers' wanting manual gearboxes. When you actually ask them to back up their opinions with experience, they've either only done a 5 minute test drive or are regurgitating the opinion of an ageing romantic who's written a piece in Autocar.

    I was sceptical about my CSL having SMG, but after a week of getting used to it, i realised it suited the car perfectly. It allowed me to get more out of the car, and myself. Not to mention clutches are incredibly tiresome for the daily monotonous commute.

    Ultimately, most people go for the paddle shift option when it comes to performance cars. The elitist/boorish few 'real drivers' who do their 3 or 4 track days a year should really except that the game has moved on. There are plenty of other 'issues' with modern cars to moan about...
    And also the variety of systems available. Top Gear love to bander about the phrase "flappy paddle", but this can mean three things: the Mercedes AMG system is controlling a traditional automatic gearbox, the BMW SMG system is an automated manual, and Porsche, VAG and now Ferrari use a double clutch system. I've only ever tried the paddles on an automatic gearbox in an AMG Merc, which were ok on track, but I couldn't get on with it on the road at all. I'd like to try an SMG or DSG style box someday.
    the new bmw gearboxes are basically the same as the dsg boxes, it's the DCT, double clutch transmission. very different from the old SMG box.
    I didn't say otherwise did I? confused
    no, just sounded like you didn't realise. my comment did sound rude, having just read it back hehe sorry about that

  • RobM77 22 Jul 2010

    E21_Ross said:
    RobM77 said:
    hondansx said:
    For me, a bit of a hollow article. Didn't really give an idea of what the car was like to drive, or any kind of comparison with the competition. I think the car looks ridiculous with the spoiler too, and i'd rather it was slightly less hardcore (seats and no cage) for the sake of 70kg.

    I'm really posting on here for the benefit of the ego-bulging-SMG-haters though. I regularly hear chatter about 'real drivers' wanting manual gearboxes. When you actually ask them to back up their opinions with experience, they've either only done a 5 minute test drive or are regurgitating the opinion of an ageing romantic who's written a piece in Autocar.

    I was sceptical about my CSL having SMG, but after a week of getting used to it, i realised it suited the car perfectly. It allowed me to get more out of the car, and myself. Not to mention clutches are incredibly tiresome for the daily monotonous commute.

    Ultimately, most people go for the paddle shift option when it comes to performance cars. The elitist/boorish few 'real drivers' who do their 3 or 4 track days a year should really except that the game has moved on. There are plenty of other 'issues' with modern cars to moan about...
    And also the variety of systems available. Top Gear love to bander about the phrase "flappy paddle", but this can mean three things: the Mercedes AMG system is controlling a traditional automatic gearbox, the BMW SMG system is an automated manual, and Porsche, VAG and now Ferrari use a double clutch system. I've only ever tried the paddles on an automatic gearbox in an AMG Merc, which were ok on track, but I couldn't get on with it on the road at all. I'd like to try an SMG or DSG style box someday.
    the new bmw gearboxes are basically the same as the dsg boxes, it's the DCT, double clutch transmission. very different from the old SMG box.
    I didn't say otherwise did I? confused

  • E21_Ross 22 Jul 2010

    RobM77 said:
    hondansx said:
    For me, a bit of a hollow article. Didn't really give an idea of what the car was like to drive, or any kind of comparison with the competition. I think the car looks ridiculous with the spoiler too, and i'd rather it was slightly less hardcore (seats and no cage) for the sake of 70kg.

    I'm really posting on here for the benefit of the ego-bulging-SMG-haters though. I regularly hear chatter about 'real drivers' wanting manual gearboxes. When you actually ask them to back up their opinions with experience, they've either only done a 5 minute test drive or are regurgitating the opinion of an ageing romantic who's written a piece in Autocar.

    I was sceptical about my CSL having SMG, but after a week of getting used to it, i realised it suited the car perfectly. It allowed me to get more out of the car, and myself. Not to mention clutches are incredibly tiresome for the daily monotonous commute.

    Ultimately, most people go for the paddle shift option when it comes to performance cars. The elitist/boorish few 'real drivers' who do their 3 or 4 track days a year should really except that the game has moved on. There are plenty of other 'issues' with modern cars to moan about...
    And also the variety of systems available. Top Gear love to bander about the phrase "flappy paddle", but this can mean three things: the Mercedes AMG system is controlling a traditional automatic gearbox, the BMW SMG system is an automated manual, and Porsche, VAG and now Ferrari use a double clutch system. I've only ever tried the paddles on an automatic gearbox in an AMG Merc, which were ok on track, but I couldn't get on with it on the road at all. I'd like to try an SMG or DSG style box someday.
    the new bmw gearboxes are basically the same as the dsg boxes, it's the DCT, double clutch transmission. very different from the old SMG box.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment