M3 GTS. And I run right past the M3 CRT...
I guess a lot of people wouldn't notice this silver E90 M3. Apart from a dash of red on the bonnet vents you'd barely look twice. I didn't and jumped straight into the GTS. It's only later as the session's drawing to a close that I am given the CRT to drive for the final minutes.
Now, when I say the CRT is quick on the GP track remember that I've just been thrashing the GTS around until steel parts plinked in protest and I was asked to stop. That's a pared back monster developed by BMW Motorsport to go toe-to-toe with the Porsche 911 GT3 RS on track days. It's stripped, it's caged and every part of the suspension and chassis is optimised for the racetrack.
It's a brilliant trick carried out so casually by BMW that you really have to stop and think.
I have just a few minutes of track time in CRT number 00 of 67 before I have to convoy back to the pitlane for the next activity. Like the GTS, the engine of the CRT is a stroker with 4.4 litres of displacement versus the standard 4.0. At tickover it sounds a little bit deeper than stock, no doubt helped by the featherweight titanium exhaust. Pulling away it's urgently lumpy and torquey. The traction control systems are pulling at the ignition curve like angry monkeys, chopping power every time I get excited. I hesitate a whole lap before turning off the electronic nannies (I'm under a three-line whip not to). But, dammit, you don't drive a car as special as this every day and it's there to be enjoyed. That's what I tell myself, but I also tell myself I won't do any skids and that way nobody will know I'm being naughty for about the 17th time that day...
With the traction monkeys caged up, the power of the CRT is unleashed on lap two and I'm giggling like a kid. Perfectly linear delivery, bags of torque, blah blah. You get the idea. Pure German V8 heaven, but with a high-revs response to make a decade-old Ferrari blushing behind its Scuderia shields.
The biggest thing about the CRT is not that 4.4 litre alloy-and-steel lump though, it's the weight savings that work their magic on every part of the experience. Honeycomb carbon fibre and carbon fibre reinforced plastic are used a lot. An awful lot. Seats, panels, brackets, you name it.
Compared with a bog-standard M3 it's 45kg lighter. But you shouldn't compare it to a stocker, as this CRT gets the big BMW Individual stereo, the BMW Professional nav and a whole bunch of sound-deadening under those CFRP panels. So by BMW's maths it's about 70kg lighter than an equally specced regular M3 four-door.
Lap three is more confident and at this point I've not been told about the 130,000 euros price tag. So I'm squeezing the upgraded six-pot and four-pot brakes until just past the turn-in, tapping the gas and leaving shreds of Michelin's finest to bounce to the edge of the track. There's no overtaking either, so I have to hang back and wait for the other journos. But that's fine, my laps fall into a rhythm of attack-attack-wait-wait bwaaaaaaarp and attack again.
Until the guy with the flag waves it, points at his watch and I find myself convoying back to pitlane behind the other cars. My last few moments with my new favourite saloon. It's a bittersweet moment. I never knew about this awesome four-door sleeper until today. Now I do, and I want one so badly it's hurting me. So as I look back at the M3 CRT in pitlane, I walk away trying to forget about it. Trying to return to that zen-like state of ignorance that 30 minutes ago helped me ignore it...
Full press pack and geekery on the CRT via the original press release here.
BMW M3 CRT
Engine: 4,360cc V8
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (M DCT), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 450@8,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 324@3,750rpm
Top speed: 180mph
MPG: 22.2mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: 130,000 euros (not available in UK)
Official BMW teaser video here.