Remember when BMW couldn't get rid of the M3 CSLs straightaway? How bizarre that seems just a decade and a half later. Back then it was a lot more money than a standard M3 and wasn't perceived as £20k better, even allowing for the weight loss and an induction sound from the Gods.
The prospect of that seems odd in 2019 because lightweight, track-focussed specials are the ones that seem to sell out almost the moment they're announced - or sometimes even before. They appeal to drivers thanks to their dynamic improvements, to collectors for their rarity and to brand enthusiasts for what they often represent in the marque's history.
Knowing all that, the BMW M4 GTS looks like a prime specimen of the breed. Like its GT3 nemesis from Porsche, the GTS was based on an icon of the fast car world - because an M4 is close enough to an M3 to say that - it added more power, subtracted some weight and vastly improved the base product in the process. It looked a bit silly, almost a test of how dedicated buyers might be to using it, just 700 were made and there was some history to it: the GTS badge was used on the E92, and the M3 special edition almost as old as the car itself.
The M4 GTS was also, and this is a crucial point, a great car. Opinion seems to be split somewhat among British media; PH drove BMW's grey GTS along with several other sites a few years back and loved it, while those who experienced the ostensibly identical white one were less keen. For us that grey GTS was good enough to feel like an M4 transformed, angry and fast like the standard car - really, really fast, in fact - but with the chassis now to finally harness the power, rather than merely keeping a handle on it. Precise, resilient, tough and rewarding, the GTS proved what could be achieved with the M4. That it could still be lairy when required, albeit now with the driver actually feeling in control, sealed the car's reputation - it was fantastic.
Not so long ago, a few cars could be found for sale at a decent chunk more than the £120k list price, but look at this one now: registered in 2016 but having only covered 339 miles since (perhaps a buyer was hoping to make some money), it's for sale at Rybrook BMW Worcester for £110k. Hardly a bargain M3 track project, granted, but also less than they've been advertised for recently - why could that be?
Making more examples of the M4 GTS than its M3 counterpart must have contributed, plus the fact that the previous generation had a more exciting engine. It feels as well that the market has softened to some extent recently, and perhaps the introduction of the M3 and M4 CS - with some bits of what made the GTS so good - has slightly taken the edge off the flagship's appeal.
Whatever, if it can be secured basically brand new for nearly £100,000, the GTS looks a canny buy. Yes, the fundamental architecture is shared with a car far cheaper, but the GTS experience - this car's tenaciousness, resolve, excitement and engagement - makes it feel worth that money. Really. Don't forget about that 7:28 Nurburgring lap, either...
Finally, though, in the interest of balance, we should discuss the alternatives. Because many manufacturers have identified that circuit racer specials are a good way to forge a reputation, and make some money; handily for this story there are lots at around £100,000, too. See, for example, this Nissan GT-R NISMO, a Track Pack C63 Black Series and this Evora GT430, intriguing choices all three. And that's before the 911 GT3 is mentioned - early PDK 991s are certainly within budget. Sometimes though following the predictable path doesn't appeal so for that reason, and for the GTS's huge improvements over the standard car, the M4 is seriously worthy of consideration. Just maybe change the wheels, ok?
SPECIFICATION - BMW M4 GTS
Engine: 2,979cc, twin-turbo straight-six
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 500@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 442@4,000-5,500rpm
First registered: 2016
Recorded mileage: 339
Price new: £121,280
Yours for: £109,950
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