2011 BMW M3 GTS E92 4.4-litre
Ok, so the wing on the back, BMW Individual Special Fire Orange paint, big, black wheels and so on were going to attract a certain demographic, but still I was a bit bewildered by how many thumbs-up signs came from young lads. And then a neighbour told me that her 14-year-old son knew the M3 GTS from Forza. A computer game, apparently.
This is hardcore
Something else that might have caught attention is the exhaust note: a ripping, coruscating V8 roar. The E90 (Saloon) and E92 (Coupe) generation of M3 is the only one that has eschewed a straight-six; it’s also the last of the breed that wasn’t turbocharged. But while many will surely have found the standard car’s 414bhp 4.0-litre V8 to be adequate, there had been precedents for turning up the wick. And the GTS did exactly that.
Only 150 were built, with coupe bodywork and engine capacity stretched to 4361cc for a peak output of 444bhp at 8300rpm, 0-62mph in 4.4sec and a top speed of 190mph. All of that is delivered by BMW’s first dual-clutch transmission, a sevenspeed Getrag ’box that drives the rear wheels. There are special semislick tyres, and an overall weightsaving of 75kg means the Perspex rear screen, no rear seats, trim omissions and sparse soundproofing more than make up for the half-cage bolted into the rear of the cabin.
The price new was around £100,000 — or double that of the standard car. Porsche 911 GT3 997.2 territory, to be frank, and that’s where it remains: neither has ever really done depreciation as they landed straight into the enthusiast and collector zone.
The Recaro race-style buckets make getting in a scramble, but at least the harness isn’t mandatory: there are seatbelts, too. There is also adjustable aero (Allen keys at the ready); likewise you can fettle the KW coilover suspension. And if all of this is sounding like the kind of spec that’s ideal for a trackday warrior, you wouldn’t be far wrong.
But I’m not on a track. I’ve been at the Spring Bicester Heritage Scramble, where BMW has been celebrating 50 years of its M division with a special display. And I’ve been handed the keys to the GTS to drive home. Between the two locations lies Silverstone Circuit, but that must remain simply a landmark en route. For now, the A43 makes the GTS’s searing acceleration evident — and also its extremely taut ride. Every ripple makes your head nod, BTCC-style.
But the tank is full and I know where there are plenty more entertaining roads. And it soon becomes clear that I’ve driven few cars with a greater propensity to gain speed with such rampant ease. The transmission is excellent: upshift on the paddles (cool-touch alloy ones, at that) and you can wring out all the revs on the way. The noise is scintillating, if rather uni-dimensional, lacking some of the induction histrionics of BMW’s finest sixes. But given a smooth surface and a winding route over the topography, you quickly settle into sports car heaven, wrapped in that bucket, legs outstretched, steering wheel in your lap.
It is sublime through twists, balanced, poised, scything through as you link the straights. But only when it’s smooth: bumps will soon have it bucking enough to unsettle your right foot on the gas pedal, which isn’t cool. I must have found enough unwrinkled stretches as the tank is now down to a quarter...
So yes, the M3 GTS is hardcore. And those who know it only via a screen and hand controllers really don’t know what they’re missing.
Left and below BMW E92 M3 GTS is defined by its tuned 4.4-litre V8, adjustable rear wing and bucket seats with harnesses.