32 BMW M3 CS First came the M4 coupe, now it’s time for the four-door 3 Series to get the Club Sport treatment
34 ASTON MARTIN DB11 AMR If you want a V12-powered DB11 this is now your only choice, so it better be good
36 PORSCHE 911 GT3 We’ve driven the PDK, so it’s time to see if manual really is better… let the purist battle begin
Italian supercar more than meets the hype
BY MATT PRIOR
THERE ARE TWO sports cars they just wrong. Most manufacturers, ones, occasionally turn out a the case of two vehicles – the GT3 RS version of a Porsche 911 and the special series version of Ferrari’s mid-engined V8 – they simply don’t miss a trick.
This is, I suspect, because they’re engineers’ cars. Purists’ cars. The first 911 GT3 RS, of 2003, only came about because Porsche needed to homologate two suspension links for racing. And the first mid-engined Ferrari special, the 360 Challenge Stradale, also of 2003, helped justify the Challenge race series.
This, then, is Ferrari’s latest, the 488 Pista. The requisite link to motorsport is there, anyway. The Pista’s engine is, like a GT3 RS’s, effectively a racecar motor, here from the 488 Challenge car with an extra 38kW.
It retains a 3.9-litre V8, but it now makes 530kW at the same 8000rpm and 770Nm at 3000rpm (in seventh gear); torque is limited in lower gears to make what, since its launch, has been the best sporty turbocharged engine in the world feel less turbocharged, more naturally aspirated.
It drives the Pista’s rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. While the time between clutch activations isn’t being reduced much (there’s not much to reduce), there’s now an overboost on upshifts, and in the appropriate aggressive drive mode it punches downshifts in a racier fashion, with increased engine braking.
Specify the right options – including carbon-fibre wheels – and the Pista can weigh as little as 1358kg (kerb, not dry). That’s up to 90kg less than the 488 GTB. The Pista does feature carbon fibre for its bonnet, bumpers, intake plenum and rear spoiler. This is part of a raft of weight-saving additions that include an Inconel exhaust, a lighter flywheel, a lithium battery and titanium conrods.
Bodywork modifications include an S-duct at the front and a higher, longer wing at the back. The result is 20 per cent more downforce than that generated by the 488 GTB: 240kg at 200km/h, with only a two per cent increase in drag.
The Pista’s weight, power and aero, plus a newly developed Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre (which leaves rubber on the road in rather more places than you’d realistically expect, so Lord knows how soft they are) mean that it’s lighter, faster and more aggressive than the 488 GTB everywhere.
But it’s not, says Ferrari’s leading GT engineer, Raffaele de Simone, any more difficult to drive. The Pista’s meant to be just as playful and accommodating as the regular GTB, which given it has 492kW and is almost as docile as the Toyota 86, would be an achievement.
But bloody hell, it turns out he’s right.
Our first go around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track with the Pista didn’t go to plan – the weather Gods weren’t on our side. However, this time around, Italy is back to its balmy self. The Pista is said to be two seconds faster than the 458 Speciale around here.
The Pista is in a different performance stratosphere from the Speciale: 0-100km/h takes 2.85sec and 7.6sec to 200km/h, compared with 3.0sec and 9.1sec for the Speciale.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the Pista is no more frightening than the GTB, but merely faster, everywhere. The steering rack, ratio, everything, is the same as the GTB’s. Anti-roll bars are unchanged, and while there is a stiffening of springs, it’s minor and only comes with a marginal decrease in ride height. The GTB’s friendly nature, then, is largely intact.
Ferrari uses an e-differential, and its latest ‘side-slip control’ program involves even more software, so if you turn in sensibly the diff stays relatively unwound, the Pista rotates beautifully and, as you come back on the power, it drives the car brilliantly. The side-slip control allows for a lot of adjustability.
Turn everything off and the Pista’s character is still docile. Peak torque comes in at just 3000rpm and the throttle response is better than any other turbocharged car’s.
What’s perhaps more remarkable is that this comes without any huge detriment to the experience on the road. Well, to the ride, at least: there’s a lot of road noise, owing to a lack of carpet and other soundproofing, so along with tyre roar you can hear stones being flicked up and chattering into the body, while the air-conditioning struggles on anything except its most shouty setting.
But the dampers retain two settings and, even on the firmer one, the Pista is far from unsettled. On the softer ‘bumpy road’ setting it’s remarkably compliant, yet controlled. These roads would really expose some laggy, harshly sprung track specials, but the Pista is brilliant here, riding with deftness and cornering with composure and loads of feel and finesse.
They also happen to form part of Ferrari’s development drivers’ test route, so you can see why the steering ends up being so fast, but it also explains why Ferrari likes using an e-differential. It, while heavier than a pure mechanical differential or an open one, unlocks to ease tight corner entry and locks up to provide brilliant exitstraightening. It’ll understeer if you’re clumsy and spin its wheels more than you expect if you’re lead-footed, but it’s generally more approachable and playful than its competitors.
And while its engine is less intoxicating than Porsche’s naturally aspirated GT3 RS unit and the Lamborghini Huracan Performante’s V10, it has the measure of the 911 GT2 RS and any current McLaren.
More than that, though, it helps exploit one of the greatest chassis in the business. It doesn’t feel night-andday different from that of the regular GTB. It feels like the ‘base’ car plus 20 per cent rather than a different animal. Put carpets and inertia-reel belts rather than harnesses in it and it could even just be the next 488.
3.8-litre twin-turbo flat6, RWD, 515kW/750Nm, 0-100k m/h 2.8sec 1470kg, $645,400
Its list of credentials, not to mention\ a production-car ’Ring record, is staggering. The GT2 RS has so much power, torque and handling prowess that it’ll be tough to beat. Game on
That, though, is important to those who buy them. V8 Ferrari-owners, even track-special owners, don’t tend to live on racetracks like owners of GT3 RS Porsches. They’ll go a few times to NEMESIS remind themselves they’ve right decision. And it won’t About three corners ought to do it.
Bavaria makes finding ‘the one’ a little easier
BY RCHARD LANE
AS FAR AS THE M3 is concerned, the Club Sport (CS) could be ‘the one’. With the G20-generation rumours hinting at electrification (for a total output close to 368kW) and all-wheel drive, the $179,900 CS could be the last hurrah for the F80 M3 as we know it. Plus, no more than 1200 examples of the M3 CS will leave BMW’s Regensburg.
Still, given how cheaply you can pick up an M3 Pure, the CS will have to prove itself. What you’ll get is basically the same formula as the M4 CS. The body features a profiled carbon-fibre Gurney flap to match a similarly aggressive front splitter. Painted on top, but naked underneath, so too is the bonnet full of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) – it’s 25 per cent lighter than that of a standard four-door M3. And you can barely get a cigarette paper between the rear wheel arches and the semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. They’re wrapped around lightweight forged alloy wheels, 20-inch at the rear and 19-inch at the front.
Inside the persona is hardcore, even if you don’t get the lightweight door cards from this car’s M4 sibling (which is a bit of a bonus). Despite an asking price to make you wince, BMW’s S55 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight six doesn’t benefit from the water injection system of the M4 GTS. It doesn’t need that technology, developing only 7kW more than the 331kW you’ll find in a M3 Competition Pack. And honestly, does a sedan capable of reaching 100km/h in just 3.9sec before running on to a governed 280km/h need to be any quicker? No, but it could be lighter.
Strangely, this car’s substantial use of CFRP results in a saving of only 10kg over the Competition Pack car, but the centre of gravity is said to be usefully closer to the road. Given the tyres in question, warm weather plays heavily into this car’s hands, and straight away the precision with which an M3 CS turns into corners is startling. Indeed, it’s only the trio of steering modes, those wheels and tyres, and the calibration of the electronic stability control and the active M differential in the rear axle that separate Club Sport from Competition.
The rack and its gearing remain unchanged, as do the spring rates and suspension geometry, so there is still roughly 0.5-degree more negative camber than on the standard M3.
This is now a chassis of extraordinary composure, resulting from reserves of tightly controlled pliancy than you might imagine. With less unsprung mass, there’s a predatory manner to direction changes, and a palpable feeling that the chassis sets itself a touch earlier during the entry phase than a M3 Competition Pack does.
Our test car has BMW’s optional carbon-ceramic discs (denoted by gold calipers) and they feel pleasingly light on assistance, biting firmly and progressively and permitting you to lean increasingly hard on a front axle that almost never wilts into understeer.
Such are the adhesive properties of the tyres, in fact, that third-gear sweepers can rapidly boil down to mind over matter, and you get the gratification of feeling that differential, recalibrated for vast grip, subtly nudging the nose inwards under power. The M3 CS then explodes out of corners with just a hint of squat and almost mid-engined poise.
Aside from a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that seems reluctant to downshift early, our only objective complaint is that while the sensory relay from contact patch to steering rim is improved, it’s still a marginal affair.
The engine has never been the most affable device, although in this application, it barks viciously through a sports exhaust. It also seems to punch harder through the mid-range, which is the result of an improved electronic mapping. In the face of more powerful rivals, the M3 has long wanted for greater in-gear shove at moderate crank speeds, and now it has it.
This F80 M3 has become deeply intuitive and likeable. As you may have surmised, from a driver’s perspective, the M3 CS is the most rewarding product M division currently offers. It is a deadly serious product, less playful or extroverted than an Alfa Romeo Giulia QV or Mercedes-AMG C63 S, but equally usable and fulfilling. It would also run rings around those cars at a track day against the clock.
Yet, in the cold light of day, even such a phenomenal bandwidth is not enough to justify the premium over an M3 Competition Pack. Then again, the contentment of owning ‘the one’ would linger long after the sting of that early expense had faded.
Boosted V12 gains more power and honed dynamics
THE DB11’S LIFE so far has been short, but busy. It made its debut in 2016, offered in V12 guise only, but the cheaper, slightly less powerful V8 model arrived soon after and the drop-top Volante fleshed out the range earlier this year.
Now, after just two short years on sale, the DB11 V12 has been retired. Worry not. Aston Martin is replacing it with the DB11 AMR, the fastest, most driver-focused DB11 yet.
It uses the familiar 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12, now good for 470kW. That’s a 23kW gain over the departed DB11 V12 and 95kW more than the eightcylinder model possesses.
The chassis has been tweaked too. There are stiffer suspension bushes to help locate the rear axle more securely, but the spring rates are unchanged.
The dampers, however, have been revalved so that they offer tighter body control and sharper responses. An ever-so-slightly thicker front antiroll bar balances those revisions front to rear, while the wheels are now forged, saving 3.5kg of unsprung weight at each corner.
An early limited-run batch of 100 DB11 AMRs will be sold worldwide in Signature Edition trim, which adds a searing lime-coloured body stripe and equally bright accents inside.
The series DB11 AMR is offered in a range of rather more sober colour schemes and it costs $428,000.
Garish brake calipers or not, the DB11 AMR is a huge improvement over the outgoing model. For one thing, the slightly patchy interior quality that afflicted many of those first-batch DB11s has been put right.
Even more significantly, though, the car now drives the way it always should have. Gone is the harsh, hollow quality to the damping; the new version is beautifully suspended. Its ride may be tight and firmly controlled, but even on very bumpy roads there is enough composure in the damping that it never gets uncomfortable.
Body control has been improved, too. With the rear axle now better located, thanks to those stiffer bushes, and with less ill-tempered squirming from the rear end over bumps in the road surface, traction is significantly better. Dig into the throttle pedal in second gear and you won’t hear so much as a chirrup from the rear tyres.
All told, the DB11 AMR is sharper and more responsive than the old model without being any less cosseting on a longer drive. What about the engine? You probably won’t notice the extra 23kW, but you’ll be very well aware of how rampantly accelerative the car is.
The V12 has power and torque everywhere. It’s the noise that gets you, though. Turbochargers normally muffle an engine’s soundtrack like a sock stuffed into a tenor’s mouth, but somehow Aston Martin has teased a rich and musical soundtrack from the DB11 AMR’s exhausts.
Yet the car certainly isn’t perfect. There is an unholy alliance of precisebut-remote steering, forward visibility that is compromised by a high scuttle and a long bonnet, and the simply vast footprint that means the DB11 AMR is not the sort of car you can jump into and drive quickly right away. You have to build up to it, allowing your confidence to grow.
There is also the not-so-small matter of the AMR’s weight. It’s around 100kg heavier than the DB11 V8. You’ll feel it when you really chuck the car into a tight corner and it struggles to hold a line that the lighter model would happily stick to.
Ever since the DB11 V8, the V12 model has been outpointed and outshone. Now, however, there is nothing between the two models but $60K and 95kW.
Mega Mustang fulfils American muscle dream
BY SCOTT NEWMAN
NO NAME IS more synonymous with high performance Ford Mustangs than Shelby. Ford offers its own line of hi-po ponies with its GT350 and GT500 models, but if you want something wearing the signature of Carroll Shelby you need to turn to Shelby American.
The team at Mustang Motorsport is Australia’s officially authorised Shelby American ‘mod shop’ and this is currently its biggest and baddest offering, the Super Snake.
The Super Snake package includes a supercharger to lift power to 500kW, Shelby’s track handling package, 20-inch wheels with tyres measuring 275/35 (front) and 305/30 (rear), huge Wilwood brakes, an aggressive bodykit and a variety of cosmetic upgrades.
Our test car, though, goes further, with the optional 2.9-litre Whipple supercharger hoisting outputs to 559kW/867Nm as well as custom wheels and an interior retrim. It’s a menacing beast, and the intimidation factor only increases when the engine explodes into life.
This is one of the fiercest exhaust notes ever heard and on the move the noise hardens, enveloping the driver with its V8 orchestra. Throttle response is sharp and when you build up to flooring the throttle it lunges forward with a supercharged scream. Acceleration is brutal and only intensifies as redline approaches.
The six-speed auto fitted to this car often hunts for the right ratio, but selecting manual mode easily remedies this, as would optioning a manual gearbox. Another component overwhelmed by the amount of power is the standard diff; admittedly for street use you’re never going to notice, but for track use, Shelby’s Wavetrac diff is a worthwhile upgrade.
Possibly the biggest surprise regarding the Super Snake is just how refined it is. Not in terms of NVH, but its ride quality is impressive. It’s firm, but the dampers have enough compliance to cushion most bumps.
It’s not the sharpest handling tool, but if you’re careful most of the 750hp makes it to the ground.
The Super Snake isn’t cheap, adding around $90K to the cost of a standard Mustang depending on options, but while that’s a lot of money for a Mustang, it’s pretty cheap for 559kW. Few cars at a similar price have this level of acceleration and attitude!
It might seem crazy to some, but the Super Snake’s charms are such that I could see some trading in a C63 Coupe or M4 for a taste of Shelby.
Unleashing the manual version on Aussie roads
B Y • SCOTTNEWMAN+ PCS• ELLENDEWAR
IN A WORLD increasingly dominated by dual-clutch and automatic gearboxes, it still feels like the most natural thing to step into a Porsche sports car and instinctively dip your left leg before turning the key. Yes, a key! Purists, this is your perfect Porsche.
That crucial third pedal is the reason we’re driving this Guards Red GT3. Porsche didn’t offer the option in the 991 GT3, but bowed to the wishes of enthusiasts and developed a bespoke six-speed manual for the 911 R and 991.2 GT3. However, PDK versions came off the production line first, meaning Editor Campbell’s recent epic alpine drive used only two pedals.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what separates manual from PDK, a quick refresher on the common parts. A 4.0-litre flat-six sits aft of the rear axle, producing a sizzling 368kW at 8250rpm and 460Nm at 6000rpm, while maximum engine speed is 9000rpm. Adaptive dampers are standard, as is rear-wheel steering, while the fronts are operated by a steering rack that quickens from 17.15:1 on-centre to 13.12:1 at its extremes.
The standard brakes are 380mm rotors at both ends with six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears, while the wheels measure 20 x 9.0inch front and 20 x 12.0-inch rear wearing 245/35 and 305/30 rubber respectively, in this case Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2 instead of the more common Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2. Thanks to revised aero, the new GT3 has 20 per cent more downforce than its predecessor without adding drag.
Now, the differences. Aside from the obvious, the GT3 manual uses a mechanically locking limited-slip diff, rather than the PDK’s electronicallycontrolled unit. It offers 30 per cent locking on traction and 37 per cent on deceleration and incorporates torque vectoring by braking an inside wheel during cornering, however, it lacks the fully variable torque distribution abilities of the PDK’s digital diff.
It doesn’t hurt the GT3’s handling. This car operates at such a high level that even approaching its stratospheric limits requires every ounce of your driving ability. It won’t punish hamfistedness like fast 911s of yesteryear, but to extract the most from it still requires a specific technique. Use the rear weight bias to your advantage to help rotate the car and aid traction and the GT3 is devastating.
The steering is razor sharp, body control absolute, the brakes unkillable and traction strong enough to take every one of the 368kW, even in first gear. Faster corners are even better, the GT3 squatting comfortably on its outside rear tyre and sucking itself to the tarmac. Initially, you feel like you’ll never reach the limit of adhesion, but with a bit of provocation and some adverse camber this super-911 reveals its playful side. Hopefully we’ll drive a GT3 on track at some point, as it’s bred to live beyond pit wall.
A circuit is really the only place you can properly extend the monster of an engine. Against the clock the manual gives away 0.5sec to the PDK on the way to 100km/h, but once rolling they’re level pegging. The top-end kick of the 991 3.8 has been eradicated by the 4.0-litre’s fattened mid-range, yet it continues to gather pace as it passes 7000rpm, emitting a mechanical scream on its way to 9000rpm like Jimmy Barnes singing Nessun Dorma.
I’ve never driven a car with such a disdain for speed limits. Turbocharged rivals might be quicker, but the GT3’s super-long gearing (first runs to 83km/h, second 131km/h and third 181km/h) and the eagerness with which it encourages you to explore the upper reaches of the tacho means staying legal requires iron self-control. That the 991.2 GT3 marries this performance with enough compliance to make it an adequate grand tourer is remarkable.
This is one of the greatest performance cars ever built; at times it seems impossible that it could wear number plates and have service intervals longer than 1000km. To find flaw is to nit-pick: a Sports ESP mode would be nice and six-point harnesses are pretty silly in a road car.
Which gearbox to choose? Honestly, it doesn’t matter; the PDK makes more effective use of the engine, but will never be able to replicate the feeling of a perfectly judged heel-toe downshift. We’ll have one of each, thanks.
Ultimate luxe-limo king retains its crown
BY SCOTT NEWMAN + PCSELLENDEWAR
WHEN YOU’RE THE established benchmark in a segment, it must be difficult to decide where to focus on improvement. At initial glance it appears the engineers responsible for the S-Class update have enjoyed plenty of early knock-offs. External changes are limited to a new radiator grille and, on cars so optioned, striking Multibeam LED headlights with the distinctive triple strip of lights.
As usual for Merc’s mid-life updates, however, subtle exterior tweaks hide drastic mechanical changes. Chief among these is the introduction of a number of new engines. Mercedes has revived the inline six, the S450 offering an electrified 270kW/520Nm 3.0-litre petrol while the S350d and S400d diesels offer 210kW/600Nm and 250kW/700Nm respectively.
Further up the tree is our S560 test car, which debuts the non-AMG M176 version of Merc’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in Australia. Like the handbuilt units in its more potent siblings, its turbos are tucked into the vee of the engine, yet the M176 majors on effortless torque and efficiency thanks to its ability to shut down four cylinders when cruising.
Developing 345kW/700Nm, it offers more pace than most owners will ever use (0-100km/h 4.7sec), but a cultured V8 growl is there if they succumb to temptation. The sensible choice is probably one of the cheaper, frugal diesels, yet on a 200km cross-country cruise the S560 returned a remarkable 7.8L/100km. I believe that’s called having your cake and eating it, too – and this was the larger, heavier longwheelbase version.
Selecting the L adds 25kg, 130mm to the wheelbase and $25,000 to the price, but is a must if you employ someone else to take the wheel. The back seat of an S-Class is truly landbased business class travel.
The ride is exemplary, the very definition of waft, the S-Class using a stereo camera to scan the road ahead and prepare the adaptive air suspension for bumps. Selecting Sport offers greater control with little deterioration in comfort, but to be honest, while the S560 can be driven quite quickly, nothing about the car encourages you to do so. It’s like those designer running shoes; you could use them to exercise, but it would be a shame to get them sweaty.
It’s at its best when cruising along, Intelligent Drive using its Level 2 autonomous capabilities to take over as much of the driving as regulation allows. As painful as it is to write in a magazine dedicated to enthusiastic driving, it’s also a very relaxing way to tackle a long, otherwise uneventful journey. Crucially, the technology is largely unobtrusive, Mercedes realising that luxury is more about the environment than how many gadgets are available. As such, it retains its place at the top of the limo segment. At least for now.