BMW M4 GTS

Wild track special is sharper, faster and more involving

GREG DOW

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

TWO things disappoint about the BMW M4 GTS.

The first is the price, which is roughly double that of the regular M4 Coupe. The second is that this track-focused, road-legal special is only 27kg lighter than an M4 with a dual-clutch gearbox (which is standard on the GTS).

But no one seems to care, because they’re all sold out. And screeching around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain with a stupid grin breaking out between gurns of concentration, I’m inclined to agree.

The GTS is a massive step up from the stock M4. It’s so agile and gains such a slab of firepower that it feels much more than 30kg lighter. I’m tempted to flog my left leg to fund a used one.

Limited to just 700 examples worldwide, the GTS comes down the regular M4 production line in Munich, but the final 10 percent is hand-assembled by the folk at BMW M, and that 10 percent is crucial to the magic.

Body mods are restricted to a new vented carbonfibre bonnet, OLED (organic light-emitting diode) rear lights and adjustable carbonfibre rear wing and front splitter. The two-seat interior features carbon-backed bucket seats, lighter door casings and centre console.

Soon after leaving the pitlane you know the GTS is something special. Where the stock M4 engine thrums like a turbodiesel, the GTS barks and rasps through a new (20 percent lighter) titanium muffler. Accelerate and the throttle snaps to attention and the cold 20-inch Michelin Sports spin up; it feels exciting and just a little intimidating, a challenge to be mastered.

The steering feels more incisive – a new milled swivel bearing and optimised torque curve are said to dial out slack – and the chassis is all knife-edge responses and hints of nervousness with its extra two degrees of negative camber.

This thing feels set up to monster a lap, not baby a novice.

No wonder its 7min 28sec Nurburgring lap-time is 24sec faster than the regular M4.

The guy who set that lap – chassis engineer Joerg Weidinger – also tuned the KW coilovers. Adjustable three ways, the bespoke suspension can be lowered 15mm compared with the M4, and is adjustable for low- and high-speed compression, and rebound too.

The possibilities for messing it up are endless, so it’s handy that BMW supplies both a wrench and two recommended settings: Street (used by Weidinger for that bumpy ’Ring lap) and the Track option we’re testing at Catalunya.

To me it feels ideal, if just a little stiff in some sections. I’d soften the compression… no, the rebound… agh, leave it.

The chassis and the standard carbon-ceramic brakes (optional on M4) would alone doubtless make the GTS much swifter around a lap. But the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six gets an extra 51kW/50Nm, and a hungrier character too; better response, an angrier exhaust note, and a feeling that you’re climbing to a power peak, not traversing a plateau.

Days after we leave Spain, the feeling of gripping that Alcantara steering wheel hard, standing on the accelerator for as long as I dare, and feeling the boost kick me down the next straight is still vivid. I want to be back there, trying to shave tenths off my best time, peeling back the layers of the GTS’s character.

Only the most involving sports cars leave that kind of lasting impression. There’s no doubting the M4 GTS is right up with them.

We only wish they’d put a bit of this magic into the standard production car.

PLUS & MINUS

Costs a bomb; no manual; the 25 destined for Australia are all spoken for Huge leap over M4; super-sharp chassis and steering; thunderous soundtrack Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale el e ren t hyee BMW M4 GTS 2979cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo 368kW @ 6250rpm 600Nm @ 4000-5500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1510kg 3.8sec (claimed) 8.5L/100km (estimated) $295,000 Q4 2016

GET DOWN 01

The adjustable carbonfibre front splitter set to its most extreme setting generates 10 times more downforce at 298km/h than the standard M4 road car set-up.

STAGGERED 02

Exclusive star-spoke M light-alloy wheels are forged and polished, and come in Acid Orange. They are fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (265/35R19 up front, 285/30R20 at the rear).

Carbon-compound wheels cost extra and save 7kg in total.

ACID TEST 03

As if the GTS is not racy enough a no-cost Race package option adds a steel half rollcage (coloured Acid Orange, same as the wheels), a red fire extinguisher and two race-spec six-point harnesses.

Rally tech

Key to the power hike is water injection, a wellestablished technology in rallying. Water is piped from a tank in the boot via three nozzles into the intake plenum, where it evaporates. Denser, cooler air is good for power, but it also reduces thermal stress on engine components, helping turbo boost to be safely increased from 2.2 to 2.5 bar. It even saves fuel; despite having so much more power, the GTS’s combined fuel number of 8.5L/100km is just 0.2 more than a regular dual-clutch M4 Coupe.

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