Since the original BMW M3 appeared in 1986, there have always been special editions. Sometimes these took the form of an association with the car’s legendary prowess on track – think E30 Europameister, Ravaglia and Cecotto models – or were run-outs designed to revitalise a generation nearing the end of its life, such as the E46 M3 CS, which was a superb machine, nonetheless.
There has also always been a core thread of M3 ‘specials’ running through the development DNA of this most iconic of BMWs, starting with the E30 M3 Evolution. The Evo II and ‘Evo III’ – or more correctly the Sport Evolution – followed, before the E36 M3 gave us the Evo (3.2-litre), GT and Imola Individual variants. Perhaps the best of its type was the E46 CSL, reviving the legendary badge of the 1970s E9 coupé, with 422 right-hand drive examples sent to the UK. Then we had the 4.4-litre V8-engined M3 GTS and the Carbon Racing Technology (CRT) M3 Saloon.
So once the M4 arrived it was simply a case of waiting to see which name Munich would apportion to the inevitable harder and faster special edition. Evo? Unlikely. GT? Probably not. CSL? Hmm, possibly. Turns out, though, that GTS is once again the preferred nomenclature. Thus, say hello to the 700-piece M4 GTS limited edition, built to celebrate three decades of the wonderful M3 (except it’s an M4…).
Like all the extreme variants of M3 that have gone before, the GTS has extra power, less weight to cart about, a cabin that looks like a refugee from the racing world and a more aggressive exterior. Perhaps we can start on the subjective, and possibly contentious, matter of appearance first. Don’t get us wrong, we think it looks great in the main, but… Acid orange? For the highlights? Really?!
You will find this searing hue on the edge of the two-stage adjustable front splitter, coating the 19-inch front, 20-inch rear Style 666 M forged alloy wheels and, inside, centre top of the Alcantara steering wheel and stitched into the passenger side of the dashboard in the form of a ‘GTS’ logo. If you go for the no-cost option of the Clubsport Package, as seen on the car in the pictures, and as well as a fire extinguisher and a set of six-point harnesses (not available for the US market) for an exquisite pair of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) front bucket seats, an Acid orange rollcage is added.
Therefore, as long as you like vivid orange, you’ll love the GTS. It comes in four main colours, with Alpine white the only non-metallic finish. The metallic options are Sapphire black, Mineral grey and Frozen dark grey, which is the colour used in these pictures. As well as the CFRP roof (the same as on all M4s), the wildly-sculpted bonnet (25kg lighter than the M4’s aluminium item and now featuring an air outlet to reduce lift over the front axle) and the bootlid are also made of the stuff to further reduce the car’s weight and lower its centre of gravity. More CFRP is used for that unmissable, three-stage adjustable boot spoiler and rear diffuser, the former sitting on a pair of beautifully CNC-machined aluminium struts and the latter housing the trademark M quad exhaust tips.
These 80mm diameter items are finished in titanium and laser-etched with the M logo. And the M4 GTS will be the first series-production vehicle to sport organic light-emitting diode (OLED) rear lights, too. While the exterior has the potential to divide opinion, the interior surely does not. Aside from those splashes of Acid orange, it’s another glorious creation from the M Division, evoking clear memories of the E46 M3 CSL as it’s dripping in carbon fibre and Alcantara. Drink in such stunning details as that sensational steering wheel and door pulls that are nothing more than M tricolour-striped loops of fabric, to save weight. The M stripes feature on the seat backrests and the standard three-point seatbelts, too, while there’s more weight-saving from those aforementioned seats (they’re half as light as the Sport chairs in the regular M4 Coupé) and a glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GFRP) shelf where the rear seats used to be. Overall, the GTS clocks in at 1510kg, a good 62kg lighter than the M4 DCT.
Anyway, enough of the aesthetics, let’s get on to the mechanicals – and here, it’s all about water injection. The fledgling technology, which BMW has used in the M4 MotoGP Safety Car and which we’ve sampled on a 1 Series at Miramas, makes it into production and it sees the M4’s power and torque figures soar by 69hp and 37lb ft to gigantic peaks of 500hp and 443lb ft. It achieves these numbers by dramatically lowering the temperature of the intake air by firing a fine spray of water into the mix in the intake manifold plenum chamber. That means that BMW can turn up the turbos’ boost pressure, give the GTS a higher compression ratio and set up earlier spark timing, without fear of causing ‘knock’ in the process.
The water injection system is fed by a five-litre frost-proof tank housed in the M4’s boot, feeding H²O to the intake manifold at 10bar of pressure. BMW says this tank will need topping up every time the car is refuelled under hard-driving track conditions yet will only need replenishing every fifth tank of petrol if working as a fast motorway cruiser. The M4 GTS has a self-diagnosis system to protect the engine in case the tank runs dry (or in the case of malfunction), which knocks the boost pressure and spark timing back to reduce power. BMW therefore claims the system is essentially ‘maintenance-free’, other than for those occasional top-ups.
It really is worth it, though, because the M4 is about the fastest accelerating road car yet to issue forth from Munich. It rips from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds, trimming 0.3 seconds from the regular M4 DCT’s time, and runs on to a restricted top speed of 190mph; well, technically, 189.5mph, but we’ll give the GTS the benefit of the doubt here. Not only that, but it has already set a scorching lap time of 7min 28secs around the Nürburgring Nordschleife – with BMW asserting that it is no worse on fuel or emissions than the standard M4.
For the GTS’s increased ability, several chassis and drivetrain upgrades are brought to bear to cope with its grunt. The seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission has retuned Drivelogic shift and Launch Control software while those orange alloys are clothed in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (265/35 R19 front, 285/30 R20 rear). The GTS gets specific suspension settings for its three-way M coilover suspension, allowing for mechanically adjustable compression and rebound settings, with precise independent adjustment of low- and high-speed compression; this means you can set it up exactly according to what sort of track you’re planning to drive on.
That twin-turbo straight-six has a forged crankshaft that is stronger and lighter. Meanwhile, the single-piece driveshaft and front strut brace are both CFRP. The former is even lighter than the item found on the M3/M4 and the brace clocks just 1.5kg on the scales.
Like the M4, the GTS has a raft of electronics to further hone the driving experience. Stability Clutch Control can automatically disengage the clutch when required to prevent oversteer (we’re sure plenty of you are saying ‘why would you want to do that?!’ right about now…), while the 100 per cent locking Active M Differential and the threestage traction control – which can be fully engaged, set in halfway M Dynamic Mode (MDM) or switched off entirely – make the cut for the GTS. Its steering has also been sharpened by a set of asymmetric support mounts and a motorsport-derived milled swivel bearing, allowing it to run two degrees of negative front camber. There’s a new feature for the accelerator, too, called M Motordynamic Control, which basically allows for a softer throttle on road and a rabidly sharp right pedal on track. Finally, the brakes are suitably epic, in order to deal with the potency of the GTS. Six-pot front and four-pot rear gold-painted callipers grip massive carbon fibre-reinforced silicon carbide discs.
We could go on to tell you about the comprehensive level of standard kit on the M4 GTS but we reckon you won’t be interested in anti-dazzle main beam lights or Professional sat-nav; it’s simply an awesome creation whichever way you cut it.
However, this will be a super-rare car. If you’d like one, you’re going to have to move quickly. Of the 700 to be built, just 30 are earmarked for the UK at a cost of £121,770 apiece – comfortably more than double the basic price of an M4 Coupé DCT. The M4 GTS is on sale from March with deliveries due next year, to coincide with the M3’s 30th anniversary. And it’s going to prove to be a very happy occasion indeed, judging by this monster GTS.
TECHNICAL DATA F82 M4 GTS
ENGINE: Twin-turbocharged straight-six
MAX POWER: 500hp at 6250rpm
MAX TORQUE: 443lb ft from 4000-5500rpm
0-62MPH: 3.8 seconds
TOP SPEED: 190mph (limited)
CO2 EMISSIONS: 194g/km
ON SALE: March 2016
HOW MANY: 700 (30 RHD UK-spec cars)
M3 specials over the years
1988 BMW E30 M3 Evolution
This M3 had a 2.3-litre S14 engine tweaked up to 220hp, 25hp more than the 195hp standard unit of the time. A larger front spoiler and corresponding adjustable rear item were teamed to body and glazing weight reduction measures for this limited run of 500 cars.
1990 BMW E30 M3 Sport Evolution
Sometimes called the Evo III, this is probably the most collectable BMW going after the E9 3.0 CSL Batmobile. Capacity rose to 2.5-litres, taking power to 238hp. A total of 35kg of weight was stripped out of the car and it only came in Gloss black or Brilliant red, with a contrasting pinstripe in the opposing colour. Just 600 were made.
1995 BMW E36 M3 GT
This came in British Racing green only with a Mexico green leather interior. The 3.0-litre S50 B30 engine saw a modest increase in power, up from 286 to 295hp, thanks to previewing some of the technical details of the forthcoming 3.2 ‘Evo’ engine, but it was the rear spoiler and front splitter that really marked the GT out. Just 350 were built, and all were left-hand drive.
2003 BMW E46 M3 CSL
The ‘Coupé Sport Leichtbau’ badge returned on a car that met criticism as it cost £58k when a regular E46 M3 was more like £38k. However, today this is considered a modern classic: 360hp, a carbon fibre air intake, the ducktail bootlid and a gorgeous interior were some of its many highlights. As were the semi-treaded Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres that needed a ‘wet weather’ disclaimer to be signed by UK owners…!
2010 BMW E92 M3 GTS
The first use of the GTS badging and the S65 4.0-litre V8 saw increased cylinder stroke to result in 4.4-litres of capacity and peak power of 450hp. A colossal rear wing marked it out, while a mainly hand-built construction resulted in a six-figure price tag. Only finished in orange – perhaps the inspiration for the Acid orange highlights on the M4 GTS.
2011 BMW E90 M3 CRT
Never officially sold in the UK, just 67 of these were ever made – making it twice as rare as the M3 GTS (135 in total). It used the same 450hp 4.4-litre V8 as the coupé, simply translated into the supercool saloon body. Loads of carbon fibre bits and bobs kept the weight down, too.