New model test Bob Harper samples the awesome, limited edition ACL2S and comes away mightily impressed.
When I was younger there was always a certain frisson of excitement that accompanied a birthday – what presents would I get, what surprises would the postman bring and would my gran make her legendary triplechocolate cake?
As you get older, though, there’s less of a fanfare with each passing year – the presents get smaller, the postman walks straight past your house and cakes become a fire hazard. Sometimes I secretly buy myself a little something just to make sure the big day’s not a complete damp squib.
It’s just possible that the good folk at AC Schnitzer have been similarly affected. When you’re a new company, each successive anniversary is rightly celebrated but, as the years roll by, you’re no longer a new operation and, once you’ve been around as long as Schnitzer, you become part of the establishment rather than the new kid on the block.
So, for its 30th birthday, the German tuning guru decided it was time for a little present to itself – the ACL2S. What’s more, it decided to make a limited edition run of 30 cars, so those discerning customers who want a little more from their 2 Series, can celebrate with them.
The resulting machine was presented at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, and drew on elements of the show-stopping ACL2 that had been the star of its stand the previous year. But it’s not the show car I’m driving here, it’s an ACL2S bristling with the full range of options that Schnitzer has also released for this anniversary special. However, before we get into all that, I ought to explain what you get with a ‘basic’ ACL2S.
It’s based on the already excellent M240i and, as you’d expect, the first item that Schnitzer applied its tuning wizardry to was the engine. In standard form this develops an impressive 340hp, plus a muscular 369lb ft of torque. But Schnitzer’s special attentions liberate an extra 60hp and 74lb ft, boosting the totals to 400hp and 443lb ft respectively – both eclipsing the M2’s vital stats. So it’s more or less a given that this car’s going to be quick.
Under the bonnet there’s what Schnitzer term an Engine Optics Pack; effectively a painted plastic engine cover. But this does give the otherwise dour BMW engine bay a bit of a visual lift. To assist the engine with its breathing duties, there’s a Schnitzer silencer system, with quad-pipes and an exhaust flap to switch the sound level from fruity to demonic, should the mood take you.
The styling of last year’s ACL2 won many admirers so, for the ‘S’ version, Schnitzer has built cleverly on that. Instead of some M2-style flared wheel arches, the ACL2S boasts a set of arch extensions grafted on to the M240i’s standard wings. These ensure an instantly distinctive look, which appeals increasingly the longer you gaze. It also means that there’s simply no chance of your ACL2S being mistaken for a tricked-up M2!
The arches widen the car by 80mm, and the kit used to create them consists of 10 sections that integrate well into both the front and rear bumper assemblies. Naturally enough, there’s a sprinkling of carbon fibre – a new front lower spoiler, sill extensions, mirror caps, rear diffuser and so on – along with a rather natty, ducktail rear spoiler (also in carbon fibre) that’s not fitted to the test car as ‘our’ ACL2S has a rather larger, optional, item adorning its boot lid.
Under the skin there’s an AC Schnitzer adjustable RS suspension set-up, which drops the car by 30-45mm at the front and 40-50mm at the rear, and that’s combined with a set of Schnitzer’s AC1 lightweight alloy wheels. These measure 8.5x19in and 9.5x19in front and rear respectively, and are shod with 235/35 and 265/30 rubber.
Inside, a customer ordering an ACL2S will receive a smattering of goodies, such as a five-piece, painted trim kit, an aluminium handbrake handle, pedal set and footrest.
But our car bristled with considerably more in the way of Schnitzer embellishments, but more of that later. I think that’s quite enough of the theory; it’s time to experience what the ACL2S has to offer.
This test model represents the ultimate spec available for this limited edition. For starters, it’s based on a model we’re denied in the UK; the xDrive four-wheel-drive version of the M240i. But, apart from the fact that this is a left-hooker, you could equip your RHD rear-wheel-drive ACL2S with everything you can see here.
Firing it up in Schnitzer’s workshop produced an explosion of sound, as the straight-six went through its warm-up phase and reverberated around the confined space. But once out in the open it’s discretion personified, with perhaps just a slightly sharper edge than you’d experience from the standard machine.
Nosing the ACL2S out on to Aachen’s highways is child’s play, with the eight-speed auto shifting seamlessly away to itself in the background. All I had to worry about was not bringing that carbon front spoiler expensively into contact with any kerbs.
By the time I reached the autobahn, the car was nicely warmed up, and it was time to give it some wellie. I prodded the pedal, the ‘box dropped several cogs and the ACL2S streaked off up the road like a scalded cat. Snapper Smithy had our photo location plumbed into the sat nav in the camera car, so there really was no reason to hold off any longer; I disappeared into the distance accompaniment by a now truly delicious howl from the quad exhausts.
It was an all too brief burst of speed before I hit some camera-controlled road-works but, when not on a charge, the ACL2S is a relatively comfortable companion. The ride’s definitely on the firm side but, as this machine features the optional, fully-adjustable Clubsport RS suspension, you’d be able to tailor it to your own liking.
Nevertheless, despite the pretty aggressive set-up I was experiencing, I didn’t find it uncomfortable.
Thankfully, the roadworks didn’t last for long and, with the xenons piercing the mirrors of the cars in front, the outside lane miraculously cleared and I was able to head for the horizon in an almost uninterrupted blur of scenery, gear changes and symphonic exhaust noise.
I didn’t quite get to hit the car’s extended top speed limiter (now set at 280km/h – 174mph), but wasn’t far off it before having to slow again. The brakes, despite remaining standard, washed-off speed very effectively for the exit ramp. Then, after a brief backroad blast, I’d reached our photographic location.
WHAT’S IT GOT?
In between holding flashguns, reflectors, and cameras, I chatted to our Schnitzer host about exactly which extra items this ACL2S has. As far as the aerodynamic kit is concerned, this machine has an additional front lower spoiler splitter, and you can’t fail to miss the huge rear wing, complete with delicate, but probably surprisingly effective, little Gurney flap.
The special, frozen dark green hue isn’t part of the standard set-up either, but it looks remarkably cool as it catches patches of light and shade, and suits the black and gold AC1 Forged rims (shod with Michelin Cup 2 tyres) very well indeed.
It’s the interior, though, that really sets this version of the ACL2S apart; Schnitzer’s really gone to town inside, and everything you see here can be spec’d on the 30th anniversary machines as an option. The steering wheel is a heavily sculpted Schnitzer item and, while it looks good, my personal preference would be for the standard wheel. What I do absolutely love, however, are the Recaro Sportster CS seats. Schnitzer’s also completely re-trimmed the interior and I think the green works really well with the exterior in this case.
As with the standard ACL2S, there are the colour-coded interior dash panels, plus a smattering of Schnitzer goodies such as a pedal set and handbrake handle, together with an attractive plaque aft of the iDrive controller, proudly proclaiming this to be ‘One of Thirty’ ACL2S models.
As is always the way, the photography seemed to take an age, and I was itching to slip back behind the wheel again. The motorway blast was fun but, given the power and torque upgrades, it was hardly a surprise that it felt quick. With the car-to-car photography done, it was time to head for what seems like the only corner in the area.
My turnaround point is actually quite close to the corner coming in one direction, which calls for the ACL2S to produce all of its performance to get up to speed for the corner and, from a standing start, it’s utterly sensational. The xDrive just transmits the power to the tarmac in a completely unruffled manner while the eight-speed ZF ‘box swaps cogs with every flick of the fingers on my right hand. I’ve got the car set in Sport mode so the exhaust flaps are wide open and there’s glorious cacophony from the exhausts.
The first couple of runs are completed at a moderate pace, while I get the hang of corner’s tightness, and whether or not there are any hidden bumps that have the potential to pitch me off line. But once I’ve got the hang of things, the ACL2S just encourages me to go quicker and quicker.
Grip levels are of the highest order and while, ultimately, the four-wheel drive version of the M240i might not be quite as involving as the rear-driver, there’s no doubting which feels more planted and secure. On a wet, British back road, I’d wager that very few machines would keep pace with this car, especially equipped with the Recaro seats which hold you tight and stop you slipping about so superbly.
One can’t help but admire the workmanship that’s gone into the ACL2S. It drives faultlessly and, with its distinctive looks, definitely sets itself apart from the plethora of 2 Series models you can see on our roads, whether they be 218ds, M240is or even M2s.
Schnitzer had such a positive response to its one-off ACL2 show car that it decided to build this limited production run of ‘S’ models, that aped the show car’s styling but without the monster cost associated with transplanting the M4’s S55 into it. No doubt the ACL2 is faster but, having experienced both cars, I don’t think it’s by all that much. As birthday presents go it’s a pretty good one – my big day’s not that far away (hint, hint!). I’ll happily forgo that triple chocolate cake for an ACL2S, and take mine in silver please, with a black interior.
CONTACT AC Schnitzer UK / Tel: 01485 542000 / Web: www.ac-schnitzer.co.uk / AC Schnitzer (Germany)
Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130
TECHNICAL DATA FILE AC Schnitzer ACL2s
ENGINE: straight-six, 24-valve, turbocharged
MAX POWER: 400hp @ 6,000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 443lb ft @ 3,000rpm
ENGINE: Performance upgrade; engine optics; silencer system made of V2A stainless steel with exhaust flap, connecting pipe and sound pipe, four tail trims ‘Sport’.
SUSPENSION: RS adjustable suspension; height adjustable, adjustable bump and rebound, lowering front approx. 30-45mm, and rear approx. 40-50mm.
WHEELS & TYRES: AC1 light alloy wheels. Front: 8.5x19in with 235/35 R19 Michelin Cup 2 tyres; rear: 9.5x19in with 265/30 R19 Michelin Cup 2 tyres.
AERODYNAMICS: Wide body kit (10-piece for front and rear wheel arches, 80mm wider); carbon front spoiler elements; front splitter; carbon front side wings; carbon mirror covers; side skirt set with carbon wings; rear roof spoiler; carbon rear spoiler; carbon rear side wings; carbon rear diffusor. Optional carbon racing rear wing with Gurney flap.
INTERIOR: Painted interior panels; stainless steel badge; aluminium handbrake handle; aluminium pedal set; aluminium foot rest; floor mats. Optional three-spoke sport steering wheel; Recaro Sportster CS sport seats; interior and seats in leather, 16-piece two colour leather.
Instead of M2-style flared wheel arches, a set of distinctive arch extensions have been grafted on to the M240i’s standard wings. There are carbon fibre touches all over this car. Schnitzer’s magic liberates an additional 60hp and 74lb ft from the free-revving straight-six, 24-valve, turbocharged engine. The ‘engine optics’ pack brightens things under the bonnet, too. the first item that Schnitzer applies its tuning wizardry to is the engine. Top: The Recaro Sportster CS seats are a real highlight of the interior. Middle: Distinctive interior gets a full AC Schnitzer make-over. Left: Schnitzer’s 30th anniversary plaque says it all. Both the power and torque outputs of the ACL2S eclipse the M2; this is a serious performer. there’s simply no chance of your ACL2S being mistaken for a tricked-up M2! Above: AC1 light alloys with Michelin Cup rubber; they look good and perform brilliantly. Mechanical grip is of the highest order. Below: This car is a joy to drive; a treat for all the senses! I prodded the pedal, the ‘box dropped several cogs and the ACL2S streaked off.