DRIVEN 2020 Schnitzer ACL2S F22
In 2016 AC Schnitzer debuted arguably its wildest ever creation. And that really is quite a statement considering the calibre of the Aachen-based tuner’s historical back catalogue. Using as its basis an M235i, the ACL2 was a 570hp / 546lb ft M4-engined bespoke build quick enough to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife just over two-seconds faster than BMW’s own M4 GTS.
Designed to blow the (then new) M2 out of the water at the Geneva Motor Show – at which they would both debut – the ACL2 followed in a long line of Schnitzer show stoppers; the E36 M3-based CLS, the E36 M3 Evo-based CLS II, and the V8 Roadster – a Z3 running a 4.4-litre V8 engine – to name but a few. Ditching the M235i’s 326hp single-turbo 3-litre straight-six N55 motor, Schnitzer’s ACL2 pushed the replacement 431hp twin-turbo S55 mill usually found in the M4 to newfound heights. The rest of the car was sent on a strict diet leaving it to tip the scales at 1450kg, aiding a 0-62mph sprint time of just 3.9 seconds. There was only one, rather large, problem – you couldn’t buy one… AC Schnitzer estimated the build cost of the ACL2 to be in the region of €250,000, but even should that not dissuade potential purchasers the car in question was very much a one-off. A prototype. Instead, Schnitzer could offer something similar – the ACL2S. A package of tuning upgrades for the M240i, the ACL2S might not have been quite so extreme, but it was a very interesting alternative nonetheless – and a rare one too, with just 30 planned for production.
The ACL2S was designed to celebrate a Schnitzer milestone – its 30th anniversary – as such just the 30 examples would be built, one for every year of Schnitzer’s existence. Here the company had previous form: in 1997 for its 10th birthday celebrations Schnitzer created the ACS3 3.2 Compact ‘10 Years Limited Edition’ based on the E36 Compact – just 10 vehicles were built. In contemporary times – available from selected Schnitzer dealers only – customers could apply the ACL2S package to either an F22 coupé or F23 convertible M240i at a cost of €35,900, in doing so they would receive a creation capable of rivalling the mighty M2. The 3-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine was first given a power increase, from 340hp up to 400hp, and a matching hike in torque from 369lb ft to 443lb ft. That’s largely achieved via ECU work and a free-flowing Sports exhaust. Ensuring the car has poise to match its power comes fully adjustable coilover suspension, enabling drivers to tweak ride height, damping and rebound rate. On each corner come AC1 light alloy wheels – staggered in 8.5 and 9.5x 19- inch sizes.
Unashamedly the ACL2S apes the visual aesthetic of the ACL2 before it, and, though it stops short of being quite as wild, it’s arguably the most obvious aspect of this car. Perhaps most striking are the various bodywork addendums throughout, these include carbon fibre front spoiler elements, side skirts, plus a roof and boot spoiler, carbon fibre mirror covers and a rear diff user. Then of course comes the colour – Military Green Metallic Satin in case you were wondering.
It’s a striking shade that is unique to this car – ACL2S “number one” – the very car which debuted on the Schnitzer stand at the Essen Motor Show in 2017. And that might beg the question: just how did this particular car end up residing in the UK? For the answer we turn to BMW enthusiast James Sohl – formerly of Renaissance Classics – owner of the F22 ACL2S you see here: “Shortly after we opened our garage in February 2017 one of the first BMWs we sold was a Z3M Coupé in Boston Green Metallic to Chris Rossiter – Managing Director of Rossiters the official UK distributor for AC Schnitzer in the UK. I’ve known Chris for years through the BMW Car Club GB. Chris asked if we’d like to become Schnitzer dealers – I’ve been a Schnitzer fan all my life, my E30 track car pays homage to the brand. A deal was struck and we started doing tuning conversions and upgrades for owners,” James explained.
James and his father Keith Sohl are car enthusiasts of the highest order. Though they no longer operate as Renaissance Classics their personal collection of vehicles is of dream drives quality – think Ferraris, Porsche et al. Through the professional connection with Schnitzer came through the Sohls direct exposure to the ACL2S.
“My father and I were invited guests of Schnitzer at the Essen show in 2017 – we fell in love with the ACL2S as soon as we saw it. A deal was done there and then on the Schnitzer stand,” we’re told.
“This particular car is so unique. Our car, number one of 30, has custom paint and a custom interior that no other car has – plus it’s four-wheel drive – it was the car used for all Schnitzer promotional material wearing the number plate AC LS 4001.
“It cost Schnitzer €147,000 to build, so the conversion was €100,000 over and above the cost of the M240i base car. The car won the title of ‘Sportscar of the Year 2017’ in the small and compact car class – as voted for by the readers of Autobilt magazine in Germany. We were really keen on it, Firstly because it is “number one” in the series, secondly for the colour. When you see it in the right light there’s a gold Fleck – a sparkle – in the paint. It is a truly special car…”
Though the car was purchased in 2017, at the time of our photoshoot just a handful of weeks ago it had been on UK roads for all but three weeks! James explains: “It took us 18-months to get it registered. Because it’s a European car it doesn’t have a UK certiicate of conformity, and the DVLA and VOSA wouldn’t accept a European one. Ultimately they wouldn’t accept that it had a digital speedo that showed in miles per hour. In the end we spoke with a vehicle importer who helped us to get it registered – but it sat in our showroom for all that time not being used. It was even delivered from Germany, not driven, so the first time we drove it was three weeks ago!”
With this in mind it’s something of an honour to be offered a drive in this car, one we were unlikely to turn down. Drinking in the exterior details it’s impossible not to not to be swept-up in just how special this car is – the 10-piece ACL2S body kit affords a purposeful visual and vast road presence. Inside that feel is further accentuated. Though this car remains M240i in many respects, the hand of Schnitzer is never far from your gaze – not least when it comes to those re-trimmed Recaro Sport bucket seats which hug your hips and back beautifully. Once fired into life and warmed through – there’s a system in place to only provide maximum power when everything is up to operating temperature – the ACL2S is ready to rumble. Though it’s entirely possible to drive this car at a ‘normal’ pace in Comfort mode, its ability is always eager to shine through. The Schnitzer Sports exhaust burbles away behind and, as we gather pace and rile through the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the gravelly noise sounds finer still – all the better with (switchable) exhaust laps open and driver’s window cracked a notch. However, it’s notable that this is not an obnoxiously loud car. The M240i uses a single twin-scroll turbo which, when mated two the 3.0-litre block – in standard form – and an intercooler and exhaust down-pipe upgrade in this instance, will rev to 7000rpm without losing any of its grunt through the range. With Schnitzer’s power increases there’s more fizz, more potency and fireworks.
The ZF gearbox is known for its short and sharp changes, they come even thicker and faster as you launch this particular car – the changes kick in a direct and mechanical fashion, they’re as satisfying as an auto ‘box can be. The standard car will reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds, this Schnitzer car in 4.6 seconds. In its most focused mode – Sport+ – the torque this car develops is utterly addictive, ofering a notably steeper power curve from 2000rpm onwards. Undoubtedly the top of the rev range is licence losing territory and the ACL2S will pull you all the way to the court room if you so wish. What’s pleasing though is that its mid-range punch is equally impressive and enjoyable to exploit – in most gears in the middle of the rev range a quick squirt of power will broaden your smile. Make no mistake though in this setting the ACL2S is aggressive and responsive in the very best possible way, and it’s here that it best shines. Interestingly this car is an xDrive model, being of left-hand drive European origin, in the UK we only receive the rear-drive variant. In practice that means this car is able to put its power down more effectively and afford additional confidence through the turns, there are coilovers on each corner which have been developed with KW to offer a purposeful but surprisingly compliant ride – you can tip it into corners with gusto and it’ll stick all day long. Yet in certain circumstances, despite its xDrive system, a loose sensation is communicated as power is distributed that ultimately means this car still needs the correct driver inputs to not come unstuck. In short it’s a driver’s car and not idiot proof. For that level of involvement we can be grateful. Modern BMWs have exceptionally light steering, naturally that remains here to a certain extent, though the alterations to the suspension certainly firm everything up nicely and assist in delivering an extra layer of information travelling to the driver through the steering wheel. Serial BMW owner James and I discuss this at length and his opinion is, for me, bang on the money: “It’s startling when you drive a 2000 model year BMW and experience how nicely it rides, how well it handles and how sure-footed it feels – then when you drive a modern one it feels all at bit out of sync. I think that’s a shame. When you make the change to Schnitzer suspension suddenly these cars feel mega, the handling is heavy on the road again – you can push them and feel what the tyres are doing underneath you – there’s feedback again – it’s granular.”
All told the ACL2S feels like a suitable way to celebrate 30 years of AC Schnitzer.
While it’s not a fi re-breathing monster like its inspiration – the ACL2 – it offers a package that can genuinely rival the M2 and effectively demonstrates the exploitable potential of the stock M240i. It offers something far more unique than an M2 and yet it is equally tailored towards driving pleasure and performance. The ACL2S shows us that it is entirely possible to improve the M240i to a level capable of bothering the M2. This particular car feels yet more special too, perhaps because it is the very first of its kind with a few key extra parts, that it appears in all of Schnitzer’s imagery and videos for the ACL2S, or even perhaps because it’s the only car of its type registered in the UK. The €35,900 conversion includes the fitting, painting and return transport of your car through AC Schnitzer, UK residents should contact official distributor, Rossiters, who at the time of writing quote £79,721.41 for the ACL2S – including the cost of a base vehicle. But like most Schnitzer offerings there’s a modular approach here, so elements of the ACL2S can be purchased independently should your budget not stretch to the allsinging, all-dancing package. However, if like James and Keith this exact vehicle takes your fancy then there’s a possibility you might be in luck – it might just be for sale. Interested individuals should contact Rossiters.
AC Schnitzer Germany
AC Schnitzer UK
It’s not a fire-breathing monster like the ACL2, but it offers a package that can rival the M2
Carbon touches can be found both inside and out, so too subtle Schnitzer badging. Schnitzer has pledged to build just 30 cars – this is vehicle number one… Schnitzer touches are everywhere inside – the unique Recaro seats dominate. Power and torque increases see 62mph reached in 4.6 seconds, 50-112mph is hit in 8.6 seconds – down from 10.5 as standard.
You can tip it into corners with gusto and it’ll stick all day long…
TECHNICAL DATA 2020 AC Schnitzer ACL2S F22
ENGINE: 3-litre turbocharged in-line six-cylinder petrol, performance upgrade, sports exhaust system with sports down-pipe and 90mm diameter tailpipes in chrome or black ceramic
CHASSIS: RS suspension adjustable for ride height, compression damping and rebound, 8.5 and 9.5x 19-inch AC1 light alloy wheels in bi-colour or anthracite finish, 235/35 and 265/30 R19 Michelin tyres
EXTERIOR: 10 piece ACL2S wide body kit, carbon fibre front spoiler elements, front splitter, carbon fibre front canards, carbon fibre mirror covers, side skirts with carbon fibre winglets, rear roof spoiler, carbon fibre boot spoiler, carbon fibre rear side wings, carbon fibre rear diffuser, ACL2S emblems – side and rear
INTERIOR: Painted interior panels, ACL2S badging, sports steering wheel, aluminium pedal set, aluminium foot rest, velour floor mats with AC Schnitzer logo.
ENGINE CAPACITY: 2998cc
MAX POWER: 400hp @ 6000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 443lb ft @ 3000rpm
0-62MPH: 4.6 seconds
TOP SPEED: 186mph
WEIGHT (EU): 1820kg
PRICE (OTR): £79,721.41 (€35,900 conversion)
It’s impossible not to be swept-up in just how special this car is…