BMW M3 GTS E92 vs.BMW M4 GTS F82

M3 GTS vs M4 GTS

The Delinquents The maddest and wildest of M’s creations, the bonkers M3 GTS and M4 GTS go head-to-head. GTS Showdown. V8-engined M3 takes on the turbocharged M4 in the ultimate M car grudge match.

style=”flat” size=”4″]After briefly pressing the starter button a veritable cacophony of sound washes over me, reverberating around the cockpit and causing a wide grin to erupt across my face. They might not make them like this any longer, but boy am I glad they did when they still had the chance. I’m more or less convinced that the noise emanating from the white M4 GTS that snapper Smithy has simultaneously started isn’t giving him quite the feel-good factor that the Tango orange M3 GTS is giving me, and if we called it a day now I’d be awarding the gong for best GTS to the older M3…

That would make for rather a short feature, though, and with photographs to take I suppose we better drive them to our photo location. We’ve only a short window of opportunity with these cars as they need to go back to BMW’s HQ later in the day. So, without further ado, I slot the M3’s M DCT transmission into Drive and rumble away in a cloud of exhaust vapour. Within the village confines we keep the speed down but despite that we’re attracting plenty of looks from pedestrians and I’m sure I can feel those curtains twitching as these two track refugees cut quite a dash, even when pottering about.

Two things immediately jump to the front of my brain: for the ultimate evolution of the E92 generation of M3 this track-orientated GTS is mighty easy to drive, yet it’s also having a huge impact on my senses. With the ‘box in auto mode and the change speed set in its most lethargic setting you really could just potter around in this car. There are no highly-strung engine histrionics, the steering weight is pleasant, and just about the only thing that spoils its practicality is the docking great spoiler blocking your rear view vision.

Easy to drive it might be, but all the while you’re being assaulted by information from the car. None of your fancy pants cosseting Electronic Damper Control (EDC) here and the fully-adjustable coilover setup that BMW fitted to the car is very stiff indeed. You can almost feel every nuance of the road surface being transmitted trough the car’s structure and the knockon effect is that it makes for a pretty noisy cockpit, with the four-point seatbelt harnesses rattling against the roll-cage, along with a few creaks from the interior trim, too. Even at modest speeds that strident exhaust is making itself heard and the gumball Pirellis are flicking up every stone and road chip they can, flinging them into the wheel arch housings. With the lack of sound deadening you can hear each and every one of them.

Track refugee it might be but there are still plenty of creature comforts in the M3 GTS. We’ve got full climate air-con, the expected stereo, Bluetooth and steering wheel controls – there are even a couple of cup holders. Despite this there’s still a strong sporting ambiance with the carbon-clad dashboard (including a silver GTS production number etched into its surface) and swathes of Alcantara adorning the door trim panels, centre console and steering wheel. The seats themselves leave you in no doubt as to the car’s intent; they’re hip-hugging Recaros with a relatively plain black cloth covering that are designed to grip you in all the right places.

With the engine almost fully up to operating temperature we emerge from the village and are greeted by the familiar black and white national speed limit sign. Finally we can let the M3 off the leash a little. Flick the stubby gear lever to one side to engage manual mode, toggle the rocker switch behind the lever to endow the ‘box with faster changes, pull back on the left-hand steering wheel paddle to drop a couple of ratios, and bury the throttle. It might sound like a lot of faff to access the full performance but once you’re familiar with the car and the M DCT setup it becomes second nature to make the transition between trundling and maximum attack modes.

And when you do you’re rewarded by a glorious V8 that bellows its approval the harder you rev it, a transmission that’s lightning fast and responds deftly to your every command, and a chassis that comes alive the faster you go. The feel-good factor this machine engenders has to be experienced to be believed – it instantly plasters a smile across your face and makes you want to head for the horizon. It feels monstrously quick but a quick glance in the mirror reveals that the M4 GTS is equally as rapid as it bobs in and out of view as you move your head up and down to see past that rear spoiler that seems to fill the mirror. While it’s tempting to just keep going we need to get the pictures in the bag and with every mile we travel on the slightly damp roads the cars are getting dirtier, which means more car cleaning for yours truly. And I hate cleaning cars on photoshoots so we notch back the pace, avoid the occasional puddle and head for our car park location.

On this grey autumnal day the brace of GTSs certainly liven-up the car park and draw lots of looks from the dog walkers exercising their mutts and the odd sales rep having a quick break between appointments. A kindly BT engineer offers to swap his Transit for the M3 and even ups his offer to include the ladders sitting on top of his Transit when I turn him down. Eventually I manage to get the cars cleaned to Smithy’s satisfaction and while he busies himself working out how his fancy new flash gun works I delve into my memory banks to remind myself exactly what went into the makeup of this most manic of M3s.

By the time the GTS was announced in 2010 there had already been a plethora of E92 M3 special editions, but as soon as we saw the first image of the Fire orange missile it was clear that this was no normal E92, tarted up with some fancy colours and trim. While it was very clearly aimed at the trackorientated buyer its limited production numbers (just 138 were made, 25 in RHD format) and stratospheric price (£117,500 in 2010) meant that the majority of these fine beasts were destined for collections. At the car’s heart was a thoroughly reworked S65 V8, whose capacity was upped to 4361cc via an increase in stroke to 82mm (up from 75.2mm). In combination with a titanium exhaust system this gave an increased output of 450hp at 8300rpm while torque was usefully swelled by 30lb ft to 325lb ft at 3750rpm. Just one transmission was offered, the seven-speed M DCT, and even this was reworked with a modified oil capacity and GTS-specific software.

Underneath were a set of fully-adjustable coilovers replacing the traditional standard setup and there was no EDC option here. Ride height was dropped by 16mm at the front and 12mm at the rear and stopping was taken care of by upgraded brakes – 378x32mm discs up front clamped by six-piston callipers, with 380x28mm items at the rear gripped by four-piston callipers. Wheels were the Y-spoke M359 19-inch items – nine inches wide at the front and ten inches at the rear – and these were painted matt black and fitted with Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber of 255 and 285 widths, front and rear respectively.

Externally there were black kidney grilles and side gills along with an adjustable front and rear spoiler setup. In some markets you could spec no radio and no air-con for the full track car effect, but UK cars came with both of these items as standard. The rear seats were dropped – replaced by a half cage – and, as we’ve already touched upon, the door trim panels were lightened, too. All in all it was a pretty mouthwatering prospect. And sitting resplendent here today there’s not much I’d change about it, although I do have a slightly irrational hatred of rear spoilers that are plonked onto the middle of bootlids… wouldn’t an M3 CSL ducktail item have worked almost as well? Or couldn’t it have been left in the boot, à la the original E9 CSL, for owners to fit if they were so inclined?

My first chance to sample the M4 GTS is a little frustrating as all I have to do is meander it around the car park while Smithy repositions the cars to his liking, but even so I can feel the M3 GTS’s genes in here, even if on first acquaintance they seem to have been given a slightly plusher finish. The ditching of rear seats and fitting a cage formula has been repeated, as has the swathes of carbon trim and extensive use of Alcantara. The seats themselves are somewhat plusher, although still of the racing bucket variety, but their outer sections are finished in nicely stitched leather as are parts of the dash. Lightweight door trim panels are retained and have rather natty little fabric door pulls with which to close them, but this does seem a little bit at odds with the full iDrive and sat nav being present in the car and also leave you nowhere to store your wallet and phone. All this immediately becomes a very minor gripe when you thumb the starter button, though, as this M4 GTS sounds like a standard M4 that’s been to the gym for months on end and taken a severe and lifethreatening dose of steroids, with a threatening metallic rasping sound emanating from its titanium exhaust system. I can’t wait to give it some beans, but for the time being I’ll have to make do with looking at the spec sheet while Smithy snaps away.

The M4 GTS’s additional power isn’t achieved with a capacity increase but with water injection to the intake system. This innovative set up allows the 3.0-litre turbocharged ‘six to work more efficiently at higher loads, the fine water spray being injected into the intake manifold plenum where it evaporates to significantly lower the temperature of intake air, down by around 25 degrees. The result is 500hp at 6250rpm and a torque output of 442lb ft at 4000-5500rpm – good enough to drop the GTS’s 0-62mph time to 3.8 seconds, half-a-second quicker than a standard M4 Coupé.

Like the M3 GTS, the M4 version has also been given a bit of an exterior makeover with an adjustable front splitter and another rear spoiler that’s been plonked onto the bootlid. According to BMW, at maximum chat (i.e at 190mph) these can provide up to another 93kg of downforce at the back and an additional 28kg over the front axel – impressive figures but not something that does much for the overall look of the car to my eyes. The bootlid and the shapely new bonnet are both constructed from carbon fibre to keep weight down and the Style 666M latticework alloys (new for the GTS) are also said to pare a little weight from the car, too.

I’m not quite sure who within BMW thought that ‘Acid’ orange would be a good hue for the highlights on the GTS but it adorns the wheels, roll-cage and front spoiler lip, and while it looks okay inside the car to my eyes it cheapens the exterior. Each to their own and all that. Those wheels measure 9.5×19 inches at the front and 10×20 inches at the rear and are fitted with 265/35 and 285/30 Michelin Pilot SuperSports front and rear respectively. Nestling behind them are the tell-tale gold callipers that indicate that all M4 GTSs come equipped with the M Carbon Ceramic brakes – with whopping 400mm discs up front. Fade should not be a problem for the M4.

Like its M3 predecessor the fancy EDC system has been junked in favour of a fully-adjustable coilover setup and the anti-roll bars and the steering have both been recalibrated to take advantage of changes elsewhere. All in all it promises pretty devastating performance potential.

And now that Smithy’s satisfied with his static and detail images it’s time to put these two monsters through their paces for some moving pictures. We’re obviously not going to be getting any flat-out track action here, but given the value of both of these cars – each of them are worth considerably more than their initial purchase price – we don’t envisage that many owners ragging them round a circuit on track days. I elect to sample the M3 again first as I didn’t really give it the full beans on first acquaintance and, once again, firing up that glorious V8 sends tingles up my spine. It’s similar in volume to the M4 but I’d argue it’s a more cultured sound, busier and with a more organic timbre. The bottom line is that no matter what you do to a turbocharged lump, it’s never going to sound quite as glorious as a naturally aspirated one.

After several runs I’m familiar with the road and the M3 is thoroughly warmed through. I push a little harder than I’d been before. The engine thrives on revs and you need to keep an eye on the rev counter – not to check whether you’re about to over-rev it but to make sure you’re using all the 8300rpm that’s available. It feels unburstable and pulls harder and harder the further you go. The flip side of the coin is that while doing this you really need to make sure the road surface is completely dry – try it on one of the tree covered sections that are still damp and the M3 can become a rather unruly beast rather quickly, snapping sideways through full-bore gear changes… and that’s with the traction control engaged. It might only be six or seven years old but it feels like more of an old-school bruiser that needs to be treated with respect. As speeds rise the chassis that felt somewhat firm and recalcitrant at low speeds comes alive and you’re never in any doubt as to what the car’s doing underneath you – something that’s really helped by the hip-hugging seats which help to make you really feel part of the action. I’m glad of the air-con, though, as working the M3 hard gives you quite a workout and what with the occasional twitch from the chassis I’m starting to feel a little hot under the collar.

It doesn’t take long for the V8 to drain the fuel tank, though, so it’s time to swap cars and discover what the new car can bring to the party. Once again the noise impresses but it sounds like one hasn’t got quite the whole orchestra playing when you compare it to the V8 M3. It still sounds good, just not quite as awesome as the M3. At slower speeds it feels a little more comfortable, too. Not quite as agitated and hardcore as its predecessor but push a little further and it immediately feels like the quicker car, especially in the mid-range. It’s a little lighter than the M3 (by 20kg in road-going trim) and with more power and significantly more torque this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. It too can feel pretty unruly, though, and unlike the M3 this can happen more or less anywhere in the rev range thanks to the ‘six’s prodigious torque. Give the throttle an overenthusiastic prod when you’re on a damp patch and the M4 GTS will alter its course significantly…  and not always in a good way. We may have become a little blasé about how good modern traction control systems are but there’s only so much they can do, and you soon learn to respect the loud pedal in the M4. Gentle inputs are the order of the day if you want to keep looking through the windscreen. It seems to be a little more conservatively set up for road use and rides some of the bumps and troughs better than the M3. It’s not exactly cosseting but you feel your kidneys are getting less of a workout in the M4 GTS.

Both cars offer a mix of modern and old-school engineering with their suspensions in particular eschewing the modern fad for electronic dampers to try and make the car all things to all men. No doubt these can be individually tailored to each driver’s requirements and I’m sure that they could be softened off a little more than in the configurations in which I drove them (which would certainly have suited the conditions better). On the other hand, their clever transmissions, different modes and throttle responses demonstrate everything that’s great about the modern performance car and really can’t be faulted in operation as far as I’m concerned.

Ultimately both these machines offer driver appeal and involvement by the barrel load. They’re an intoxicating mix of everything M knows about making its cars as fast and as exciting as they can possibly be and both reward the committed driver with an invigorating and involving driver experience. Neither of them will suffer fools gladly and in the wrong, or overenthusiastic, hands they could be a massive handful, but driven properly with the road conditions in mind they’re absolutely stunning and hilariously fun to drive. Forced to choose between them and I’d be stepping towards the Fire orange M3. To my mind it just seems that little bit more focused, that little bit more involving, and with that engine to play with I don’t think I’d ever get bored. We won’t see its like again for some time…

“You’re rewarded by a glorious V8 that bellows its approval the harder you rev it”

[tabs style=”flat-light”][tab title=”BMW E92 M3 GTS”] ENGINE: V8, 32-valve, DOHC

CAPACITY: 4361cc

MAX POWER: 450hp @ 8300rpm

MAX TORQUE: 325lb ft @ 3750rpm

0-62MPH: 4.4 seconds

TOP SPEED: 190mph

ECONOMY: 22.2mpg

EMISSIONS (CO²): 295g/km

WEIGHT (EU): 1605kg


STEERING: Hydraulic rack and pinion

SUSPENSION: Three-way M coilover suspension


FRONT: 378x32mm vented and drilled discs, six-piston callipers

REAR: 380x28mm vented and drilled discs, four-piston callipers

WHEELS: 9×19-inch (front), 10×19-inch (rear) Black Y-spoke M359 alloys

TYRES: Pirelli P Zero Corsa

FRONT: 255/35 ZR19

REAR: 285/30 ZR19

PRICE (OTR 2010): £117,630 [/tab] [tab title=”BMW F82 M4 GTS”] ENGINE: Straight-six, 32-valve, turbocharged

CAPACITY: 2979cc

MAX POWER: 500hp @ 6250rpm

MAX TORQUE: 442lb ft @ 4000-5500rpm

0-62MPH: 3.8 seconds

TOP SPEED: 190mph

ECONOMY: 33.2mpg

EMISSIONS (CO²): 199g/km

WEIGHT (EU): 1585kg


STEERING: Electric PAS with M Servotronic

SUSPENSION: Three-way M coilover suspension


FRONT: 400x38mm carbon ceramic discs, six-piston callipers

REAR: 380x28mm carbon ceramic discs, four-piston callipers

WHEELS: 9.5×19-inch (front), 10.5×20-inch (rear) Silver/Orange Star-spoke 666M alloys

TYRES: Michelin Pilot SuperSport

FRONT: 265/35 ZR19

REAR: 285/30 ZR20

PRICE (OTR 2016): £120,500[/tab][/tabs]

“Push a little further and it immediately feels like the quicker car, especially in the mid-range”

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