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The M3 is a hugely accomplished machine straight out-of-the-box, but with the full Schnitzer treatment it’s an even sharper instrument Words and photography: Steve Hall.
We take a trip to Germany to see what a set of AC Schnitzer upgrades can do for the M3.
Wheelspin… let’s try third. There’s the boost… and there’s the wheelspin. Okay, how about fourth gear? A flicker from the traction control, the looser MDM mode allowing a moderate amount of traction loss. Yep, probably not the ideal conditions to test the performance envelope of a rear-wheel drive saloon sporting 70lb ft of torque and 60hp more than the already punchy standard M3. It seems churlish to reference traction issues given the rain has been falling in a deluge for the last hour leaving the roads glistening with a sheen of water that even German drainage is struggling to cope with. With no let-up in sight, my run of luck (after four days of German autumnal sunshine) has come to an end; there will be no photoshoot today…
Fast-forward one week, and we’re greeted with a late October day basking in sunshine. Chilly it may be but the roads are bone dry, perfect for those turbos to gulp down cool air and operate at maximum efficiency. You’d think they already were – particularly in 450hp Competition pack form – but no, with the ACS3 Sport, Schnitzer has managed to squeeze 510hp out of the M3’s lusty #S55B30 in-line ‘six, backed by a solid wall of torque, peaking at 475lb ft.
Given that we’ve found the standard M3 hardly lacking in the area of straight line performance, adding 20 percent more power and 17 percent more torque has a suitably eye-opening effect on the level of performance on offer, and explains the M3’s difficulty in getting that performance onto the ground the previous week. Hardly an M3 strong point, wet traction is something that either occupies the traction control system or demands a lot of your attention, depending which setting you’ve deployed in the stability control system. Either way, you’re glad of the M3’s natural chassis balance.
To be fair, it comes as no surprise that a 475lb ft rear-wheel drive saloon struggles to put its power down in sodden conditions, particularly when you look at the torque curve – maximum torque arrives before even 2000rpm has registered on the tachometer. The ramp up in torque so low down in the rev range can have the rear wheels over-rotating before you can say sideways, requiring swift and accurate corrective lock, but with time you learn to measure your throttle inputs and start to enjoy the ACS3’s exuberance. You always need your wits about you in the wet as a small amount of lateral load (such as when joining a motorway) can set the tail wagging in even fourth gear, but generally speaking the task of managing the Schnitzer M3’s rampant torque delivery is an entertaining challenge.
Naturally things are much calmer on the dry roads of today’s photoshoot. There’s more than enough torque to break traction in second (and third over undulations) but we’re able to delve deep into the ACS3’s power band and really give it its head. There’s a stretch of autobahn between the Schnitzer factory in the east of Aachen, Germany and our photoshoot location to the south which allows several kilometres of derestricted running, and despite the smattering of traffic there are a few opportunities to really let rip through the intermediate gears. So we find ourselves cruising at the posted 120km/h limit, waiting for the fabled white circle with the diagonal triple black stripe to appear, shifting down into third as we approach, then bury the throttle as we enter the zone. Third, fourth and fifth gears are swiftly dispatched, the sixth ratio quickly taking us deep into an indicated 250km/h+ (155mph) before traffic ahead brings speeds back to normal. We repeat the exercise a few more times – all in the name of science, you understand – and find the M3’s ability to leap from 130km/h (81mph) up to serious territory north of 250km/h deeply impressive. This is major league performance, and feels way beyond the standard M3 in its ability to shrug off weight and aerodynamic drag to pile on speed. Repeating the exercise in fourth and fifth gears underline the torque-rich nature of the S55B30’s mid-range, the motor pulling hard from 3000rpm, making short work of the sprint back up to 250km/h. There’s plenty of reward to be had from letting the engine rev right out to its 7600rpm redline, too; just as with the standard M3/4 the Schnitzer-massaged S55B30 has a freerevving nature and energetic top end delivery which belies its forced induction, accompanied by a sonorous howl from the Schnitzer exhaust.
Which brings us neatly to one of the star facets of this car; it sounds ripsnortingly good. The M3 (and M4) are hardly a pair of shrinking violets but the addition of the Schnitzer rear silencers introduces an extra level of volume from the rear which sounds suitably menacing at idle (particularly on start up), with a deep, powerful, sporting timbre through the mid-range. As one of the prime senses excited whilst driving a performance car, the added aural signature of the ACS3 is an important and integral part of the package. The silencers incorporate flap control, so startup soon calms down to sociable volume levels whilst adding a pleasing visual flourish.
It will not have escaped your attention that adding visual flourish is very much part of the Schnitzer remit for the ACS3 Sport. Ticking the box marked ‘San Marino blue-metallic’ is always going to be an excellent starting point – this colour looks sensational in direct sunlight – and we applaud the decision to opt for the four-door M3 over the perhaps more obvious M4 Coupé as the ACS3 Sport demonstrator. There’s something terrifically butch and aggressive about the pumped up M3 shape, particularly from the rear three quarters.
Schnitzer has fitted its familiar, gorgeous, fivespoke AC1 Lightweight forged alloys wrapped in 265/30/R20 (front) and 285/30/R20 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sports. They hunker into the arches of the 30mm lower ACS3 Sport, and alongside the myriad carbon exterior elements – front splitter and side wings primary among them – combine to create a cohesive and imposing aesthetic signature. The flourishes continue inside in the usual Schnitzer fashion, so footrest and pedals are replaced with aluminium items whilst handbrake handle, mats and key holder are Schnitzer items. With photography duties just about finished it’s time to head back to the factory, taking in a few twisties along the way. It’s here that the AC Schnitzer RS adjustable suspension comes to the fore, demonstrating an impressive ability to round off the worst the road surface can throw at it without introducing the crashiness sometimes associated with lowering a car and reducing suspension travel.
Naturally the setup is very firm, but this affords superb body control, the ACS3 Sport changing direction sharply with little discernible body roll. The ACS3 feels taught, controlled and keyed into the road surface with none of the vertical bobbing the M3 occasionally elicits over long amplitude bumps. As a passive system for a road-based car, we’d say Schnitzer has nailed its setup, delivering the level of control we look for in a tuned car of this power without overstepping the mark and making it too harsh for road use.
On the autobahn, at the very high speeds the ACS3 is so easily capable of, stability is just as supreme as you’d expect; you could drive with one hand at 150mph should you so desire (naturally, we don’t recommend this!). Of course, we’re pretty much in one of the ACS3’s natural habitats here on the autobahn, but it’s another demonstration of how thoroughly the package has been developed. Indeed, this is part and parcel of buying a car such as the ACS3 Sport. With a company as well known and respected as Schnitzer, you know the car has been subject to a fulsome testing programme before it was ready to launch.
Consequently, others in the M3/4 tuning world may have got to market sooner, and some may offer higher power outputs, but with the ACS3 you’re paying for the thoroughness and the confidence that comes with that. A confidence reflected in the two-year warranty Schnitzer supplies as part of all its upgrades. With the tuning box approach (whereby the new ECU effectively piggy-backs onto the existing one) it’s even possible to return your car to factory standard settings should you so desire. And, of course, that thoroughness of engineering is reflected in every element of the driving experience. We love the M3/4 family as it leaves Munich’s hallowed halls, but a visit to Aachen moves the M3 onto another level: sharper, faster, visually imposing and replete with an aural signature to make you smile.
TECHNICAL DATA #2017 #AC-Schnitzer-ACS3-Sport / #AC-Schnitzer-ACS3-F80 / #AC-Schnitzer / #BMW #M3-based #AC-Schnitzer / #AC-Schnitzer-F80 / #BMW-F80 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-AC-Schnitzer / #AC-Schnitzer-M3 / #AC-Schnitzer-F80 / #BMW-3-Series-F80 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-M3-AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-M3-AC-Schnitzer-F80 / #BMW-M3-F80 / #ACS3-Sport
ENGINE: Twin-turbo, straight-six
MAX POWER: 510hp
MAX TORQUE: 476lb ft
0-62MPH: 4.0 seconds
50-120MPH: 6.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
DIMENSIONS: (length/width/height in mm): 4671/1870/1383
WEIGHT/MATERIAL: 1572kg/steel aluminum and composites
ENGINE: #AC-Schnitzer-performance-upgrade and exhaust system with valve control and Sport Black tailpipe trims / #S55 / #BMW-S55 / #S55-AC-Schnitzer / #S55-tuning
WHEELS AND TYRES: #AC-Schnitzer-AC1 lightweight forged in BiColour finish.
Front: 9x20-inches with 265/30 R20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Rear: 10x20-inches with 285/25 R21 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres
SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer adjustable coilover ‘Racing’ package, lowered 30mm at the front and 40mm at the rear
STYLING: AC Schnitzer carbon front spoiler elements, rear diffuser, upper rear spoiler, Racing front splitter, side wings, carbon rear spoiler, carbon fibre wing mirror covers
INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set and footrest, handbrake handle, key holder and floor mats
CONTACT: AC Schnitzer UK
Tel: 01485 542000
AC Schnitzer (Germany)
Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130
Visual flourish is very much part of the Schnitzer remit for the ACS3 Sport.
The added aural signature of the ACS3 is an important and integral part of the package.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.