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First look: Buffed BMW M3 ready to rock

Lean and mean: BMW's M3 GTS does away with luxuries in the cause of extra performance.

Road racer BMW M3 GTS set for Oz – if enough enthusiasts line up with $200k

BMW logo16 Nov 2009

By MARTON PETTENDY

IF THE idea of a stripped-out, beefed-up, race-ready BMW M3 Coupe floats your boat, then vote with your feet (and wallet) and sign up at your nearest BMW dealership – but be prepared to pay more than $200,000 for the maddest M road car.

The hand-built M3 GTS follows in the footsteps of the previous-generation E46 M3 CSL and GTR in taking BMW’s smallest M model to new heights, and is under serious consideration for sale in Australia – but only if there are sufficient buyers.

BMW Group Australia managing director Stavros Yallouridis said: “If it is available for our market and sufficient customers are interested we will make every endeavour to bring the M3 GTS to Australia.” As with the limited-production GTR, which emerged in 2001 and was the star of the Need for Speed: Most Wanted video game but was never sold here, the GTS will be available as both a road car and a race car, with both versions bristling with serious engine, body and chassis upgrades.

While the M3 GTR foreshadowed the current M3’s orchestral 4.0-litre V8 by employing an engine of the same size and configuration with 331kW (283kW for the road car), next year’s new E92 coupe-based GTS will deliver the same output from an even larger 4.4-litre V8.

14 center imageBased on the standard M3’s high-revving V8 but departing from BMW’s tradition of retaining 500cc cylinder displacements for most of its engines, the new engine is mated to a beefier version of Getrag’s seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch automated manual transmission with a race-biased shift strategy and unique shift paddles.

The M3 GTS draws directly from the previous-generation M3 CSL, which donated the current M3 Coupe’s carbonfibre-reinforced plastic roof. It also comes with titanium exhaust mufflers, a lightweight centre console and door trims, and reduced sound deadening, while the rear seats and audio and air-conditioning systems have been deleted.

The result is an unladen DIN weight of just 1490kg – almost 200kg less than the standard M3 – which when combined with an extra 19kW should make the GTS one of the quickest road-going M3s ever.

Also making the GTS just one stop short of BMW’s global touring car title contender, the M3 GT4 racecar, which is also produced at the BMW M GmbH skunkworks, are a rear suspension subframe that’s mounted directly to the chassis and individual adjusters at each corner for compression and rebound-stroke damping.

Of course, there are also upgraded brakes comprising fixed callipers all round – six-piston units up front and four-piston items at the rear – as well staggered-width (235/35 front 285/30 rear) 19-inch alloy ‘Competition’ wheels and, if requested, a rear rollcage and mounting points for six-point racing harnesses.

Interior fettling includes carbon-fibre trim, an Alcantara-clad M steering wheel and the addition of a fire extinguisher and battery cut-off switch, while the M3 GTS’s downforce-promoting bodykit (with eloxy-plated chrome grille and side gills) features a race-oriented front air-dam and rear wing.

The M3 GTS goes on sale in May 2010 in Germany, where it will be built to customer order at a price of €115,000 ($A183,700), making it significantly less expensive than the €250,000 ($399,300) M3 GTR customer racecar.

If it comes to Australia, expect local taxes to push the price beyond the $210,000 sticker worn by the manual-only M3 CSL, 26 examples of which were sold here between December 2003 and May 2004.

BMW’s newest M3 range has been a smash-hit in Australia too, with 973 coupes, convertibles and sedans sold here in just over two years and the 1000th example expected to be bought in November.

In contrast, it took the E46 M3 (coupe and convertible) seven years to attract 1579 customers, while the E36 found only 890 homes in eight years.

Opening the range is the E90 M3 sedan at $152,300, while the E92 M3 Coupe costs $162,901 and the E91 M3 Convertible tops the range at $176,142.

According to BMW, since the E92’s launch here in October 2007, Mercedes-Benz has delivered 772 C63 AMG sedans (on sale here since March 2008), while Lexus sold 158 IS F sedans (on sale from November 2008) and Audi sold 129 RS4 sedans (discontinued mid-2008).

While the superseded M3 CSL was powered by a 265kW version of BMW M division’s lauded 3.2-litre straight six, BMW claims the success of the latest M3 vindicates its decision to bless the M3 with V8 power.

Despite repeatedly vowing never to fit a V8 to its mid-size executive model – in the process mimicking its direct rivals from Mercedes and Audi – BMW now says it has proved wrong those who doubted the concept.

“Customers adored the straight-six M3, so it was understandable the switch to a high-revving V8 concept would be closely scrutinised. Some sceptics even predicted the downfall of the M3 – until they drove it,” said Mr Yallouridis.

“Fortunately, BMW M engineers are not bound by dogma. There are no sacred cows. They knew reputations can be difficult to live up to and the M3’s iconic status raised the stakes even further.

“The final result has not disappointed. Driving the new M3, customers quickly realised it had not lost any of its charm. On the contrary, revving to 8400rpm, the V8-powered M3 is one of the most addictive cars you can drive on a racetrack.”

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