► First drive of AC Schnitzer’s new ACS3 Sport
► Based on BMW’s Competition Pack variants
► Turbo six punches out 503bhp and 476lb ft
When asked to name a BMW tuner, most of us would likely respond with Alpina. To get someone to answer with the Aachen-based AC Schnitzer might require a little more prompting; despite being around since 1967, and having produced some truly monstrous be-winged tyre-smokers, it has – despite its occasionally brash offerings – maintained a relatively low profile in the UK.
A good excuse then to try out the ACS3 Sport, its latest BMW M3-based rolling showroom for its suspension, engine, exhaust, alloy wheels, tyre and styling packages. Think of this as a very fast-moving menu for its must-have upgrades and you’ll get the idea – you can opt for specific enhancements according to your preferences, rather than having to go for a full all-or-nothing upgrade.
Tick all these boxes and you’ll need the thick end of £21k on top of the £60k-odd for the M3 Competition Pack on which the ACS3 is based. That's Fiesta ST money, but then Schnitzer says it will work with customers to deliver packages tailored to budgets and requirements.
It certainly looks… erm… fast.
Yes, indeed. If you fancy looking like an automotive extra on a Fast and Furious film set, then AC Schnitzer’s extensive range of front splitters, rear wings, canards (those front-bumper racing flicks), its trademark lightweight five-spoke alloy wheels and rear diffusers will be manna from heaven.
What’s of more interest are AC’s dynamic and performance packages. The £3585 hardware power upgrade hikes output by 59bhp and 70lb ft over the Competition Pack to a faintly ridiculous 503bhp and 476lb ft. These upgrades are complemented by the £2495 RS Adjustable Suspension pack and the £2210 Sports exhaust system. Importantly, it comes with an inclusive two-year warranty – cost extendable to three – and BMW’s warranty remains intact. Tidy.
Do they all work together as a single upgrade?
Yes, collectively this trio of upgrades turn the M3 into a far more aggressive beast – it now missiles its way across the countryside at a terrifyingly addictive rate, and as long as the engines revs are above 3000rpm there’s enough traction control-troubling torque to smear those big 20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports all over the road – in any gear and at pretty much any speed.
The suspension set-up is very firm indeed. The first 50 metres initially makes you think the engineers have gone too far, and that the uprated springs and dampers will never be able to cope with our craggy and blistered tarmac. But despite its uncompromising grip on body control, the suspension never feels brittle or harsh once you’re on the move. Yes, low-speed intrusions jounce and judder their way in to the cabin, but up the pace and it all gels together rather nicely.
There’s also a much welcomed sense of greater agility and responsiveness – as an M3 driver you too often feel like a white-knuckled passenger on runaway train, but the ACS3 feels distinctly more alert and keen to change direction. And swap ends, if you’re not careful.
A pity, then, that the manually adjustable suspension does away with the push-button versatility of the M3’s electronically adjustable setup. It’s fine if you track your car, and can prep it in the pits ahead of a race, but it’s not ideal for daily driving.
What about the sports exhaust – will my neighbours hate me?
If those next door love hearing a BMW six roar, howl, rasp and wail then they’ll be your best friends. If not, you’ll be flat out of luck. Regardless, on the plus side, AC’s four-pipe layout turns the dull and flatulent M3 Competition Pack into a racetrack refugee, sounding just the way you’d want and expect a 500bhp super-coupé to. It’s a goosebump-inducingly great soundtrack that will transform even the dullest of commutes.
The ability to pick and choose your AC Schnitzer upgrades according to your budget and demands will make a great deal of sense to many BMW drivers.
We’d probably skip the visual tweakery and seriously consider investing in the performance, exhaust and suspension packages – because what really impresses is they way the individual upgrades work hand-in-glove to deliver an appreciably more engaging and nuanced driving experience.
So, if you’re a current or potential M3 or M4 owner looking for a dash more dynamic flair, then AC Schnitzer’s range of upgrades are well worthy of your consideration.
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