► We review BMW M4 GTS
► Gavin Green is your guide
► Not quite as special as M3 GTS
So here is surely the BMW M4 we’ve all been waiting for. An M4 that’s fast, agile and engaging, a proper M car (and remember, M stands for Motorsport). A car that’s stand-out special and electrifies the senses. Rather than the current disappointing M4 that is slightly leaden in its responses and a little too anodyne in its driving demeanour.
In many ways the M4 GTS succeeds. It is the fastest production BMW there’s ever been. It is sharp, agile, turns heads and assails the senses rather than assuages them. But it’s far from an unqualified success, as we’ll soon discover.
More power, less weight, more excitement
The recipe is simple. Take an M4. Dial up the power (by almost 70bhp) and the torque (by 37lb ft) – mostly due to water cooling of the engine’s intake manifold. This lowers the intake air temperature and allows for more turbo boosting of the (twin-turbo) 3.0-litre six.
This water-cooled induction is a production-car first (though it’s been used in racing). A small water tank in the boot needs to be topped up, on average, every five or so petrol refills. A pricey (and handsome) new titanium exhaust system also helps boost power. It certainly improves the music, although the enhanced soundtrack is all exhaust, not the lovely howling suck of induction that past M cars have serenaded us with.
Then take out just over 60kg of weight by stripping the interior (out go the back seats and, probably needlessly, the door speakers), and using carbonfibre for the bonnet, front splitter, bucket seats and carbon ceramic brakes.
The suspension is modified to improve handling and driving feedback. It includes adjustable racing-car style dampers, adjustable ride height, thicker anti-roll bars, improved steering feel and a rigid connection between rear axle subframe and body (so no rubber bushings). Plus there are track-like Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
The BMW M4 GTS: head-turning style
Buy a GTS and the world will know you’ve bought a very special M4. Its gold wheels (below), small aeroplane-sized (adjustable) rear wing, deep gold-ringed front spoiler and, on our Clubsport version test car, gold painted roll cage, all advertise that here’s car designed for Silverstone not driving to Sainsbury’s or cruising through South Kensington.
Personally, I find it all too Midlands tuning shop rather than Munich thoroughbred in style, but then I’ve never much liked tarted cars.
The racy exhaust note also advertises its track breeding, complete with bark, snarl, cough and extra loud bellow.
It sounds, and looks, fast.
It goes fast, too. Claimed 0-62 is 3.8 seconds, top speed 190mph.
Dialled up for maximum driving excitement
If the normal M4 is a touch insipid, then the new BMW M4 GTS is the exact opposite. Driving excitement has been dialled up to the max. Just like a proper touring car racer, the GTS is eager and tactile.
Steering is firm and feelsome, turn-in sharp and the chassis fidgets and bobs over road imperfections and camber changes. It’s highly strung, nervous, about as soothing as a caged lion. The carbon-frame racing seat grips you tight. A few of our testers found in uncomfortable on longer journeys, though it suited me fine. You sit low, just like a proper racer, ready for action.
On a racing circuit – this car’s ideal environment – the M4 GTS is enormous fun and hugely capable. We know that from a previous encounter. But on a testing bumpy British B-road it’s not quite so capable.
It kicks and jolts and is less composed and settled than a much cheaper 718 Cayman S. The awesome performance is less easy to exploit than a Cayman or for that matter the same-money – and superior – 911 GT3 RS.
Handling can be nervous and unpredictable at speed and with the traction control turned down (but not off) the tail can snap. In the wet, things can easily get too entertaining. This is a car that demands respect, especially on challenging roads – and even more so in the damp.
The engine, though powerful, just doesn’t have the response, linearity or throttle progression of the best rival turbo engines – let alone the marvellous old naturally aspirated E46 M3 CSL of fond and distant memory.
For track days, the M4 GTS takes some beating. It’s pricey at £121,780 – more than double the normal M4 – but this is a far more special car. As it’s limited edition it will also hold (and probably increase) its value. The UK allocation of 30 cars, out of a global pool of 700, has already sold out.
Though fast and capable – and tactile! – it feels like a car that could use more development, still work in progress. This is unusual for a BMW. It’s also feels too raw and hard-edged. So while the normal M4 is too soft, the GTS version has swung too far the other way.
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