I can remember riding shotgun in a BMW E46 M3 CSL in 2005 and was taken aback by the relatively sparse interior festooned with Alcantara and carbon fibre trimmings, and the banshee wailing six-cylinder engine.
There was a distinct racecar lineage about it that left you under no illusion as to what it represented in the company’s then 3 Series line-up. It was a focused, uncompromising driving machine for those who enjoyed racetrack exploits, too. With 1 400 units built worldwide and 60 units finding homes in SA, it remains a relatively rare sight on our roads and highly sought after among enthusiasts.
It was powered by a similar 3.2-litre straight-six from the M3 but the 252kW and 365Nm output was bumped up to 265kW and 370Nm, while it shed 110kg over the standard car. It also had semi-slick tyres, which offered superior grip on dry tarmac, provided they were up to optimum operational temperature.
Sadly for local buyers, the successor to that model, the E92 M3 GTS (only 135 units were built), was only produced in left-hand drive, which meant South Africans were starved of that model. It too was lighter and more powerful than the regular model with power jumping from 309kW to 331kW.
Now BMW has made yet another lightweight model based on the current generation F82 M4, dubbed the M4 GTS, of which only 700 units will be built and just 23 will make their way to our shores. Weight has been reduced here, too, with the GTS weighing about 100kg less than the regular model, thanks to a carbon fibre boot, bonnet and roof, while the rear seats have been omitted. In the latter’s place is a roll cage, while interior door handles have been replaced by nylon straps. Even the door speakers have been deleted while the automatic climate control makes way for a basic air-conditioning system.
There is manually adjustable suspension, a quicker steering rack and an increased front camber to give more front-end grip. Tyres are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 types, shod on acid orange wheels of 19 inches up front and 20 at the rear.
There is also a carbon fibre front splitter, which looks great but is not urban speed bump friendly, so caution is needed.
Under the bonnet still resides the twin turbo 3.0-litre turbo straight-six engine from the M4, but this time around aided and abetted by a water injection system that squirts a fine mist of distilled water directly into the combustion chamber, which reduces intake temperatures. This has afforded the engineers the chance to turn up the turbo boost wick to produce 368kW and 600Nm (a considerable jump from the standard car’s 317kW and 550Nm).
The titanium exhaust, meanwhile, which weighs 7kg less than the standard unit, sounds more authoritative as it bellows a fruity six-cylinder battle cry. Those bucket seats hug you in place while cornering hard, perfect for track days. There is also considerably more grip, in spite of the additional power, but don’t get too giddy with the power when the Dynamic Stability Control has been neutered as the rear likes to slide around.
The M4 GTS is a focused, weekend toy built for dabbling in racetrack exploits — and the fact that all 23 units coming to SA have been accounted for speaks volumes of its desirability with enthusiasts. – Lerato Matebese