Driven - February 2017

We Drive the BMW M4 GTS

We all have moments in life when we have a  “pinch me” experience. For car lovers, it may be driving a specific car. This was the case for me recently when I was invited to the unveiling of the new BMW M4 GTS, which happened at the inaugural SA Festival of Motoring hosted by the Kyalami Racetrack. Seeing this jacked up M4 in the flesh was one thing, with its large front splitter, orange and silver wheels and large rear wing. The matte finish and gold trimming on it clearly differentiate this car between its “lesser” siblings. The aggressive styling and rear LED taillights are a real sight to behold. Although much more outlandish in design than other previous special M cars, the GTS is really something to look at. Getting the opportunity to drive it was another thing, though, something the “big people” at BMW confirmed we were going to do. Knowing you’ll have the opportunity to sample 1 of 23 cars coming to South Africa is a special yet daunting feeling. Even the car that was made available for us was already spoken for by a potential buyer.

What makes it a GTS

If you’re not a BMW fan boy like most car lovers, you may be interested in what separates an M4 GTS from a standard M4. First and foremost, there have been extreme weight saving techniques used to shed mass on the car. The car features carbon fibre seats,  a lightweight centre console and lighter doors with specialised loops instead of conventional door handles. The bonnet of the GTS has also been redesigned in carbon fibre as well as the front splitter. The result is a car track ready car that weighs 1510kg’s.

The M4 is also a two seater only as the rear seats have been removed and replaced by a role cage. Powering the GTS is a beefed up version of the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine found in the standard M4. A figure of368kW and 600Nm is what the car produces through the standard M DCT gearbox. This power boost is mainly thanks to the water injection system which allows for cooler air combustion in the intake. Heat is a big factor for high-performance engines such as these, so a cooler air coming in increases performance, something the water injection system allows.

Aerodynamics also play a major role in these vehicles so the large front splitter as well as the “table top” rear wing increase down force and airflow. That means that at high speed, the M4 GTS is now more planted than ever, providing you with a more focused car on the track. Depending on your preferences, the suspension can be adjusted through the three-way M-Coilover system, giving you a customisable setup.

Sitting in this car alone is an experience because you’re in a fixed position. The racing bucket seats only moves backwards and forwards, much like the seats on the iconic M3 CSL which launched over a decade ago. Speaking of the M3 CSL, this was a car many enthusiasts had as wall poster. I’ve always wanted to drive one but haven’t been afforded the opportunity yet. Hopefully, my time spent in the M4 GTS will tide me over until then.

Getting behind the wheel:

Starting up a car you’re potentially only going to drive once in your lifetime is a memorable moment. Placing my hands on the Alcantara steering wheel, hearing the sound of the engine and accelerating for the first time made me immediately draw the conclusion that this was no ordinary M4 with no power. A 0-100 time of 3.8 seconds is what makes you realise that is car is a serious piece of kit. It’s raw, excitable, and slightly intimidating all at the same time. The steering system is direct and very accurate and the breaking system is immensely strong. Because of the weight saving measures, there is less sound deadening, which has created a race car feel to the car. The hisses of turbochargers, squealing of carbon ceramic brakes and pops of the exhaust create an ecstasy behind the wheel. BMW required us to be accompanied by their trusted “stig” who heads up the BMW driving academy, but he was in no way inhibiting during the experience.

After my session in the car, I longed for more time to really exploit its capabilities. It’s the kind of car you would want to build a relationship with. One can only imagine what the possibilities could be once a driver has learned what the limits of the M4 GTS are. That being said, I can confidently say that the time spent developing this car has not gone in vain. From the outside in this version has been redesigned for its purpose to find apex after apex. It’s striking to look at and visceral to drive. It’s the ultimate BMW M4. A price tag of R2.2 million is hefty but so is the privilege of owning a future classic. This will be the M3 CSL of the next generation. Only this time I can say I’ve driven it.