By: Denis Droppa
Kyalami, Midrand - The new M4 GTS has arrived in South Africa as the most track-focused version of BMW's most popular M car.
It follows in the footsteps of other iconic motorsport-inspired cars such as the M3 GTS of 2010 and the M3 CSL launched in 2003.
Unveiled at the SA Festival of Motoring in Kyalami, the GTS is muscled up with a 368kW and 600Nm variant of the three-litre turbopetrol straight six, which in normal M3/M4 trim produces 317kW/550Nm.
It's the first mass-produced engine to feature water injection, which boosts power by injecting a temperature-reducing fine mist of water into the air intake. The extra ponies hustle this brutal Beemer from rest to 100km/h in a claimed 3.8 seconds, while it will run to a (governed) 305km/h top speed.
The rear-wheel drive has launch control, and transmission duty is performed by a seven speed M DCT.
To achieve an impressive power/mass ratio of 250kW per ton, the power boost is accompanied by body lightening in the form of a titanium exhaust system, while the roof, bonnet and that large rear wing are made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. The interior also gets carbon-fibre treatment on the seats, doors and centre console although this is more for eye candy than any major weight-saving.
Light alloy wheels in acid orange complete the visual blitzkrieg, while an adjustable rear wing and adjustable front splitter further confirm this car's athletic focus.
The motorsport theme continues with a fabric loop that serves duty as a door handle, and one-piece front bucket seats that are adjustable for legroom only; the backrest angle is fixed.
Thoroughbred racing car
The M-specific three-way coilover suspension with modified stabilisers and milled aluminium swivel bearings enable the suspension to be lowered continuously up to a maximum of 20mm at the front and 17mm at the rear, and the damping can also be adjusted to suit the driving situation.
I drove the M4 GTS at its media launch at the newly-refurbished Kyalami circuit and it essentially handles like a thoroughbred racing car. Particularly impressive are its quick turn-in, its lack of body roll, and leech-like traction. The car's rubbered-up with super-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that take a lot of abuse before squealing.
A roaring soundtrack provides appropriately sporty ear candy. The tweaked engine provides strong hustle and corners sometimes arrive quicker than expected, but the high performance ceramic brakes are up to the task. They have real bite, and are designed to take extended punishment around a racetrack without fading.
Awesome stuff, and while the two-lap stint wasn't enough to delve into the car's handling intricacies I could understand how the M4 GTS was able to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in a time of just 7 min 28 secs (anything under eight minutes is really cooking).
The M4 GTS is also available with an optional Clubsport package that includes a racing harness and a roll cage.
In standard trim the car is priced at R2 203 900 but the bad news is that all 23 units allocated to South Africa are spoken for (out of a worldwide build of 700), so you can't buy one unless you're able to convince one of the new owners to part with theirs - presumably at a healthy premium.
Alternatively, there's a new competition package available for the M3 and M4 which adds 14kW, lightweight sports seats, an M Sport exhaust and numerous cosmetic tweaks.
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