BMW's M4 coupe has been put on a crash-diet and pumped with steroids. The experts at caranddriving.com find out if the GTS punches above its weight.
Ten Second Review
Only 700 people will learn what it is like to own an M4 GTS. This special edition of BMW's M4 coupe has been stripped of unnecessary weight and the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine has been boosted to 493bhp, while fuel economy and emissions remain the same as the standard M4.
For fans of BMW's high performance M division, the M3 coupe holds a precious place in the company's history. Since the first use of this classic badge on a fettled 3-series in 1986, the name has been synonymous with the idea of a high powered, rear-wheel drive, two-door coupe. The four-door saloon and estate car versions of the same model never went on sale here, so it was unusual to think of the M3 as anything other than a coupe. In 2015 though, BMW revised its naming convention and for the first time, what had previously been called an M3 coupe was re-named the M4, the 'M3' name now reserved exclusively for the saloon bodystyle. Not much else changed though, the newly-badged M4 simply carrying on from where its two-door M3 coupe predecessor had left off. Today, the M4 is now well established as the sportiest version of BMW's 4-series coupe and to further underline those credentials, the Munich maker has created a more potent M4 GTS variant capable of an even more extreme level of performance that's fit for a racing circuit.
While the breathtaking performance of a standard M4 might be sufficient for most people on most roads, it simply isn't enough for those who want to push their skills to the limit on a race track. This GTS variant uses the same engine as the standard model, but incorporates a unique water-injection system to substantially boost the power to 493bhp. This alleviates the problems of prolonged stress on components, inherent in motor-sport, while improving performance without compromising efficiency. The result is a ferocious car capable of accelerating to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 189mph. BMW describes this as a 'road-legal' car, rather than a 'road car', but it is civilised enough to use on the highways and byways. The built-in lightness means that it should feel agile, engineered to turn without hesitation and accelerate without inertia. Having shed 30kg from the M4, the GTS gets all the down-force it needs from a low front splitter and a large rear wing, ensuring it always has the traction it needs as it scythes through the air, enabling it to deliver on track.
Design and Build
The M4 GTS is built for just one purpose - to perform on track. Practicality isn't high on the list of priorities for the 700 people who'll buy it. Indeed, it's almost certain that this GTS will not be their only car, so BMW haven't focused on any unnecessary creature comforts. Anything that could be taken out has been removed, including the rear seats, while anything that has to stay has been made significantly lighter. For example, the luxurious front seats of the standard M4 have been swapped for carbon-fibre bucket-seats on the GTS version. A fire extinguisher, roll-bar and six-point racing harnesses can be specified via the optional Clubsport Package. Externally, the body is far more aggressive than any of the M3 special editions of the past. The bonnet and body undulates with bumps and dips as evidence of the monster living beneath and a bright highlight along the edge of the low front splitter, along with that outrageous rear wing, shows that this car means business. While the lightweight nature of the body may make the car feel more fragile, it's been built by one of the most quality-conscious car makers in the world, a brand with a well-deserved reputation to uphold.
Market and Model
The M4 GTS is described as the pinnacle of the 3 and 4-series range and, with such limited numbers produced, it was always going to be expensive. Only around 30 of the 700 examples being produced will be set for the UK and the price will be around £122,000. To put that into perspective, a standard M4 is just under £60,000, while a 4-series coupe is just over £30,000. It's sometimes hard for us to explain why a car with so much less than the standard model is so much more expensive but here, it all comes down to the special technology and materials that go into making this GTS a competitive contender on track at the same time as allowing it to remain a usable car on the road. On the race circuit, it will be trading paint with similarly-priced high performance models like the Porsche 911 GT3 and the Mercedes-AMG GT S. The equipment, both standard and optional, is focussed entirely on improving performance. A standard 7-speed double clutch gearbox makes every gearchange instant, Launch Control has been re-mapped to cope with the more powerful engine. Bespoke lightweight alloy wheels are clad in racing tyres from Michelin. Unusually for such a track focussed car, sat-nav, parking sensors and air-conditioning are fitted as standard.
Cost of Ownership
This GTS variant can return 34mpg in normal driving and emit the same CO2 as the standard M4 (194g/km). Keeping the fuel economy and CO2 emissions in line with the standard model is a remarkable technological feat for a machine with such extravagant performance, but when it costs twice as much to buy, the financial argument doesn't stand much scrutiny. This is not a car for frugal motoring but the water injection technology used to boost power with ruthless efficiency warrants praise. High likely running costs and model exclusivity mean that this M4 GTS is not likely to be used every day, but it could be - which is a plus for a vehicle of this type. It will cost £265 a year to tax in the UK, which is on par with the Porsche 911 and the Mercedes AMG C63. The first owner is going to bear the brunt of the expense, but limited numbers will help slow depreciation in the longer term. That being said, special editions like this one are always worth keeping an eye on, especially when they bear the M division name. If you're going to make the most of this car, you'll obviously need a race-track, or at least access to one. Many UK circuits offer track days for you to test your metal and give an opportunity for your M4 GTS to challenge even the best lap times.
The BMW M4 GTS is a track-ready, road-legal technological masterpiece from Munich, showcasing innovative engine efficiency technology and delivering an uncompromising driving experience. Stripped bare and re-clothed in carbon and alcantara, this welter-weight super-coupe packs an enormous punch. But the knock-out blow comes from the extraordinary high price, which would guarantee it exclusivity were it not already limited to just 700 examples. If you are among the select few who have the opportunity and the desire to buy an M4 GTS, you can be assured it will perform tirelessly on the race track thanks to the water-injection system that protects components and increases performance with no effect on fuel economy or emissions. It will also be usable enough on the road, with sat-nav and air-conditioning surviving the cull of creature comforts. Underneath it all, this remains a powerful, rear wheel drive, two door coupe and fans of BMW's M division know that this is the formula for fun.