The Munich area has a long history as a place where fantastic cars are developed. In 1987, BMW introduced the M3 and the high-performance automotive world was turned upside down. Since then, BMW has developed three iterations of the M3, each with increased performance and each model with special, very-limited, super-sport versions to boot.
We saw it first with the E30 Evolution 3 in Europe, sporting 238 bhp compared to its 192-bhp little brother. Then with the E36 in 1994, Europeans saw racing homologation versions called the M3 GT (291 bhp) and GT2 (300 bhp) with the S50B30 3.0-liter engine, of which only 400 and 250 examples were made, respectively. The U.S. got 125 M3 Lightweights with the 240-bhp S50B30US U.S.-spec motor.
In 2004, 1,400 M3 CSL’s were produced for the rest of the world, sporting 17 more hp, cooler body panels, and a 240-pound weight loss over the standard 333-bhp M3 coupe. Sadly, the U.S. didn’t see any of this action but as a consolation prize there was the E46 M3 Competition, featuring some of the CSL components, but nowhere near the total package.
In 2007, the S65B40 4.0-liter V8 engine boldly found its way into the E90 and E92 M3 engine bay with a whopping 414 bhp. And in May 2010, just 250 customers (again, none in the U.S.) were lucky enough to purchase the king of them all: the M3 GTS.
Only one color was offered: Fire Orange. The M3 GTS sports the S65B44 V8 engine, its 4.4 liters put out a menacing 450 bhp, and weighs over 400 pounds less than the standard E92 M3 coupe. BMW went even further than its previous special editions by equipping it with a four-point rollcage, like Porsche did for the GT3 RS. I’ve dreamt of test-driving the M3 GTS since I first heard about it.
Deep in the Bavarian countryside, about 40 miles northwest of Munich and just outside the town of Schrobenhausen resides G-Power. Its very unassuming building is easy to miss when your attention is diverted by the surrounding cutesy villages lined with sheep and cattle. But what happens behind its walls is magic. Inside, you could find a couple of 800-bhp twin-supercharged M5s or a barrage of supercharged V8 M3s. And, if you’re lucky, you might stumble upon a supercharged M3 GTS.
I was lucky enough to come across the latter. When the keys were given to me to enjoy the German countryside, I thought to myself, “I could end my career here and feel like I’ve succeeded.” Driving a car like this is the whole reason I got into this business 12 years ago. Today, I was complete.
These thoughts would have rang through my head had I thought this particular flat-wrapped orange GTS in front of me had the stock 450-bhp powerplant. But I was standing in front of one of six G-Power supercharged GTSs rated at a ludicrous 630 bhp. Now I’m thinking, “I might end my career here because I could kill myself!”
All joking aside, this car does command your utmost respect. With a G-Power suspension tuned to the ragged edge, it’s so sharp it’s almost twitchy. I’m used to more of a boat-like, sluggish response with today’s high-performance street cars. Add to the fact this GTS breaks the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires loose so easily, I found myself concentrating more than with any other road-going car I’ve tested. Plus, I didn’t want to crash a quarter-million dollar’s worth of machinery!
The powerband is amazing. I’ve driven several centrifugally supercharged cars, and the bang is usually just in the top end. This car has so much torque—465 lb-ft by 3900 rpm, or 140 lb-ft more than stock—that you have to worry about wheelspin up to Third gear, and that’s if you’re pointing straight. This torque comes by way of the ASA supercharger that spins to over 100,000 rpm using special gearing. The blower’s reliability is so good that Alpina—the famed BMW tuner in Europe—not only uses it in its street-going BMWs but also its race cars in FIA.
While I had many opportune moments (some anticipated, some not) in breaking the car mildly sideways at speeds approaching triple digits, I started to feel at one with the chassis. The suspension, chassis stiffness, seats and brakes started to instill a lot more confidence, and I was having a hard time believing anything out there would dare keep up.
The straight-line performance is intoxicating. But off the line, this car doesn’t need a launch mode, rather a launch control. In fact, its 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds isn’t a big improvement over a standard, non-GTS M3. That number is very deceiving for this car—it should be well into the low 3s.
The fact that it arrives at 125 mph less than 8 seconds later starts to tell the power story. If you’re still having a hard time appreciating what I just said, let me draw you a picture. From 60 mph the standard E92 M3 will only reach 109 mph in that time, whereas this GTS is pulling away at 1.3 car lengths per second and climbing. It’s right on par with the 60- to 125-mph times of a Ferrari 599 GTB or a Porsche 997 Turbo GT2, both of which can trap the quarter at well over 130 mph. Is that better?
I’m compelled to say “enough said,” click send, cross my arms and sit back with a nod of my own approval. But there is so much more to mention.
The G-Power tune of the seven-speed transmission is sharp. It’s really a big part of the fun factor in the total package. Upon wide-open throttle, each millisecond shift shoves me straight into the factory-supplied Recaro fiberglass buckets. It’s a feeling of invincibility.
As we approach the 20-mph cruise zone of Schrobenhausen, the perfectly tuned, rev-matched downshifts crunch with audible authority, and the whole neighborhood of rubbernecked bystanders look like they’re witnessing an F-22 Raptor making an emergency landing on their cobblestone street.
With G-Power’s signature exhaust system, it’s hard not to notice this car as it bounces sound waves that can only be described as heart-stopping off the centuries-old village buildings.
Visually, it’s just as jaw-dropping. We’re only 50 miles away from this car’s birthplace, and just 8 miles from G-Power. A good majority of the folks are familiar with both in this part of the country. To them, I would have thought this was just another BMW—just one in a peculiar color—and then they’d look away. Far from the truth, and it’s borderline embarrassing to the point my passenger and I lower our cap bills over our faces and start to laugh uncontrollably. Surely the group of eight teenaged girls running after us down the village’s main strip also had something to do with this (Sweetie, if you’re reading this, I promise you I didn’t waive to them!). The folks in this town know what they saw, and they understand its significance.
For those that think owning a car as exclusive as the M3 GTS isn’t enough, G-Power’s got the answer. It takes the car and bumps it to top-of-the-line Ferrari and Porsche performance.
I drove it. And thanks to the experience, I’ll always love my job no matter what happens. I think my life, too.
Peak Power: 630 bhp
Peak Torque: 465 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.1 sec.
Top Speed: 201 mph (drag limited)