We all dream of the day we're given the keys to a $140,000 sports car and told to enjoy ourselves. Yet when the opportunity actually presents itself, the situation can be pretty nerve-wracking.
Sure, you'd jump in and floor it, right? You'd race police cars, pick up girls, visit friends, drive to the ocean, hit the speed limiter...
We all have a list of things we'd do in this situation, but choosing which one is the first hurdle. Then realizing it has to be returned in one piece is another. And understanding you'd neither be able to pay for the damage nor explain what happened can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, I buried most of my concerns into the carpet and burnt rubber out of the parking lot once I'd pushed all the worries aside. Despite its 620hp Active Autowerke supercharger, I was still surprised how easily the Vorsteiner M3 Coupe overcame the width of those 325/25 R20 Michelin PS2 Sport rear tires.
Having experienced the tire-spinning, face-wobbling acceleration, the second unforgettable sensation was of stopping. Not only did it have the first set of Brembo's newest GT-R brakes in the country, but as soon as you apply them there's an extraordinarily-loud hissing.
This isn't the brakes, it's the twin blow-off valves mounted in the sturdy Active plenum chamber that expel pressurized air at an alarming rate and volume.
So between the widebody styling, matte paint, frantic acceleration, fierce braking and hissing BOVs, the Vorsteiner M3 leaves a mighty impression on both the occupants and onlookers.
Drooping jaws, numerous questions and plenty of encouragement to wheelspin accompanied every traffic light stop. It felt like one of those cars the police would pull over just so they could take a look.
So where do we start? Since it was a Vorsteiner Automobil Technik car, and they contributed most of the parts, it's as good a place as any...
This GTRS3 M3 widebody conversion is the culmination of seven years experience that started with E46 M3 add-ons. The company has always worked with carbon fiber and always used a vacuum-bagging process. Initially, they used vacuum infusion, where the excess resin is forced out by vacuum as the layers of fiber are compressed. The result is a light, strong part that met instant approval from a market that had previous been split between cheap reproduction parts at one end, and expensive European imports at the other.
Seeking the latest technology, Vorsteiner added its own autoclave oven to the manufacturing process. This vacuum-bagging process uses a combination of heat to activate the resin and vacuum to compress the layers, producing components similar to military or F1 standards.
Over time, customers requested more than the carbon fiber splitters, hoods and trunk lids the company was known for. They wanted complete packages, so Vorsteiner started designing full body kits and, more recently, the GTRS3.
The kit was inspired by BMW's M3 GT ALMS racecar, but Vorsteiner's designers wanted to create something more practical for the street, less brash. The result, as you can see, is stylish yet imposing - you'd definitely move over if this pulled up to your bumper!
The conversion includes a complete carbon front bumper with two-piece splitters, rather than the one-piece seen on the original GTRS3 built in cooperation with VF-Engineering. It also has replacement front fenders, widened side skirts and rear fender flares. We're told everything fits with stock BMW fasteners to the original fixing points. The only parts that require expertise are the rear fenders, but these come with simple instructions. What's more, only approved body shops are allowed to fit the kit, helping to maintain standards.
The rest of the kit includes a rear bumper with integrated diffuser, a vented hood and the famous Vorsteiner trunk lid. With the latter weighing only 9 lb, it's less than half the weight of the original trunk. And despite the enormous dimensions of the new kit, we're told the carbon construction ensures no weight is added to the M3.
The kit isn't for the shy, nor is it for the poor. Priced at $25000 with the Vorsteiner wheels and Michelin tires included, you're not going to bump into one on every corner. To date, about 12 have been sold around the world, with two going to China as the US economy recovers.
With a catalog of around 20 one- and three-piece wheels, the Vorsteiner range is growing almost daily. Inevitably, the GTRS3 requires modular wheels to obtain the desired width, but the V-309 wheel design isn't off the shelf. These particular wheel centers were machined from an aluminum block twice as thick as normal. It allowed them to produce the extreme concave design seen on this SEMA show car.
As a technology partner to Michelin, tire supply was the limiting factor for the GTRS3. The widest 20" tires available were the aforementioned 325/25s, so this particular machine has 20x12" rear wheels where 13s would fit. Up front are 20x10.5" rims with 285/25 tires.
Another Vorsteiner product is the new VTS Type 2 titanium cat-back exhaust system first seen on this car. It produces a rich sound that suits the conversion and can be heard on our video above the wind noise.
The GTRS3 widebody M3 inevitably caught the attention of many people and companies, including the guys at Meguiar's Wraptivo. They are leading the vinyl wrapping business for 3M and needed a car for their SEMA booth. The M3 was perfect because its curves and angles would allow them to demonstrate a new flex technology film. It enables the film to cover areas previously considered impossible, wrapping the rear quarter panel in one piece and leading many observers to assume the previously white M3 was actually painted.
However, it's covered in Wraptivo's matte silver-grey metallic that exhibits a delicate bronze tone in sunlight. It's one of the latest finishes available for people looking to update their cars with a wrap rather than paint.
Having driven Active Autowerke's prototype E9x supercharger conversion in et 9/09, we were curious to see how the production version differed.
Back then it boasted 602hp while the Miami-based engineers tackled the software and looked for reliability. A year later, there's a $13k Level 1 conversion with 580hp or this $15k 620hp Level 2, which operates at about 7psi with the onboard meth injection, developing 450 lb-ft of torque.
As before, it retains the custom-built HKS GTS-8550 supercharger at its heart, with bigger injectors, a huge FMIC and Active's own inlet plenum chamber. The latter accommodates two of the system's three blow-off valves as well as eight intake trumpets, drawing air directly from the intercooler's 3" piping.
The prototype car had Active's "race" titanium exhaust system, which was certainly louder than Vorsteiner's cat-back equivalent. However, the lasting memories of both cars are the turbo-like, linear power delivery that soars as the revs rise, as well as the extraordinary blow-off valves.
Bury your right foot and this M3 lights up the wide rear tires with ease. They gain composure as you pull the paddles up through the 'box but the forceful acceleration continues almost unabated.
You certainly don't want to encounter the police during one of these motion moments, because lifting off the throttle actually draws more attention. The rush of air is loud and high-pitched, swiveling heads from all directions. Backing off slowly doesn't help either; it just prolongs the escaping boost pressure.
Don't get us wrong, we love the noise and excitement - it certainly suits this extrovert car. And Active's software programming ensures there's never a hint of lumpiness or hesitation. This is undoubtedly one of the best systems on the market and incredibly exciting to drive.
Again, you can check out the videos for evidence of the supercharger's ability.
With the sort of horsepower and grip the GTRS3 produces, braking can be critical on the road or track. Therefore, it was fitted with Brembo's newest GT-R system.
Where other companies adapt existing racing calipers to street cars, or make their street products appear "track ready" with minor changes, Brembo understood the need for purpose-built components engineered with a specific intention in mind.
So the M3 had six, sequentially-sized pistons to clamp down on 380x34mm directional and fully-floating two-piece rotors on the front, with four-piston calipers at the rear operating 380x28mm floating, one-piece rotors.
This is genuine motorsport equipment, but engineered for production vehicles with factory hydraulic system, ABS and traction control. The nickel-plated, billet monobloc calipers utilize vented, stainless steel piston inserts and twin-seal technology all round. This means increased thermal capacity, improved temperature management and very little maintenance for the ultimate braking performance.
At approximately $15000, the price may shock anybody unfamiliar with what it takes to produce the highest caliber braking systems, but when you consider the stopping power, minimal maintenance and increased longevity, there's not another product on the market that can rival the GT-R system.
On the road they lived up to the hype. The Brembo Gran Turismo brakes on our Project M3 offer phenomenal stopping power with great modulation, but the GT-R set-up trumped even that. And despite the power, you don't lurch to a stop every time to brush against the pedal, but they have more than enough power with just an ankle flex.
Whether we'd swap Brembo GT for GT-R brakes is open to debate, but since Vorsteiner was building the ultimate M3, it's only natural they'd include this equipment.
Although Vorsteiner got its start with BMW, the company has branched out into Porsche, Mercedes and Bentley, but is perhaps equally well known for its B7 Audi A4 carbon hood. Apparently, it's never been advertised and can't be found on the company website, but orders continue to be placed by customers eager for exclusivity.
This has encouraged Vorsteiner to produce a new range of B8 Audi S4 and S5 body kits that will be available later this year. They're also working on a widebody C63 AMG plus some other secret projects that will come to light in due time.
So if you're after high-quality American-made carbon fiber products for your European automobile, check out Vorsteiner's website.
2011 BMW M3
Location: Santa Ana, CA
Occupation: performance parts
Engine: 4.0-liter V8 32v with Active Autowerke supercharger kit using HKS GTS-8550 supercharger, AA intake plenum with high-flow velocity stacks, blow-off valves, bypass valve, larger Bosch Motorsport injectors, AA software, front-mount intercooler, cold-air intake, supercharger oil cooler and oil breather system, eight-rib pulley system, stage 2 methanol injection with progressive controller, Vorsteiner VTS Type 2 titanium cat-back exhaust system
Brakes: Brembo GTR system with 380mm floating rotors all round, billet monobloc six-piston front, four-piston rear calipers
Suspension: KW Variant 3 EDC coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 20x10.5" front, 20x12" rear Vorsteiner V-309 forged wheels with concave centers, 285/25 front, 325/25 R20 rear Michelin PS2 Sport tires
Exterior: Vorsteiner GTRS3 carbon-fiber widebody conversion comprising front bumper with two-piece splitters, replacement front fenders, widened side skirts, rear fender flares, rear bumper with integrated diffuser, vented Race hood and trunk lid, finished in Wraptivo matte silver-grey metallic vinyl film
Interior: Vorsteiner mats
Thanks: Active Autowerke, Brembo, KW Suspension, Michelin, Wraptivo Meguiar's, vorsteiner.com