BMW M3 about to get meaner

A track version of BMW’s smallest M-badged sedan is a potential starter for Australia, writes Barry Park.

Think the potent M3 coupe — the street car named performance — is enough?

BMW doesn’t think so, and today pulled the covers off a monstered 340-kilowatt track version.

The largely hand-built M3 GTS, as the car will be known, will go on sale across Europe mid-way through next year.

A spokesman for BMW Australia said if enough customers showed interest Down Under, it could even sell here.

As it rolls out of the factory, the lightweight M3 coupe won’t be road legal, but if asked the engineers at BMW’s hi-po M division will modify the car for you and give it road-ready status.

No price is given for the version that will start selling in Europe, but the modifications to the coupe suggest it will cost a fair bit more than the $176,000-plus road-going car on which it is based.

It still gets the same carbon-fibre roof as the road-going version, and outside the same basic design apart from the seriously pumped guards and the adjustable splitter and rear spoiler, but it’s what’s under the skin that’s important.

For starters, the 4.0-litre V8 that sits under the bonnet of the more pedestrian M3 is replaced with a meatier 4.4-litre version.

And the car is a little less friendly as well, as all the interior from the B pillar back is stripped out, including the rear seats, in the interests of saving weight, and fitted with a roll cage and mounts for a six-point harness system for both front seats.

BMW says the sum of the weight-saving measures — which vary from using titanium silencers in the exhaust system to using an ultra-lightweight centre console — means the 1500kg GTS sheds about 100kg over the more civilian version.

The GTS engine is mated to the M division’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox — the same used in the current M3, although with different track-honed software sharpening it up somewhat — with the driver able to drive in fully automatic mode or change gears manually using either the Tiptronic-style gear lever or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

Likewise, the suspension is carried over from the street M3, although extra attention is giving the gear down the rear a bit more support to handle the higher forces it must absorb.

Engineers have included adjustment threads on the dampers to allow owners to vary them to suit conditions.

Brakes include six-pot fixed calipers up front and four-pots down the rear.

The GTS runs 19-inch competition alloys, with a wider footprint down the rear than at the front. In case everything goes pear-shaped, there’s even an fire extinguisher mounted inside the cabin for when that last hot lap becomes a little too heated.