Numbers. When it comes to the 2016 BMW M4 GTS, there are a whole plethora of them for you to stuff into your head. But which one is most important to chew on? We can start with exclusivity. A total of 700 are being made, 300 are coming to the United States, and all are sold out. There’s also price: $135,195 USD, before options. That’s more than $100K USD dearer than the entry-level 3 Series. A no-option, regular-flavor M4 starts at five bucks under $67K USD. What about power? Thanks to a 5.0-liter tank mounted under the trunk, the 3.0-liter, water-injected, twin-turbo, inline-six produces 493 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. (Much more on that injection system below.) Then there’s the number of ways the dampers can be adjusted (six for low-speed compression, 14 for high-speed compression, and 16 for rebound), the 20 millimeters of adjustable ride height, the 190-mph (306-km/h) top speed, the claimed 1.4 g’s of grip, and the sprint from 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds, which could very well equate to a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds. Or less. But I think the most important number is 7:27.88.
What do the Porsche Carrera GT, McLaren MP4-12C, and the Ferrari 458 Italia have in common? They all went around the Nrburgring Nordschleife slower than the 2016 BMW M4 GTS. Crazy, right? I thought so, too, when I heard about it. But lo and behold, at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack in Spain, BMW had a video of said 7:27.88 running on a continuous loop. You want to know the crazy part? The driver made two mistakes (that I noticed) and probably cut half a second off an even better time. The big point is that those three mid-engine supercars are exactly that—the kind of exotic vehicles that should mop the floor with any car that began life as a 3 Series. But here we are. The M4 GTS beat them. How?
Let’s just go ahead and start with that water-injection system. Yes, water! Essentially, above (approximately) 5,000 rpm, water is sprayed into the intake plenum via three injectors. (They’re actually steel-tipped diesel injectors.) The water evaporates instantly, cooling the post-intercooler air by about 80 degrees to around 115-120 degrees. And yes, if it is really cold outside the intake temperature can drop even lower. Since air gets denser as it gets cooler, power goes up because there’s more oxygen in the air/fuel mixture. BMW is also able to increase turbo boost pressure by 4.3 psi, further bumping power. The total system power boost is 49 horsepower over the 444 hp M4 Competition package to 493 SAE, and that’s probably underrated. Torque is up, too, from 406 lb-ft in the regular M4 to 443 lb-ft in the GTS. Now, I’m sure you have plenty of questions about the H2O-injection. Here are all the ones I asked.
What if you run out of water? Then your M4 GTS makes 444 hp. How long does the water last? BMW smartly keyed the tank’s volume to the gas tank, so on track you’ll have to replace the 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of water every time you fill up with premium. On the street, if you drive like a sane person, you’ll never have to refill the tank because you’ll never go above 5,000 rpm. If you drive like, well, a BMW owner/Motor Trend editor, figure you’ll have to refill it every five to six tanks of gas. Yes, there’s a warning message to let you know when you’re low. Distilled water only, please. What happens if you use regular water? The calcium and other minerals will build up over time and clog the stainless steel plumbing. What if it freezes? There’s a scavenger pump that clears out the injection system every time you turn off the car.
What if you add methanol or other drag racy type fluids? I posed this question to the CEO of M, Frank van Meel, who smiled big and then said, “We recommend distilled water only.” I re-posed that question to Jrgen Poggel, the head of M engine development. He told me that if alcohol is detected, the car goes into a limp mode. I’m not sure if I believe Jrgen on that last bit. I then asked him why water? More specifically, where’d they get the idea for water-injection? Poggel explained that although he and his team were aware of production water-injected cars in the past (Oldsmobile Jetfire, Saab 99 Turbo), the M team figured there had to be some major downside beyond just running out of water. “Turns out, there was not!”
Now look, the water-injection system is going to be the big story when it comes to the M4 GTS. But I drove the car, and you know what? A moderate bump in horsepower is the least interesting piece of the puzzle. The dampers are new and multiway adjustable with hundreds of possible combinations. I was only permitted to drive the M4 GTS on the track, so the suspension was set to what M felt was the best for track duty. The splitter and wing were both set for max downforce. Back to the suspension, the lower front control arms are new, allowing for a sportier suspension geometry—more caster and camber—for the turning wheels.
Much lightweighting has taken place; the M division has liberally borrowed from the brand’s expertise with carbon fiber. For instance, the door panels from the regular M4 have been replaced with the same carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic the i3 is built out of. I should point out that there are now M-liveried door pulls—pretty cool. Additionally, the wing, the diffuser, the splitter, the hood, the trunk, and even the driveshaft are all made from carbon fiber. Meanwhile, the divider between the cabin and the trunk is made from fiberglass. The splitter and wing, as mentioned, are multiway adjustable and provide real, actual downforce: 63 pounds (29 kg) up front and 210 pounds (95 kg) at the rear at 186 mph (299 km/h). Also, the titanium exhaust system weighs 20 percent less than standard.
Now, those of you who have been drooling about the GTS since BMW first announced it already know that there’s a Clubsport option that adds lightweight carbon seats, a half rollcage, and a fire extinguisher. The bad news is that in America, that’s not an option. Which is partially a pity because those seats are in fact excellent. No, because of crash regulations, all 300 cars bound for our shores get lightened versions of the existing M4 seats. However, the cars also all get the orange faux-rollcage. Those of you into racing no doubt know that a half rollcage like this—a cute place to mount shoulder belts—does close to nothing in the event of an accident. So why are the cages automatically included on all U.S.-bound cars? Liability. As in since there’s no rear seat, ergo no rear seat belts, the cage prevents human beings from riding back there. Worse, despite all those weight-saving measures, the additional heft from all that steel tubing means the GTS weighs 12 pounds (5 kg) more than the standard M4. We don’t get the fire bottle, either. If you’re worried about weight, you can choose to get the optional carbon-fiber rimmed wheels that trim the weight by another 15 pounds (7 kg). But there’s no need to worry.
Here’s the good news: This is the best BMW I’ve ever driven. Quick ways to describe the M4 GTS: playful, progressive, predictable, confidence-inspiring, balanced, tight, and most important, fun. I can’t stress that last descriptor enough: fun. Remember when cars were fun? Someone at M does, too. As the numbers all attest, the GTS is capable, as well. On one lap I snuck a peek at the speedometer at the end of the front straight and saw 155 mph (149 km/h). Yes, I stomped hard on the big carbon-ceramic brakes and shed enough speed to make the corner. Many cars could have done what I accomplished in the GTS, but I’m hard-pressed to think of many that would have left as big a smile on my face. Why so big? Because of the way the M4 GTS yawed its way through the corner. Not just that corner, but all the corners. The GTS offered up the perfect mix of slip angle and traction; I always felt in control even though the car didn’t feel rigidly bolted down the way the regular, not so fun M4 does. Also of note, unlike the regular M4, the power curve isn’t flat, and it doesn’t plateau. Instead, it actually peaks, which just feels so much better. Oh, and it sounds five times better. Maybe 10. Bottom line, the new GTS is an incredibly impressive machine. It’s sweet. I’m calling it sweet. I really dig it man, big time.
This is the fifth generation of super-exclusive top-shelf M3s that the M Division has cranked out. And yes, now it’s an M4 instead of M3. We’re over it. They are, in chronological order, the E30 Sport Evo, the E36 GT, the E46 CSL, the E90 (E92) GTS. Sadly, we American types never got our hands on any of them. Instead of focusing on past poor decisions, let’s instead slap BMW and the M Division on the back for giving the U.S. not only the F82 M4 GTS but also the largest share (300 units) of the total production (700 worldwide). Also, Canada gets 50 of ’em, so North America gets half. Go New World, go! Here’s the rub—aside from the nosebleed price tag—all 300 units earmarked for the U.S. have already been sold. My advice to BMW? Build more. Thing is, they won’t. My advice to you? Keep an eye (and a big checkbook) out for a slightly used M4 GTS in the near future, as some are sure to show up. As for how to afford one, well, try marketing some BMW-branded distilled water.
|2016 BMW M4 GTS|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.0L/493-hp/443-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6 with water injection|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,600 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||184.6 x 73.6 x 54.4 in|
|0-62 MPH||3.8 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/23/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||211/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.05 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Sold out!|
Watch a BMW M4 DTM race car on the track right here: