I recently had the opportunity to drive a BMW M4 GTS. I borrowed this car from my friend David, who runs a high-end used car dealership called Automobili Limited here in the Philadelphia suburbs. David also provided me with the BMW Isetta I drove a few weeks ago. In fact, I drove it back-to-back with the M4 GTS. Needless to say, these were very different driving experiences.
Before I get to how I feel about the M4 GTS, I want to talk about the hype around this car — both positive and negative.
Now, for those of you who don’t know about the M4 GTS, it’s basically a “GT3” version of the BMW M4. They’ve taken out the rear seats, they’ve added a roll cage, they’ve lowered the weight, they’ve put in an ultra-stiff sport suspension, they added carbon fiber everywhere, and they added extra power: 493 horsepower, to be exact, which is about 50 more than the standard M4.
Then they doubled the price.
Yes, that’s right: The BMW M4 GTS costs something like $137,000, which is more than twice the price of a base-level M4 ($67,200) and probably about $50,000 more than an M4 with popular equipment. This massive price hike — coupled with the fact that the M4 GTS requires you to periodically add water to a reservoir in the trunk (I’m serious) — has caused a bit of a hoopla, with many suggesting it can’t possibly be worth the extra money. So when I drove the M4 GTS, I only really had one question on my mind: Is it really worth the extra money?
Here’s the answer: Yes, it is. But probably not to you.
Before I fully explain what I mean, let me tell you how the M4 GTS drives. It’s highly impressive, and I think it could really go toe-to-toe with a lot of the exotic cars I’ve driven. Acceleration is massive, brutal and surprisingly linear for a turbocharged car, with ample power at the low end of the power band — something I’ve often complained the standard M4 lacks. Handling is even more amazing: Not only is the steering fast and the cornering predictable, but the car is dead flat in even the sharpest of turns. Braking is also strong. These are things, I suspect, that you already assumed about the M4 GTS.
As for the design, I happen to think the exterior styling looks pretty cool — and while I could do without the massive wing, I like the wheels, and I like the aggressive look of the front and rear ends. I also like the interior, which is a nice mix of high-quality typical BMW materials and enough weight-saving touches to ensure you know you’re in something special. Once again, I’m probably not telling you anything about the M4 GTS you didn’t already predict.
Here are a few of the downsides you’ve also probably heard about. The ride is laughably stiff. And I mean laughably stiff. I mean that if you spent a day driving around in an M4 GTS, you could probably get a good night’s sleep on a wooden board, which would be comfortable by comparison. Also, the front end is really, unbearably low. The car has been lowered compared to the standard M4, and the forwardmost portion of the front end is an expensive piece of carbon fiber that you’re constantly worried about scraping. So you exercise extreme caution over every single bump, including lane lines.
And now, with all that in mind, here’s where I differ from most of the other reviews you’ll read about this car: I think the M4 GTS makes sense.
Yes, the ride is unbearably stiff, and it has a lot of crazy interior details in the name of “saving weight” — like fabric door loops. You know what that sounds like? The Porsche 911 GT3.
Yes, there’s a huge wing on the back that looks totally silly, and the price is hugely increased compared to the regular model. You know what that sounds like? The Porsche 911 GT3.
You know what car most people absolutely rave about at every possible opportunity? The Porsche 911 GT3.
So, I ask you: Why does Porsche get celebrated when they create a harsh ride, stick on an enormous wing, jack up their price, add fabric door loops, and lower their suspension, whereas BMW is vilified for it? How are these cars really all that different? If you like the 911 GT3 and you don’t like the M4 GTS, you should probably ask yourself: Deep down, what really is the difference between the two cars? Aside, of course, from that vaunted Porsche badge on the hood.
And here’s the other thing about the M4 GTS: It may have some gimmicks, but it’s also insanely fast. Not only does it cut nearly 30 seconds out of the standard BMW M4’s Nurburgring time, but it’s as quick around the Nurburgring as a Porsche Carrera GT. A Porsche Carrera GT! The greatest car ever made! And this little BMW with a huge wing and a trunk full of water is just as fast.
Most importantly, however, here’s one last truth about the M4 GTS: BMW is only building 700 for the entire world. They know the market is limited for this thing, so they’re only selling them to a limited market. In other words: All those people complaining that the M4 GTS is too expensive, too harsh, too low, too gimmicky … they can get a regular M4. BMW doesn’t need to sell them an M4 GTS, and they shouldn’t buy one. Instead, the M4 GTS will sell to just 700 people who likely plan to use it for its true, dedicated purpose: racing on the track. And driving very slowly over bumps on the way there. Find a BMW M4 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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