Why such disagreement over the BMW M4 GTS?
There seems to be some disagreement in the world of motoring journalism. ‘Shock, horror’ I hear you cry. Of course the design and dynamics of cars can be polarising. Yet broadly speaking road testers tend to agree. You’ll always get the odd curmudgeon or wilful renegade, but they’re usually outliers in the grand scheme of things, even if they’re gobby ones. However, one car is currently threatening to create the sort of schism not seen since Urban VI and Clement VII clashed over who had the real popemobile. The divisive car in question? The BMW M4 GTS.
You might, quite reasonably, think ‘what’s not to like?’. It’s a BMW (often good) with the (light)weight of the M Division thrown behind it (even better) and it’s largely unsullied by considerations of practicality (excellent). Generally the press gushes like a holed sump over such things.
I love it. In fact I love it so much that before I left for DRIVETRIBE I voted it top of my list in evo’s Car of the Year test. The polish of the damping, the feel of the steering, the sound of the engine and the balance of the handling all make it sensationally thrilling in my eyes. It’s the sort of car that, at the end of a drive, makes you turn off the engine slightly reverentially and just sit in the bucket seats for a couple of minutes soaking in all that’s just happened, committing to memory every slide, every moment of lightness over a crest, every sustained hit of angry acceleration.
That wasn’t the first time I’d driven one either – this adoration was no brief romance, no one-test stand. Having spent several long days in one driving around Europe, I can say that I would happily live with a GTS and put up with any shortcomings in comfort. Not that there really are any; with sat-nav, a radio and air con, it’s hardly an R26.R. It’s a bit noisy, but not unpleasantly so. in the same vein as the current generation of GT3 RS, this is now a hardcore car that can feasibly be used every day without it feeling like a chore.
Anyhow, I’m not a lone voice writing in the wilderness about how much I adore the M4 GTS. Others like it too. Jethro Bovingdon is one and I trust his judgement. Mauro Calo (a professional driver, who helps out on various TV programmes you might have heard of) has tweeted in perplexity at people disliking the GTS. evo’s erstwhile Editor, Nick Trott, also voted it top of his eCoty list. Yet it was so distasteful to others on the eCoty panel that it ended up only joint 6th out of 12. Autocar voted it LAST in its Britain’s Best Driver’s Car test. It was beaten by… well, a lot of good cars actually, but it still seems crazy that it came last.
So, why the disparity? What’s not to like? Well, it can be a little tricky in the wet. Alright, more than tricky. In fact if you’re not in the mood then it can feel a little like there’s a price on your head and it’s keen to claim the reward. When there’s moisture around, the lightly treaded Michelin Cup 2 tyres seem to become as slippery as a 500,000mile leather steering wheel. As a result you need to discover new levels of right foot sensitivity if you want to avoid spinning them up or melting the traction control. If you turn off the ESP then you will need the hands of a gunslinger to wind lock on in time.
Now, I rather admire this uncompromising nature. I happen to like a challenge. Plenty of the most exciting pastimes demand skill, respect and a willingness to dance with danger and I think the limited edition, clearly extreme, M4 GTS falls into that particular category. But others are apparently less keen. Particularly in a wet Scotland on the first couple of days of eCoty…
Next problem: the set up. The M4 GTS has adjustable suspension and this can lead to a certain amount of discrepancy in the handling characteristics of different cars. The BMW UK press fleet has two M4 GTSs, a white one and a grey one, and having driven both I can attest that they are set up differently (or they were when I last drove them). In simple terms, the white one was much more secure and found much greater traction, which is a nice way of saying that it was very hard to do big skids in it. Being surprisingly hard to slide might not have enamoured it to certain road testers...
So, there we go. Mystery solved? Probably not. But it’s a theory. I’m sure some just objected to the lack of a manual ‘box and others think that on principle the engine must be a travesty for not being NA (for what it’s worth, I think a dual clutch paddle shift suits the hard-charging character of the car and the bombastic, water-injected engine is pretty blooming special in spite of the turbo-charging). Whatever the reason, I shall continue to lust after one and place it snugly in my fantasy garage. Between the imaginary 3.8 GT3 RS and the Caterham R300, since you ask.