The GTS moniker had a short life in the BMW M portfolio, but the name will always be associated with one of the most raw street-legal M cars ever made. There were only 300 units sold in the United States and one of them ended up in the BMW USA Classic Car collection. While the BMW M4 CSL is still a show car, its predecessor M4 GTS is available for press drives. Surprisingly, even though the GTS was launched in 2016, I haven’t had a chance to get behind the wheel.
Only 300 Units, $134,000
But that opportunity came up this month at the 2022 Monterey Car Week. The low mileage M4 GTS – around 5,00 miles – belongs to BMW of North America and it’s one of the most unique cars in their vast BMW Classic collection. So while media, VIPs and influencers were sipping on champagne and enjoying the latest hypercars at the iconic Quail car event, I had some other plans for the day. The morning finds me behind the wheel of a Frozen Dark Grey M4 GTS, ready to take me on some of the most iconic roads surrounding Pebble Beach and Carmel, California.
But before I jump into the driving experience, let’s explore what makes the M4 GTS a unicorn in the BMW lineup of exciting sports cars. First and foremost, the BMW M4 GTS is the first, and only production series BMW, to feature a water injection system. The engine itself is the popular S55 3.0 liter six-cylinder turbo which makes 493 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. It is mated only to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and powered only its rear wheel.
The water injection system found in the M4 GTS was co-developed by BMW and Bosch. The way the system works is essentially, above (approximately) 5,000 rpm, water is sprayed into the intake plenum via three steel-tipped diesel injectors. The water evaporates instantly, cooling the post-intercooler air by about 80 degrees to around 115-120 degree. Cooler air also means more dense airs, so more fuel can be burned to create additional power. The lower charge temperature also allows for higher turbo boost without the risk of engine knock.
The water is stored in a tank placed in the trunk. BMW smartly tied the tank’s volume to the gas tank, so on track you’ll have to replace the 1.3 gallons of water every time you fill up with gas. In real life driving, owners report that you will have to fill up the water tank every 5-6 times you refuel the gas tank. Even though the water injection tech was rumored to appear in other BMWs as well, so far, it’s only the M4 GTS that comes with it.
Another novelty in the BMW M4 GTS is the addition of OLED taillights. A first on a BMW production model, OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) generate their light using wafer-thin layers of semi-conducting organic materials. Unlike LEDs, which emit their light in the form of points, OLEDs light up over their full surface with a homogeneous effect. It might not have a functional advantage over standard LED lights, but they certainly look cooler.
Stripped Down Interior
A quick look inside the M4 GTS and you will immediately notice why this car is meant for the track. The GTS features a real roll cage in some markets, with the faux, half cage reserved for the North American markets. Furthermore, the divider between the cabin and the trunk is made from fiberglass. The sound proofing material was also removed, all with one goal: to reduce weight. Next, the door panels were replaced with the same carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic in the i3 electric car. Additional weight-saving measures include a full titanium exhaust system that’s 20 percent lighter than the normal exhaust.
Yet, the BMW M4 GTS is still a quite heavy car, by 2016 standards. It weighs in at 3,160 lbs, just slightly lighter than the M4 Competition. A mark of its track capabilities is the manually-adjusted three-way suspension. Built by KW, the adjustable suspension allows you to raise or lower the suspension, while also adjusting the rebound damping. In an official document, BMW says that there are 16 clicks in the rebound phase, 14 clicks for high-speed compression, and six clicks for low-speed.
Downforce was also high on the list of creating a proper track weapon. The carbon fiber splitter and wing are multiway adjustable and provide additional downforce: 63 pounds up front and 210 pounds at the rear at 186 mph.
Visually, the BMW M4 GTS is a stunning sportscar. Even though I drove more expensive BMWs in Monterey – like a $150,000 M8 Gran Coupe Urban Green – it was the M4 GTS that attracted the most eyeballs. Aside from the usual thumbs up, bystanders would stop me to ask about the car and take photos. And keep in mind, this is during Monterey Car Week where a Ferrari or a Lamborghini is just as common as a Yellow Cab.
Of course, I wish that I could have taken the M4 GTS on the iconic corkscrew which was just miles away. But unfortunately, I had to resume to daily driving the GTS on the beautiful and curvy roads around Pebble Beach. Not the ideal setup for a track-focused BMW. And this is where the M4 GTS is an odd car. Its suspension is extremely harsh on normal roads and even harsher at every speed bump. The cabin is extremely noisy, yet that’s a great thing if you plan to hear that lovely S55 sound.
Sharp Steering, Stiff Suspension
The steering is very direct with tons of road feedback, but it doesn’t beg for a normal daily driving scenario. At the same time, when pushed, the M4 GTS is a playful machine, with predictable and progressive driving dynamics. It is quite balanced, thanks to its perfect weight distribution and low center of gravity, with a tight composure and virtually no body-roll. In some ways, it reminded me of my 1M Coupe, another raw BMW but geared more towards daily driving.
Compared to the normal M4, the M4 GTS engine delivers a 16% higher output at 6250 rpm vs 5500 rpm. Maximum torque is also 10% higher, but available on a narrower engine speed range (4000-5500 rpm whereas the M4 peak torque is fully available under the driver’s left foot between 1850 and 5500 rpm). But these improvements are hardly felt during normal driving. Sure, the engine is more responsive, the throttle is sharper, but in the end, the delta will be more obvious on the track.
As I increase the pace on some of the backgrounds, the tires get grippier while the steering is quicker and more precise. At higher speeds, I appreciate the stiffer suspension a bit more, while the rear differential output shafts and the Active M differential work together to allow for some fun tailspin, without throwing me off the road.
In the end, the BMW M4 GTS will always be happier on the track and it’s where it shines best. But it was still fun to sample one of the most raw products produced by BMW in the last 20 years. I’m happy I was able to cross this off my Bucket List.
BMW M4 GTS Review
- Raw Driving Experience
- Sharp Steering
- Water Injection
- Not for daily driving
- No real cage in the US
- Heavy 666M wheels