Having the classic engine-up-front-driving-the-rear layout is always a hoot for canyon carving and sideways driving, though it might not be the best thing when traction is all-important. For that reason, many would assume that the E92 M3—which is getting a little long in the tooth—would be absolutely clobbered by a new GT3 RS on the Nurburgring. But they’d be wrong.
Modifications help level the playing field, of course, but this French-tuned M3 is far from a mere road car with a few casual bolt-ons for track work. It’s at a major disadvantage with a clutch-and-stick transmission, but the M3 compensates with a curb weight of just 2,900 pounds thanks to a strict diet of coffee and cigarettes. More of an athlete without the heft of a grand tourer, the BMW stands a chance at outrunning the 911.
An M3 GT4 wing and front splitter give the car a little aero grip, which it needs to compete with the GT3 RS’ advertised 728 pounds of downforce—most of which is available at a realistic 95 mph. The lightened M3 compensates with KW V3 coilovers, but it’s still got a lot to do if it wants to keep up with one of the best sports cars on sale today.
It might not have the engine sitting over the rear wheels, but the M3 has a nifty differential and BBS RC301 10×18″ ET25 wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cups, so it can put down the power. In fact, the V8’s output is bumped slightly thanks to an Akrapovic exhaust, a carbon airbox, SCHRICK 292° cams, and a reprogrammed ECU. Now, the svelte M3 boasts 500 horsepower, and it might even have the Porsche beaten in the sound department.
That 911, with its marvelous gearbox and incomparable traction, does seem to have a slight edge at lower revs and out of slower corners, but the superior power-to-weight of the BMW allows it to claw back as the speeds increase. It’s also very stable at speed—observe how planted the M3 is at 4:35 as it harries the composed and sublimely speedy Porsche. It also seems to be minimally deflected by surface changes which catch out the Porsche slightly.
However, the BMW has a few flaws of its own. Curbs seem to hinder the Beemer’s progress when the Porsche looks poised, and the BMW also suffers from a touch of understeer at 5:12, though the GT3 might have starved the BMW of clean air for downforce. The two are closely matched, and the Porsche might have the upper hand in certain sections of the track, but the BMW can keep in touch with a committed driver and that low-speed nimbleness and agility. Plus, the M3’s owner, even after all the modifying, has a little extra in his pocket for track fees.