Progress re­port

From the in­fa­mous Bat­mo­bile to the M4 GTS, we look at the diet end of Beemer per­for­mance cars

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS - ROWAN HORNCASTLE

In 1972, ex-Porsche works driver and Ford’s for­mer rac­ing man­ager Jochen Neer­pasch – plus a few other brainy peo­ple – had one in­ten­tion: to make fast BMWs.

Over a few steins, they bashed their big fore­heads to­gether un­til some en­gi­neer­ing magic spilled out. It ar­rived as a sin­gle let­ter: ‘M’.

This gang were the found­ing fa­thers of BMW Mo­tor­sport GmbH, a go-faster di­vi­sion that’s gone on to fll tro­phy cab­i­nets with umpteen race wins and birth some of the coolest, most iconic road cars ever.

But be­fore M could go rac­ing, it needed to jump through some le­gal hoops. The com­pany needed to make a ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial E9 that su­per­seded the CS, or Coupe Sport. The 3.0 CSL was the re­sult.

If you’re not fuent in BMW, you’d as­sume “L” would mean “long” as for most other mak­ers, but ac­tu­ally it’s “le­icht”, or light. And the CSL’s diet was com­pre­hen­sive.

The steel used for the pan­els was thin­ner gauge, and the doors, bon­net and bootlid were all formed from alu­minium. The win­dow glass

was swapped for Per­spex, and most of the trim and sound­proofng was sim­ply chucked in the bin.

But peo­ple don’t re­mem­ber the 3.0 CSL for its lack of weight. They re­mem­ber the way it looked. The fnal 3.0 CSLs to be ho­molo­gated had a – now in­fa­mous – il­le­gal aero pack­age that was hand­ily left in the boot for you to screw on your­self.

Thanks to a huge air dam, blades run­ning down the front wings, and not one, but two rear spoil­ers it be­came known (un­of­cially) as BMW’s “Bat­mo­bile”.

It’s as in­ter­est­ing to drive as it is to look at. But not for the rea­sons you’d think. Crazy aero and de­cals de­not­ing light­ness of­ten de­fault your brain to think a car is com­pro­mised and hard­core. Not the Bat­mo­bile.

The en­gine doesn’t mind be­ing revved out – and sounds good for it – but with the way­ward han­dling, un­com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing and ageing rub­ber, it’s best mooching along as you soak up the world through the four pil­lar­less win­dows.

Same can’t be said for its mod­ern­day in­car­na­tion: the M4 GTS.

Even though the acro­nym may be difer­ent, the GTS takes the same light­weight prin­ci­ples of the CSL but now re­sides in the land of hard­core.

With a turbo 6cyl en­gine (with wa­ter in­jec­tion to con­dense the air for more boost) pump­ing out 493bhp and 442lb ft, and RWD, the GTS isn’t quite the cruiser. The roll cage, fre ex­tin­guisher, ad­justable sus­pen­sion, ad­justable aero ap­pendages, car­bon body pan­els, straps for door han­dles, McFlurry cupholder-style door cards and orange paint are a fair warn­ing that this is to be han­dled with care.

In the dry, the GTS has crisp and de­li­cious front end and a rear that bon­fres its tyres. In the wet, it’s a maniac. Snappy, shouty with wild Hadouken booms from the Akrapovič ex­haust, you re­ally need your wits about you.

We can’t help but think it’d be bet­ter for more Bat­mo­bile in­jec­tion rather than wa­ter. Re­mem­ber the BMW 3.0 CSL Hom­mage R con­cept from a few years ago? That’s the mod­ern-day Bat­mo­bile we re­ally want. So go on, BMW, make it a re­al­ity.

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