Monday, 17 May 2010

Driven - BMW M3 GTP

True performance is a surreal and cerebral thing. The BMW M3 GTP accelerates from a standstill to 60mph in 4.6 seconds, although it doesn't initially feel that quick. It almost feels hesitant lower down in the rev range, with the power beginning to surge as the M3 fills its lungs beyond the 4,000rpm mark. The apocalyptic crescendo from the exhausts complements the growing thrust as you find yourself increasingly pinned into your lightweight race seat, the scenery becoming distinctly frilly at the edges. This is where the true power lies, a multi-sensory battery of motion daring your senses to keep up. And then, at 8,500rpm, you flick the right-hand paddle to flip up a gear and do it all over again.

It really is biblically quick, this car.

Its 4.0-litre V8 throws 420bhp through the rear wheels. You'd expect this to make it a bit twitchy in the corners, but it behaves impeccably - it's never anything but supremely planted, compliant and willing. Everything you tell it to do, it does with extraordinary enthusiasm - the steering is so feelsome in its feedback that you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was wholly unassisted, while the nose is beautifully plantable throught the corners. You just point and shoot - even the most ham-fisted amateur could look good driving this car. (See the video below, where your very own SuckSqueezeBangBlow amateur had a go at Bedford Autodrome's South Circuit. No laughing, please.)

Everything about the car is as Teutonically efficient as you'd expect: the fade-resistant brakes shear off speed with confidence-inspiring potency, the seven-speed paddle-shift 'box shuffles the cogs with an immediacy that makes a 911 look woefully archaic, and the damping has a feeling of ultimate precision to it, allowing the bare minimum of bodyroll simply to remind you where the corners are. The front end grip acts in conjunction with just a little playfulness from the rear - although it isn't too playful, the aero package doing an admirable job of keeping the rear planted, unlike the same wing would do on the back of that Civic in your local Sainsbury's car park.

It's big, brutal, massively powerful and really quite angry-sounding... yet it's a bit of a pussycat on track. Sure, it'll chew you up and spit you out if you don't respect it, but if you treat it like a friend you'll find its abilities inspire you to push yourself further, harder, faster, until you feel like a driving superhero. Even if, like me, you're actually a bit rubbish, the M3 GTP will make you look good.

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