A stack of tires sits in the corner and there are broken down bodies of BMWs past and present everywhere. It would be a shame, but this is no graveyard, it’s the headquarters of Manhart Racing and each and every one of the sorry BMWs is the precursor to a brighter, better future. Like the 707bhp V8 R Biturbo we’re here to drive.
Gunther Manhart’s operation is a recent addition to the world of front-line tuning, but his workshop in Geilenkirchen has been open since 1986 and he is responsible for a good few cars that have eventually surfaced with another badge on the hood. He also spent more than a few years developing engines for BMW in house.
Now, though, Manhart has gone mainstream. It’s still a small outfit Christian Erfurt is the marketing man when he’s not fixing the electronicsbut then it’s a firm that is already punching well above its weight.
M5-powered E30s and V10-powered E90 Tourings have become his calling card. In the corner of the workshop there’s even a 2002tii being measured up for an E92 M3 powerplant. But that’s a story for another day, and an airfield.
We’re here because of the BMW M3 with the entire drivetrain and transmission from an X6 M crowbarred under the hood. And that makes it more than a car. It’s a nod to the future of turbo-powered BMW M cars and what will happen when the tuners get hold of them. Long story short, it’s going to get crazy.
There’s an animalistic way in which the car scrabbles off the line like a greyhound on lino. It doesn’t just get off the line, it tears up the road as it blasts through 62 mph in 3.6 seconds with the tires flailing helplessly and the whole rear end wobbling like a, erm, bigger lady jogging. It could be faster, but it’s all about getting that power down.
Now comes the weird bit. Because this is a full drivetrain transplant I’m riding an eight-speed-automatic M3, which is a concept I struggle with, and though it comes with paddle shifters just as a DCT would, I soon realize there’s no point messing with them.
That eighth ratio is just enough to confuse me, and to be honest, the car seems to understand its powerband far better than I do. So after a few hopeless grabs at the shifters I decide to focus on the horizon that seems to rush up and head butt the windscreen with unreasonable speed on anything approaching a straight. It’s a madhouse in there and the practicality side of the four-seat supercar is just gone.
It’s a thrill machine now, nothing more, so with the logical side of the brain engaged you may as well get a lightweight Lotus or even an Ariel Atom instead. But some people just want the ultimate BMW, and this is it.
In full auto it’s scary fast, chirping the tires with each upchange as the car snarls towards world’s end.
The seductive overture of turbo whine and wastegates flushing as the next of the eight gears slots home adds to the violent crescendo. Some will always prefer the naturally aspirated V10 that is soon to be consigned to history, but then that’s progress, and you’d never get this power from that engine without strapping on a blower in any case.
Switch to Sport mode and it opens up a whole new can of crazy. There are quicker cars in this world, but this one feels like a great white shark rodeoone wrong move and it could throw you off, turn around and bite you in half. And even when I’m on the throttle I’m always a heartbeat away from stabbing the brake pedal and engaging the monster six-piston and 395mm rotor brake assemblies, also taken from the X6 M.