Would you believe that, for about 25 bucks, you can drive onto one of the world's most famous racing circuits? It's true. Drive up in anything (car, motorcycle, bus or truck), pay the guy in the little kiosk, and you can get on the Nrburgring, a 14.2-mile stretch of German pavement cutting through thick, primeval forest.
It's no wonder Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW test here, as the track's challenging corners (about 100) and substantial elevation changes push man and machine to the very limit. Pulling a fast time on the Nrburgring carries enormous prestige. It also sells cars.
BMW has spent thousands of hours on the 'Ring, many of them dedicated to the development of the M Coupe, a vehicle designed by car engineers for car engineers. In essence, the M Coupe was designed for the Nrburgring, making it one of the world's most capable performance vehicles.
Our first foray is made in BMW 'taxis'-specially prepped M5s piloted by skilled drivers. These taxi drivers are unbelievably fast; that's what several thousand laps of a track can do.
Although we have nowhere near their experience, we do have the AC Schnitzer Profile, a unique take on BMW's M Coupe.
The Profile wears a pronounced ACS aerodynamic kit, which essentially re-bodies the coupe's lower half with front and rear bumpers, enlarged fenders and lower side skirts. The rear end wears a well-integrated wing, although the upper roof wing looks somewhat lost. BMW 507-style gill vents flank each front fender, while the orange/white paint job resembles the world's fastest Dreamsicle.
Understated it's not. It attracts attention just sitting on the side of the road. Like its appearance, the Profile has an outspoken voice, its rich baritone roar echoes in the morning air. And that's just at idle. The ticket-taker eyes us suspiciously and points to the sign indicating racing activities and decibel levels. Though aggressive, the Profile's exhaust note is well within limits (though its appearance begs to prove otherwise), like a high-performance motorcycle.
The Profile feels snappier than a standard M Coupe, thanks to its tighter 3.91:1 gear ratio. The ACS short shift kit makes it seem all the quicker. The Profile (and all M Coupes, for that matter) are demanding cars. In stock trim, the M Coupe has no trouble overpowering the rear tires and power-sliding through corners. In this car, it's even easier, as its engine has been massaged with the ACS 'Active Breathing' intake and performance software good for 350 hp. Despite its sizable Michelin Pilot Sport rubber (235/30 and 295/25), on ACS 9x20/10x20 Type V wheels, the Profile still claws for traction.
It's a good thing we're buckled into the ACS racing seats as the suspension is as close to race-spec as we've ever experienced. Moreover, the 'Ring is not perfectly smooth, not by a long shot. Several times we go on two wheels, and a few times we're totally airborne. At speed, the entire course is utter madness, an adrenaline junkie's dream come true. Here's what the first few minutes are like:
First gear. We position ourselves on the Dttinger Hhe, the long straight just before the start/finish line. It ends in a sharp 90-degree corner and then opens again. Second gear. Full throttle. Third gear. A sharp 90-degree left heads downward into the Hatzenbach section. Snatch fourth for a few seconds before slamming it back into third as we approach a series of quick right and left downhill bends. Wish this thing had an SMG shifter. The track is tight here and the trees seem dangerously close. A hill goes up on the right and there's only five to 10 feet between tarmac and Armco. If we lose it here, it will hurt-a lot.