Everyone knows the M3 raised the bar in the overpowered junior executive market. And without the unwelcome bells and whistles that dominate its big brother M5's driving experience, the only downside was that it still lost out to the bigger Bimmers in the game of boardroom Top Trumps. With the ACS3 Sport, though, Schnitzer has fixed that.
Because with a few subtle tweaks they have produced the 475-hp, torque-driven missile that could just be the logical alternative for the keen enthusiast who doesn't equate high technology with driving fun.
Quote all the figures you like about gearchange speeds, notional seconds shaved off a lap of the Nrburgring, 375-way adjustability and more. It doesn't change the fact that SMG is nowhere near as entertaining as the perfect blend of throttle, clutch and gearstick and one good suspension setup is more than enough. Add the fact that the M3 is smaller, more chuckable and more entertaining than its bigger brothers, and this suddenly becomes a performance bargain.
There are still plenty of gadgets in the M3, but unlike the techno-fests higher up the price range these actually feel plugged in to the driver's seat. And with a performance kit consisting of a new stainless steel exhaust, new intake, and an engine remap, the Aachen firm has pulled out another 55 hp from the 4.0-liter V8. So even though they don't claim it's any faster than the standard car's 0-to-60 dash of 4.8 seconds that comes with all the sincerity of a pre-election promise. It's faster throughout the range and comes with a 330 km/h (205 mph) clock and no limiter. It near as makes no difference a 200-mph car. There's nowhere you'll miss that extra 5 mph; there isn't even a circuit where it will make a blind bit of difference. You'd need an airport runway and even then it would be close.
The added punch comes the whole way through the rev range with this car feeling faster than the figures suggest, thanks to the dirty, guttural bassline courtesy of the V8 and Schnitzer's own sport exhaust. Schnitzer went to work on the suspension, too, which was perhaps a little too clever for its own good and left the driver oddly out of touch with the goings-on at the front wheels. Electronic Damper Settings and all that jazz are all well and good and the hydraulic steering is a nod in the direction of driving feel, but it's not the borderline race car that first gave the M3 its name. Even the E46 felt more direct, more natural at the helm.
Once pitched into slides, the E92 can hang all day, but it doesn't cut as keenly as previous generations due in part to the constant maturation of the car, the price and the target customer who demands a certain level of ride comfort in his 414-hp road warrior. That left a car that took several bites to turn into a bend.
Not any more. With the short handling circuit laid on at Mendig we found a fluid, complete M3 that inevitably edged back toward the performance side. The racing suspension was developed on the Nordschleife that lies just down the road from Schnitzer's Aachen base. It's fully adjustable too.
Other tuners have done a similar job, but Schnitzer is widely regarded as the benchmark thanks to three decades of motorsport dominance as the in-house race team. Schnitzer was largely responsible for the dominant streak running through the 3 Series' history and it's fair to say they know about performance parts-and a global dealer network now shifts them by the crateload.
Schnitzer doesn't make everything, instead working with suppliers like Bilstein and Remus, as well as BMW's bodywork supplier, to provide the best of the best at every stage. The end result is the very best materials assembled and set up by a race team-it was never going to be found wanting, now was it?