The front end cuts into a bend more decisively now, wheels following your fingertips, while the back end can be coaxed out of line just as easily as you'd expect from 475 horses. Driven within its limits, the Schnitzer ACS3 offers prodigious grip from Michelin Pole Position 2 tires clothing 20-inch forged wheels front and rear. The initial tendency toward understeer and uncertainty is gone and the car just cuts in.
BMW's traction control system remains relatively unaffected by the shenanigans going on under the hood, so the car will head through any bend as tight or loose as you want.
Visually, the M3 was brave in the first place, so Schnitzer has limited itself to a carbon front lip spoiler, a rear spoiler, diffuser mirror covers, and the rather snazzy vitro labels for the side panels. That organic, muscular plastic patch at the bottom right changes the whole look and gives the design a start.
Inside, it comes with the usual baubles: kickplates, drilled pedals, gear lever, and a fair helping of carbon fiber on the sport steering wheel. The M Drive wheel also comes with its own touch, a five-spoke cover resembling the wheels themselves, which I have to confess you could cope without.
I could leave the new vents in the bonnet, too, but the diffuser, side skirts, roof and lip spoilers, and Type V wheels all give the car a finishing edge that the more androgynous E92 couldn't quite manage, even in pumped-up M3 form.
Schnitzer has gone much further with this chassis, fitting the M5's five-liter V10 and then converting that to run on LPG. But this is the honed and sharpened V8 M3 conversion that will form the volume sales, and it's as good as any car on the road.
The E92 has progressed so far beyond the realm of the original E30 M3 that it has almost taken the place of the old M5 in style and become a fire-breathing luxury saloon, albeit with a wicked bad look straight from the factory. Schnitzer simply gave the new car a fighting chance against its bigger brothers, and made a way more entertaining car in the process.
AC Schnitzer ACS3
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. ACS sport exhaust, intake and software.
ACS/Bilstein springs and dampers
*Wheels and Tires
ACS Type V, 10x20 (f), 9x20 (r)Michelin Pole Position 2265/30 (f), 295/25 (r)
Carbon front lip, rear spoiler, mirror covers
ACS sill plates, drilled pedals, sport steering wheel
Peak Power: 475 hp0-60 mph: 4.8 sec.*AC Schnitzer data
Claus Ettensberger Corp.