First Drive Twofer: Porsche 911 GT2 RS and BMW M3 GTS

Greg Pajo

While early M3 generations celebrated power oversteer for the sake of unbridled hooliganism, the E46-chassis, the current E91-edition, and in particular the new GTS perform a much more professional and sophisticated fusion of stick and slide. Instead of being all over the place all the time, the roadholding of the GTS seems to be guided by an invisible induction loop, grip appears to be defined by a moving magnetic field, and directional stability has that unerring hypnotic touch. I must have spent about ten laps marveling at how the incredible performance can be intuitively tweaked by steering, throttle, and brakes. For the following ten laps, I was knocking on fate's door by running very wide through the second-gear U-shaped turns and a little wide over the softly curved curbs at the exits of faster corners. Then it was back to tightening and polishing the line, playing with camber changes and the variably grippy parts of the track, where cocky excess torque can be your impromptu ticket from drama to trauma. It always pays to remember that no runoff area is big enough to hide your broken ego ...

The M3 GTS is fitted with a stiffened suspension, matte-black Y-spoke rims shod with 255/35YR-19 Pirellis in front and 285/30YR-19 Cup tires in the back, an exhaust made of titanium, larger-diameter high-performance brakes, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with whiplash action thanks to a momentary power boost during full-throttle upshifts. You can store your favorite setup via the MDM button, which no longer needs to be reprogrammed after the engine has been turned off. My preferred mix of adrenalin, testosterone, and Shell V-Power is the second-fastest shift speed, stability control off, and both windows halfway open for a sufficiently rich mixture of air and noise. Although a manual transmission is inherently more involving, the GTS's dual-clutch box is quantifiably slicker and quicker, period. It would be an even more functional tool if the paddles were attached to the steering column and not to the wheel itself. Although the throttle response is about as greedy as a piranha that smells blood, the shift action is still smooth enough to pardon even emergency midcorner downshifts.

Solid chassis and suspension control is essential for a car like this, and so are reassuring brakes and haptic steering. The M3 GTS does without the usual compound rotors. Although this solution may appear low-tech these days, the mix of cast-iron discs and aluminum pads connected via steel pins is just as powerful and progressive. Easy to modulate and relatively effortless, the system blends strong initial bite with plenty of staying power. But the plum in this Bavarian fruit cocktail is once again the hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering, which easily outshines those of its electrically operated counterparts. Quite meaty around the straight-ahead position, the direction-finder is sharp and quick, accurate and responsive, always connected, rarely underdamped, and never ever ambiguous. Holding a slide with the fat-rimmed wheel and supporting that vital right-foot-and-both-arms intralink is a special talent of this remarkable BMW.

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