PORT ELIZABETH – BMW has made something of a habit of conjuring up limited-edition models that resonate with aficionados of the Bavarian brand. These sought-after special editions are generally all spoken for before they even set a tyre on our shores, with a handful invariably later landing up on the second-hand market at frankly obscene prices.
The latest in a long line of veritable collectors’ items from the 101-year-old automaker? The BMW M4 DTM Champion Edition you see here, conceived as a respectful nod in the direction of BMW Motorsport works driver Marco Wittmann, who snatched his second DTM driver’s title in the 2016 season finale at the Hockenheimring.
Just 15 of the 200-unit production run have been set aside for South Africa, and we find ourselves behind the Alcantara-clad wheel of one (sorry, sir, it’s been sold, too) at Aldo Scribante race circuit on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. A fitting venue to be sampling something with proper motorsport roots.
Setting itself apart
You see, the bewinged DTM Champion Edition isn’t a mere stickers-and-plaque job. No, this rather distinctive model gains more under-bonnet muscle, additional DTM-style foiling (including so-called “aero flicks” sited ahead of the front wheel arches), swathes of exposed carbon-fibre and individually adjustable three-way coilover suspension. Oh, and the obligatory stickers. Lots of them.
In fact, it’s based largely on the M4 GTS – a highly visceral machine that came close to winning the 2017 iteration of CAR magazine’s annual shootout – and that means it employs a nifty water injection system boosting the standard M4’s turbocharged 3,0-litre inline-six’s peak outputs some 51 kW to 368 kW and 50 N.m to 600 N.m.
The result is a claimed zero to 100 km/h sprint time of just 3,8 seconds – a figure beaten in-house by only the V12-powered M760Li, albeit by just one-tenth – with each upshift from the seven-speed dual-clutch (BMW now longer offers the M3 and M4 in manual locally due to a lack of demand) accompanied by a lively kick in the back. Hardcore this thing most certainly is.
Diving into the first of the 2,48 km track’s handful of deceptively tight corners reveals a razor-sharp turn-in, oodles of front-end grip (hat-tip to the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance mixed-size rubber) and a distinct absence of body roll. The six-pot delivers a surge of mid-range grunt (and the exhaust a raspier note), but will gladly rev through to its 7 600 r/min redline, while the standard carbon-ceramic brakes serve up progressive bite and consistent stopping power.
GTS twin … almost
In short, it’s raw, utterly engaging and a little jittery over less-than-perfect surfaces. Just as you might expect a touring car racer to be, then. And just like the GTS. In fact, the only real differences between the DTM-badged model and the GTS are that the former features a fixed carbon-fibre rear wing (the one on the GTS is adjustable), a non-adjustable front splitter (the GTS version can be manually extended and retracted) and sticker-bombed Alpine White paintwork. And, yes, the roll-cage, lack of rear seats and myriad weight-saving measures (in spite of standard equipment such as a navigation system, adaptive LED headlamps and parking sensors) have been carried over.
So, as expected, the raucous, two-seater DTM Champion Edition is right at home on a circuit. But this track toy doesn’t come cheap. In fact, its R2 309 006 price-tag places it right at the summit of the M4 food chain – above the standard model, Competition variant and soon-to-arrive CS derivative – and fittingly on par with its GTS twin. Whether it’s worth a whopping R1 051 570 more than the standard version of the coupé is an entirely different question.
Ultimately, though, the DTM Champion Edition is not something you’d likely buy to drive every day, since a great deal of sacrifice comes with its inherent edginess. Still, this special edition is as radical an M4 you can buy this side of the GT4 racer. If you could buy it, that is…
Price:R2 309 006
Engine:3,0-litre, inline-six, turbocharged petrol (with water injection)
Power:368 kW at 6 250 r/min
Torque:600 N.m at 4 000-5 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:3,8 secs
Top Speed:305 km/h
Fuel Consumption:8,5 L/100 km
Transmission:Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Maintenance Plan:5-year/100 000 km