BimmerFile Review: BMW M3 CRT

Officially it ‘s called the BMW M3 CRT with CRT representing Carbon Racing Technologies. But we ‘ll call it the best thing since sliced bread. The first thing that resonates with us is that BMW created the ultimate enthusiasts sedan with the CRT- taking the fabulous E90 M3 four door and dialing it up a couple notches. The practicality of a four door with the brazen attitude of the track prepped M3 GTS sans roll cage. BMW M has created a car that will give four grown adults the roller coaster ride of their lives.

Insiders tip us to the M3 CRT and M3 GTS limited edition runs (via BMW Individual and M) add up to what this generation ‘s M3 CSL would have been if the BMW AG board had approved it for production and the economy wasn ‘t in dire straits. The CRT was limited to 67 units all spec ‘d identically and, as you can imagine, sold quickly. Exclusive Frozen Polar Silver metallic exterior paint (matte) combined with Melbourne Red metallic applications and exposed Carbon Fiber set the tone on the outside.

Carbon Racing Technologies

The real story with this model is the weight savings thanks to Carbon Fiber. BMW M used this model to demonstrate new techniques it can now use in making vehicles lighter thanks in no small part the BMWi vehicles which will hit the market in less than a year. The hood on the M3 CRT consists of two carbon-fiber sheets encasing an aramid composite honeycomb for added rigidity. As a result, it has the strength of a traditional steel hood with just a quarter of the weight. Compared to a normal M3’s aluminum stamping, the weight is halved.

Inside the cabin, the front bucket seats use the basically the same process and therefore benefit from similar weight savings. The result is a car that tips the scales at just 3483 pounds despite a long list of standard equipment. Some equipment it includes are: a dual-clutch transmission, navigation, the BMW Individual audio system, and parking sensors. BMW says that, while the official weight savings over a typical M3 is 100 pounds, if all this equipment is considered, the real savings is well over 150 pounds. With the car’s added horsepower, the diet is good for a ratio of 7.7 pounds for each horse to carry on its back, an improvement of about one pound over the regular M3 sedan.

There are additional Carbon Fiber bits for aero; a rear lip spoiler and another on the front bumper to aid in down force and decrease weight over the stock pieces. When reading “rumors ” of BMW M making the next M3 lighter it should come as no surprise. BMW M has already shown their hand as to what they are capable of doing in the future.

Drivetrain

Fire breathing dragon comes to mind when the exhaust begins to growl, the titanium cans pinging from heat and the hand built 4.4l V8 guzzling gas. The S65 is worked over from its base capacity of 4l in the M3 CRT, the M3 GTS and the Z4 GT3. The engine is so good that BMW Motorsport just drops it right in to those Z4s and they are off to the races. It pumps out a total of 450 HP at 8,300 rpm and a peak torque of 324 lbs-ft at 3,750 rpm. BMW reports its 0-60 time as 4.4 seconds, that is conservative- we ‘d bet on four flat with launch control doing its part.

Qualitatively there is little difference between the 4.4l and the 4.0l engines. They are both rev happy, engaging and have an unmistakable aural quality. The former just has more of everything. It ‘s like ordering the larger glass of your favorite beer- you just get more of the goodness. Gas mileage is on the other hand even worse, it is entirely possible to get single digits around town with this baby if you are enjoying it a little too much. That said, it ‘s worth using up dead dinosaur for even just the sound.

The one and only transmission is the seven-speed M DCT with Drivelogic. No, a manual is not warranted- this car is a track machine for turning out fast laps and still have some semblance of day to day drivability. The DCT also allows an uninterrupted flow of power through gear changes to deliver ridiculous acceleration. Its shift characteristics have been tuned specially for the engine powering the BMW M3 CRT and may be the most aggressive we have ever experienced from BMW.

Handling/Brakes

More impressive than the engine is the handling and braking. Cornering on rails, stopping at the drop of hat- all those comparatives people use to describe the cream of the crop of sports cars fit with this sedan. Cornering is precise and braking is firm with loads of pedal feedback. For the street the suspension setup of coil overs with adjustable camber plates can be a bit jarring and overly aggressive on Straßenschaden (damaged roads) but is otherwise money in the bank. The brakes may squeal and grind a bit more than mainstream customers may like but those are sacrifices that we ‘d make every morning as the good far outweighs those little niggles.

Providing the clamping power are special six piston compound construction fixed calipers designed to save weight. The vented brake discs measure 378 x 32 millimeters at the front axle and 380 x 28 millimeters at the rear, stainless steel braided lines, a specially tuned DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system – including ABS and M Dynamic Mode (MDM) assist in slowing this ultimate driving machine down.

Like the M3 GTS and the just released M6, the rear subframe is bolted to the chassis, making it rigid and increasing cornering ability. The coil overs can be adjusted at each corner for dampening and rebound- We were told the car was setup in the middle of the range, not full on track prep and not in comfy cozy mode but it felt about right considering what this car is designed to do. Noting that the wheels and tires are the same size and spec as those in the M3 Competition pack we were more than surprised how much stick the car had on the desolate backroads in the Eiffel region of Germany. Not by mistake, we drove the same roads the car was tested on by the M engineers during development.

Interior

Could more weight have been shaved on the interior? Yes, but the final product is comfortable, luxurious and gorgeous. The show stoppers are of course the seats. Carbon fiber buckets with some of the deepest bolstering we have ever seen off the track. In the rear, the center seat was sacrificed to introduce rear passengers to increased g-forces thanks to side bolsters.

Equipped with Navigation and other creature comforts the CRT is as much of a daily driver as a track machine. Packaged with exclusive door sill strips, door panels and dash trim in woven aluminum (like stainless steel brake lines) the interior is simply stunning. Completing the distinctive look inside the high-performance sedan are the Alcantara-covered M steering wheel and special Sakhir Orange and Black leather for the front and rear seats.

The Alcanatara wheel would be the only change we ‘d make- maybe an M Performance square bottom wheel with a Sakhir Orange stripe but otherwise it is flawless as long as you do not need to adjust the seat height upwards.

Performance

It ‘s tough to judge how fast a car really is until you look at hard numbers but this felt like the fastest production BMW we ‘d ever had the pleasure of piloting. Well, the numbers say that our sense was right. In December 2011, German magazine Autobild took all of the current BMW M models and tested them on the Sachsenring circuit in Germany. To no surprise the fastest model turned out to be the M3 CRT sedan.

In fact, according to Autobild, not only was it the fastest from all the models tested, it was also the fastest M Car they have ever tested on the Sachsenring. The M3 CRT lapped the circuit in 1:38.87. We talked with the author of that test and he felt with more seat time in the CRT the time could have even been quicker because car was such a performance surprise that it may not have been fully pushed to its limits.

Conclusion

We had held the BMW M3 CRT in high regards because of how it looked on paper. The new truth is that we didn ‘t have it high enough. The concept of more power and less weight is one that usually impacts creature comforts and the ability to drive on the street. While there are some sacrifices with the CRT in terms of ride comfort the overwhelming advantage of the car speaks volumes about what BMW M is capable of when there isn ‘t mass appeal to be considered.

The CRT may never be fully appreciated by enthusiasts because of the limited number of cars produced but the idea of a true track ready vehicle for a driver and three passengers is something for the ages- who needs the ‘Ring taxi when there is the CRT?

Simply put- this is the best car M has produced in terms of advances in technology and the actual performance.

If you ‘re wondering, one CRT was unofficially imported stateside and makes its home in Texas. Call us jealous.

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  • D A 7

    Thanks for the review, this looks like a fantastic car.   I love those seats!

  • IMFan

    Thinking about the CRT a bit more- 450hp and about 150 lbs. less weight should foreshadow the 2014 F80 M3. Here’s to what the future holds in about a years time this may no longer be the fastest M3.

  • OG_Amer

    One note regarding this line:

    “The S65 is worked over from its base capacity of 4l in the M3 CRT, the M3 GTS and the Z4 GT3. The engine is so good that BMW Motorsport just drops it right in to those Z4s and they are off to the races.” The Z4 GT3 is powered by the P65, not the S65. Same displacement as 4.4L S65 in the CRT and GTS, but stronger internals and a flatplane crank shaft for a completely different engine character and an output of over 500HP. To say that it’s the same engine is inaccurate.  At any rate, I love the CRT, and wish BMW would have brought it out in the US. It would be sitting in my driveway instead of the E92M.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      From what I was told it is not the P65 as that would not fit in GT3 guidelines and that the car just uses different oiling, obviously racing fuel and a modified DME but the engine is not touched internally. I am seeking further clarification from BMW MOTORSPORT- but if you look on their website they do not call it the P65 like they do for the M3 GT cars. 

      • OG_Amer

        Do let me know what BMW says. From doing a quick search online, it appears that it is the P65. Additionally, it looks like the engine started out as a 4.0L cranking out 480HP and then was switched to the 4.4L variant to produce 505HP after the development of the 4.4L S65 for the GTS and CRT.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          Not a “P65″, reconfirmed. 

  • David

    “The result is a car that tips the scales at just 3483 pounds…” While I admire the 3-series (Wife drives an E90 sedan, Son just acquired a mint E36 328is coupe) and respect the glorious V8 engine in the current M3, I have a hard time taking comfort in any sentence referring to a 3-series as “just” 3483 pounds.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      You can’t compare an E36 to an E90 on many levels, the safety, luxury, size etc are on different levels. The CRT also adds a whole lot to the E90 while shaving off weight which is the part that dictates the “just”. Add all those features to any car and you usually will add weight as everything is bigger and beefier. Bonus is the car will easily do 180mph and is stable and feels safe.

      That e36 had 190hp and weighed in at 3100 lbs. which is a measly 16.3 lbs /hp, sure it handles well but it is not quick and doesn’t have much in terms of modern safety and tech. 

      the CRT is 7.7 lbs/ hp – has integrated Nav, a real stereo , larger wheels, brakes, 4 doors, much more safety- aero and a boat load more than the E36 in every way. Plus it will out handle it hands down.

      I’d take the 400lbs over the E36 every day of the week for the simple knowledge of knowing that I can A) avoid getting hit by an SUV and B) If I am hit by an SUV I have a chance of living.  

      • David

        I hear what you are saying and agree with there being no comparison. My post was more of a lament that nearly all refreshes or generation changes end up in more weight and more “required” safety equipment. Great track or autobahn car for the well heeled!

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          I can’t wait for CF to become mainstream, then engines can be downsized and cars will weigh less and be more nimble with all the current (and future) safety and gadgets.

          • Adam

            Agree’d, from what I gather though we need to wait till the whole next crop of cars come along for CF to start showing in force.  I’m all in though.