In its quest to be environmentally friendly, BMW plans to convert all its M cars to turbo power. Purists mutter darkly about the end of an era and the passing of the normally aspirated engine. The next generation of the M3, M5 and M6 will be but pale imitations of the past, they say.
All it takes is one slug of supersonic travel from the 2010 Manhart Racing V8R Biturbo to blow the argument out of the water. This modified M3 from the shops of Gunther Manhart GmbH comes with the whole twin-turbo 4.4-liter drivetrain from the BMW X6 M, pretty much the engine that will power the next M5.
Gunther Manhart tells us that we have 697 horsepower (SAE net) at our disposal.
The Future Is Turbocharged
The 2010 Manhart Racing M3 V8R Biturbo is a glimpse into the future of turbocharged M cars and the performance that tuners will be able to achieve with a simple remap of the engine electronics. After all, that’s what we have here with the V8R Biturbo — an ECU remap and an exhaust system, plus sufficient cooling to keep the whole business from melting. It’s not so far removed from the 570-hp version of this engine that will power the forthcoming BMW M5.
The straight-line performance of this thing is just ridiculous. It’s not just the top speed of over 200 mph, either. This engine is insane from the moment we touch the throttle pedal. There’s a guttural roar from the exhaust and the car just bolts forward.
The V8R Biturbo actually involves a full powertrain transplant from the X6 M, so the engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. This might sound slightly wussy, but it’s not. With the automatic, the Manhart Racing M3 is scary easy to drive fast. There’s a roar and then the car just takes off to the sound of screeching rubber. Maybe you can feel a bit of a kick at 3,500 rpm as the turbos spool up, but mostly the car just leaves the vicinity, evidence of BMW’s effort to minimize turbo lag with its twin-turbo system, plus a unique X6 M exhaust manifold that muffles the roar of forced induction.
You soon get used to the seductive interplay of turbos spinning and wastegates flushing as each gear ratio engages, and the yowl of the former M5’s normally aspirated V10 seems very old-school in comparison. That’s the price of progress.
A Whole New Can of Crazy
Switch to Sport mode and it opens up a whole new can of crazy. In fact, things start to get ragged and there’s almost no time to think about changing gears with the shift paddles. It’s better to focus on the road ahead and leave the car to make the decisions on the gearbox. All this power runs through the E60 M5’s rear axle, and though there’s no containing these horses, the limited-slip differential makes a valiant attempt.
Manhart Racing tells us that the V8R Biturbo can get to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.4 seconds, but it’s still down to the traction rather than power. Drive this car with a clubfoot and it will pop the rubber before the car hits triple digits. As for the top-end speed, Gunther is looking to achieve 210 mph, but it’s the in-gear acceleration that really blows the mind.
The twin turbos just sling the car at the horizon with a tickle of the right foot. If the new BMW M5 feels even half as fast as this car, it will really be something.
Flying on the Ground
The Manhart M3 is almost certainly less tied down than the fully developed M5 will be, which is either good or bad, depending on your intellectual maturity and insurance coverage. This car is a complete roller-coaster ride, dropped to the deck with coil-over suspension and adapted to stiff antiroll bars to achieve some modicum of stability at high speed.
The overall handling balance doesn’t seem to have been upset by the powertrain transplant. Apparently the car weighs 3,417 pounds, some 200 pounds less than a stock M3. The car wriggles at the rear with the torque reaction from 697 hp, yet the nose cuts into the apex of corners on command with no sign of washing out.
Of course, even with the BMW electronics creating a safety net, you still need to moderate your throttle input as you leave the corner or the car will start sliding like a dirt-track racer. If you turned off the gadgets, the tires would probably melt.
The brakes from the X6 M sit inside the front discs, but it’s still a hell of a lot of car to rein in.
The M3 V8R Biturbo is a Sunday morning car now rather than an everyday machine, and you’d have to have the BMW Roundel tattooed on your shoulder to buy one, as it costs about $190,000, a price that can buy some serious machinery.
As for the looks, I’d do without the power bulge in the hood, but you’ll realize it’s a necessary evil as soon as you see the complex engine installation beneath. The new trunk lid incorporating a flipped-up lip spoiler is discreet in comparison, and the rest of the aesthetic work is a montage created from catalogs of other tuners.
The front splitter comes from AC Schnitzer and the wheels are from Breyton. The branding from Manhart Racing is limited to a few accents in the cabin and the badge. Manhart Racing is a performance-oriented company first and foremost, so the baubles just don’t interest them.
In the real world, the likes of the Audi R8 V10 and the Lamborghini Gallardo can be picked up for similar money. But not all of us have to live in the real world, and some of us can afford an M3 taken to the very limits of the chassis’ capability.
And if you have any doubts about the next generation of turbo-powered BMW M cars, the 2010 Manhart Racing M3 V8R Biturbo is the answer. They’re going to be a blast.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.