"In this new Special Series, I document the greatest lip ever designed by BMW M and my experiences sourcing various replica lips across Europe, ultimately leading to the development of OE+ GTS front lip kit.
In this entry, I chat about what made the GTS front lip kit the greatest BMW M ever designed, and the worst they've ever produced."
The Saint Graal.
BMW M designed and manufactured arguably the most aesthetically pleasing, properly built and functional front lip for a street driven M car with the M3 GTS.
The pre-production GTS already featured the complete lip. The design was visibly different than the final production lip.
The shape was revised to a flat, lower line that matches the design of the bumper.
A purposeful design.
Following up on the CSL's success, BMW M went a step further in the Clubsport mantra. They kept the OEM bumper intact and instead developed a 5 piece, chassis mounted, adjustable front lip.
The E46 introduced us to carbon splitters: an aggressive, yet simple add on to the E46 that inspired Chris Bangle with its integration in the stock E60 design, and the M Performance catalog for the E9x M3 and future M cars.
The lip kit is perfectly contoured to the bumper's lower section and fills in the significant gaps of the original BMW M front bumper design.
The satin black finish was also a nice matching touch with the M359 wheels and GTS wing. The Fire Orange paintwork was shouty enough.
Designed for track use.
The lip is functional: the lower splitter is adjustable by up to 3 inches to extend the front end aero pushing the front end down on its chassis mounted brackets.
Per BMW M's own wind tunnel testing, the extended front lip design was good enough to generate an 17 kilos of downforce, moving the E92 M3 from a 10kg lift to 7kg of relative aerodynamic downforce.
Designed for street use.
The GTS was a Clubsport car: it needed to do the street part of the formula well. BMW themselves mostly showcased the street driven photography with only the upper lip fitted.
It takes most of 15 minutes to get the lower splitter off and you can enjoy more ground clearance and avoid scratching like some GT4 lip owners consistently complain about as they budget a yearly subscription to Alibaba.
Taking a page from Porsche's playbook.
Some of us wish we had GT3s - the reasons are many, some are obvious, others not really. - most of it is derived from their immenses experiences making Clubsport cars.
Porsche understands front lips are sacrificial components. They even says so in their Service Information manuals!
They've consequently made the Porsche 997 GT3 and GT2 front lips from ABS plastic: a durable, hard material that is inexpensive to produce in large quantities.
As an example, the 997 GT2 Genuine Porsche replacement lip at 350 US.
BMW finally did it right with materials
BMW M did it right with the M3 GTS by using an ABS plastic upper lip. The lower lip was supposedly an aluminum piece with a satin black, durable coating.
The upright brackets were revised throughout production from laser cut to stamped metal. The horizontal bracket was laser cut and folded aluminum. They also added a metal rod to align the brackets.
[...] or did they.
The GTS front lip kit was priced by IND distribution in the 4,000$ US range when it launched.
Today it is 5,350 US, and parts cannot be purchased separately AFAIK. 15x what Porsche charges for a 997 GT2 (!).
Reference: IND Distribution
BMW M fell short.
The M3 GTS was made in extremely low numbers: only 150 units. The tooling created by suppliers most likely accounted for a very short overrun for replacement parts.
Like everything Genuine BMW on the GTS, it's not only a matter of if you can afford it, it's also a matter of if you can find one.
As a result, the Genuine BMW M3 GTS front lip was in 4,xxx US a decade ago. It's now +/- 5,300 US, if you can find one. I was on the backorder list for 6 months with BMW until I gave up.
My interim solution.
I didn't give up on achieving the signature GTS aesthetics, yet I had to something with the OEM front bumper.
I made due with various sets of aftermarket carbon splitters. I went through 3x sets before finding a proper 1:1 replica.
This was the final set in M performance matching 2x2 weave and pre-preg carbon construction, along with the proper design. If you pay attention, you'll know these didn't last long either :)
Up next: we made it!
Thanks to a referral, I found a source in Germany for 1:1 OEM replica of GTS front lip kits at an attractive price.
Over 150 + lips later, I debrief my experiences fitting, using, refreshing and destroying the lip.