In this case, M stands for modified.
We're going to say this right off the bat. We love drag race videos – we actually just held our own epic three-way race between the Shelby GT500, BMW M8 Competition, and the Polestar 1. This new video from Track Day has us scratching our heads though. We aren't saying it was set up to favor a certain vehicle, but we do have more questions than answers. More on that in a bit.
Right now, here's what you need to know. This particular race pits two unlikely yet surprisingly well-matched competitors, namely the Mercedes-AMG GT R and the BMW X3 M Competition. Yes, in stock trim the victory should go to the Merc all day long, but the Bimmer isn't stock. Its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter I6 is running a stage two tune, and while we don't know what that means exactly, the end result is said to be an estimated 700 horsepower (515 kilowatts) at the crankshaft. It also sends power to all four wheels.
Meanwhile, the AMG GT R is bone stock at 577 hp (424 kW) from its twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, shuffling power to just the back two tires. So yeah, the BMW has a big advantage but it also has big disadvantages when it comes to both weight and aerodynamics. That won't make a difference at the launch, but once speed becomes a factor, the Mercedes should regain some mojo against the SUV.
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Here's where we start scratching our heads. The first two races are from a roll, which negates the X3's significant starting line advantage and places the Merc in its sweet spot. That doesn't matter on the first run, as the BMW stretches out to about a car length and holds it through the finish line. The second run is under identical conditions, but this time it's the Mercedes that pulls away by nearly a car length. Differences in driver reaction? Problems with the BMW and its hefty tune perhaps?
Gallery: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R: Driving Notes
It's the third run that really warps our minds, primarily because it doesn't happen. Apparently, the BMW's launch control system didn't like managing 700 hp, because it caused the X3 M to go limp in four separate attempts. No problem, just line up and race the old-fashioned way without launch control, right? Wrong – the victory is given to the GT R on a technicality without completing a single dig race.
It's a very anti-climactic conclusion to this interesting comparison. Why couldn't the X3 M driver simply launch with a bit of brake boost and throttle control? Why did identical racing conditions from a roll deliver such different results? Why did the AMG GT R seem to have a slight lead at the start of each roll race? More questions than answers, but we'll say this much. That BMW sounds downright mean under full throttle. Not bad for a five-passenger SUV.