Celebrating over 30 years of the German tuning house's greatest hits.
BMW tuning specialist AC Schnitzer is based near the border of Germany and Belgium in a small town called Aachen. Willi Kohl and Herbert Schnitzer started the company in 1987 to capitalize on their success at the race track as a factory team. The company's first offering was a tuned E32 7-Series called the ACS7 introduced at the 1987 Frankfurt Auto Show. Following that, AC Schnitzer started to produce DTM-spec race cars based on the BMW E30 M3 and 635 CSi. In 1988, the tuner released a road-legal version of the M3 model.
While BMW is still its core business, the tuning company has developed programs for a few other vehicle brands. Here are some of our favorites.
The ACS7 moniker carries on to this day for AC Schnitzer's BMW 3 Series offerings, but the E30 was the granddaddy of them all. There were subtle changes to the exterior of customers' M3 models, including revised mirrors, different taillights, and a conversion to a single windscreen wiper because that's how DTM cars roll. The wheels came as either a 17-inch multi-piece Schnitzer design or 16-inch BBS RS units. It also came with an AC Schnitzer steering wheel and bespoke suspension, but the real magic was under the hood.
BMW's already excellent 2.0-liter S14 four-cylinder engine was bored out to 2.4-liters to make 245 horsepower. That may not seem like magic now, but in the late 1980s, it was blisteringly fast for a four-cylinder car.
AC Schnitzer's roadster was a concept based on the BMW Z3 2.8i from 1997. Not only did the tuner fit a V8 from a BMW 540i inside the Z3, but balanced the crankshaft and fitted its own custom camshafts along with a specially developed custom high-performance exhaust system. It made 310 hp (24 more than stock) with 324 ft-lb of torque, and propelled the roadster from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Along with the extensively tuned suspension, the 540i was fitted with a short shifter and a body kit that improved aerodynamics as well as providing extra air to the cooling system.
Based on the E63-generation M6, the AC Schnitzer Tension became the fastest BMW road car of its time with a claimed top speed of 205 mph. That wasn't the only trick up its sleeve though, and along with 8-pot fixed caliper brakes on the front and 4-pot units on the back, it featured custom adjustable suspension that could lower the car by 30 mm.
The highlight of the Tension is the body kit that optimized aerodynamics and downforce while also venting more air in to keep the modified V10 engine cool as well as the brakes. On top of that, the driver could change the carbon diffusers quickly depending on whether they were at the track or out on the public highways. Inside is a bespoke interior with carbon-fiber trim and Magic Orange highlights.
Its full title of this car is the AC Schnitzer AC Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works Coupe Raptor, and it's a little animal of a car. It set the fastest lap of the Hockenheim at the 2012 Tuner Grand Prix at 1:10.87 minutes. On the day, it beat down a Ferrari 599 GTB and a Porsche 911 GTS. To get there, the tuning company started by cranking the engine from 211 to 300 hp and then set to work losing 220 lbs of weight by replacing panels with carbon-fiber pieces. Finally, the Raptor was outfitted with a painstakingly tuned custom suspension setup.
The most recent car from AC Schnitzer cranks the M850i's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 from 530 to 620 hp, and that's just for starters. The new silencers create a different exhaust note, and tuned springs sharpen the handling in conjunction with the aerodynamic components. Those aerodynamic components come in the form of a body kit that includes a carbon-fiber front spoiler and splitter, front side wings, side skirts, rear diffuser, and hood vents with carbon- inserts. The icing on the aerodynamic cake is a carbon-fiber spoiler, and setting off the back end of the 8 Series is an AC Schnitzer brake light and carbon rear diffuser.
Since 2015, AC Schnitzer has had a program for the Range Rover Sport. However, the engine upgrade is only for the diesel version, and the tuning company has taken the approach of getting as much power out of it without producing extra CO2 emissions. What's remarkable is the engineers have cranked the output from 292 hp to a guilt-free 340 hp. In the process, the CO2 value per horsepower has gone down, and AC Schnitzer claims it's more fuel-efficient to boot.
On top of that, drop your Range Rover Sport at a Land Rover dealer that works with the company, and they'll lower it with new suspension components with carefully tuned spring rates. Also available is a new set of AC Schnitzer wheels and aerodynamically refined front and rear skirts that are designed to go with the new exhaust system.
There was no way AC Schnitzer was going to ignore the BMW 2 Series, and the ACL2 is a concept that shows just how far the tuning company could take it. The first thing the tuners did was pull out the M235i's engine and put in an M4 unit with an AC Schnitzer performance upgrade making 570 hp with the addition of an AC Schnitzer downpipe. The ACL2 also has an adjustable Drexler diff lock added to the limited-slip differential and 6-pot fixed caliper brakes on the front and 6-pot units on the back. The brakes then clamp on to ceramic discs. Height-adjustable AC Schnitzer Clubsport suspension paired to M4 carbon strut braces takes care of the damping and body control.
When AC Schnitzer says something is a concept, it's not just put together and put on a display stand. The ACL2 laid down a lap of the Nurburgring in 7:25.8 minutes and is claimed to be the fastest road-legal BMW on the track.
The Toyota Supra was jointly developed with BMW and features one of the German automaker's engines that's already been in a few other cars. That means AC Schnitzer was in the perfect position to get in early on tuning the all-new Supra. A plug-and-play electronic control unit immediately bumps the horsepower of the B58 engine from 340 to 400 hp and gives it 442 ft-lb of torque, and you can get a slick new engine cover to go with it.
AC Schnitzer's Supra program also has an RS adjustable suspension system, and improved aerodynamics available from a new front splitter and carbon-fiber rear wing. On top of that, there's a choice of different styles of AC Schnitzer's AC1 and AC2 wheels.
This list couldn't end without an AC Schnitzer M5, and the F90 generation model the company has developed is an absolute beast. In the hands of the touring car racer Jorg Muller it became the fastest M5 to tackle the Nurburgring by posting a time of 7:29.50 minutes. The AC Schnitzer M5 program boosts output from 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque up to 700 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque. M5 Competition owners can have their 625 hp and 553lb-ft of torque upgraded to 720 hp with 626 lb-ft of torque.
AC Schnitzer didn't have to go nuts on the suspension, so the engineers tuned a set of lowering springs for the M5 and then concentrated on refining aerodynamics with a front spoiler and splitter, side skirts, a rear diffuser, and a trunk and roof spoiler.