BMW M Festival, better than ever

The weekend of the 25-27 October, saw the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit light up to celebrate what is considered to be the most powerful letter in the world, M.

BMW South Africa once again put together a high octane event to enjoy some of the finest performance cars that the company have to offer. The letter M, in car-lingo, refers to motorsport and more specifically BMW Motorsport.

Two years ago BMW South Africa hosted the first-ever M Festival which was a massive hit amongst BMW owners and those who aspire to the brand. It was a massive success which even saw international recognition, this year the show was bigger and better than before. Not only did BMW allow for festival-goers to experience the BMW M3, M4 and beastly M5 from the passenger seat, BMW SA also took the opportunity to introduce a few new models to the local media as well as the public.

Unveiled were the BMW X3 M and X4 M both in Competition guise, the two high-performance SUVs feature a revised twin-power turbo in-line six-cylinder engine that develops 375 kW and 600 N.m of torque. Both cars also feature a more aggressive and menacing exterior design, compared to the other derivatives in the range. One of the most iconic design aspects for me is the four tailpipes that protrude from the lower rear bumpers.

After driving both cars on track, I found the new models to offer ample grip thanks to the brands xDrive all-wheel-drive system even when the 600 N.m of torque push you back into your seat while leaving a corner. Although both cars performed similarly on track, if it was my money, I would opt for the X3 M purely because of the looks and because beneath the exterior shell they are identical.

The undercover pits were set up as a product display area where BMW placed a variety of their older and iconic race cars as well as the recently restored BMW 530 MLE alongside a fully restored racing version of the same car. Meandering through the display areas I found the new BMW X5 M and X6 M derivatives which only recently were unveiled to the world. Also spotted was the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe, also in M guise, which was for the first time unveiled at the event.

During the event, the media were provided with the opportunity to sample the all-new 1 Series and I got hold of the keys to an M135i. The car comes fitted with a turbocharged 2.0-litre motor that develops around 225 kW and 450 N.m of torque. Thanks to the xDrive and the potent motor the car will achieve 100km/h in around 4.5 seconds. One of the biggest criticisms from the media is the fact that BMW has replaced the six-cylinder engine with a four-cylinder. At first, I was hesitant about the new 1 Series and its new engine but after driving it, I can confirm that it is an improved product over the previous generation albeit the new powertrain.

On the interior, you will find the design and layout to be similar to that of the 3 Series and other, more expensive, models in BMW’s arsenal. Although parts sharing has proven to drastically reduce production and development costs, the new M135i will set you back just under R700 000. If you specify a few additional options, you might see that price increase drastically.

Visitors were also treated to various exhibitions such as drag races between Sheldon Van Der Linder in his BMW DTM race car, BMW superbikes and road-friendly M cars. The weekend was filled with performances from various music artists from South Africa and resulted with the parties carrying on well into the evenings. Just like the festival-goers, I was entertained from the moment that I arrived and can’t wait for the next BMW M Festival to come around.

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