Today is all about special cars.
I don’t know what it is about a new BMW M car being launched that creates such an air of anticipation. But we were all ready to go long before they handed us the keys to the cars. I think it has something to do with the fact that BMW’s M cars have always been the performance benchmarks in their segments, and mostly so with the M3. And now the M4 too.
I am going to say right up front long before we get into the detail, the new BMW M3 and M4 are once again going to be the benchmark that the competition must chase if they want to be best in class. And if they want to even come close, they are going to have to come up with something very special.
The M3 and M4 should be here in the first week of July, and there is only something like 400 units coming this year. You will need to get your order in right now because I reckon there is going to be a long waiting list for these cars.
So what are these cars like in the flesh?
I can tell you that they are not tweaked 335is’, but proper M cars that are lighter by up to 80kg over the outgoing M3 thanks to the use extensive development work and the use of motor sport technology from the track to the road that saw thousands of laps of the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife being completed.
The new cars are more powerful too and the engine is the heart of every M model – and for this application the new turbocharged six-cylinder unit fitted in the cars perfectly combine the virtues of a high-revving naturally aspirated unit with the strengths of turbocharger technology.
The high-revving six-cylinder in-line engine fitted with two turbos is almost completely different from the 335i from the cylinder head down and was newly developed for the new BMW M3 Sedan and new BMW M4 Coupe. This results in 317kW of power and a massive 550Nm of torque available across a wide rev band, and is substantially better in torque terms than the old V8 M3.
Expect a drop in fuel consumption of around 25% with both cars said to get to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds, while stopping easily beyond 250 km/h. For the record our fun was halted by a soft speed limiter that came in at an indicated 268km/h.
Handling is something that has to be experienced to be properly understood. Nothing you drive in this segment will get you around corners or from A to B like the M3 and M4. So far, all you have heard is praise for these wild Teutonic twins. But if there is to be a criticism of the cars, it is that now more than ever you will need an above average level of skill and real respect to get the best out of them in the twisties.
I can tell you that with DSC on, the traction control light is more active than a hyperactive toddler minus a double dose of Ritalin if you drive like a thug with no throttle control. And if you think that a road drive is not enough to convince you, then you have to go to a track and understand how these cars put the final few nails in the coffin of the competition.
We did just this at the Autódromo Internacional Algarve race track in Portimao, Portugal. Practice some form of car control and you are rewarded with a very quick lap time. But hit the go pedal too hard or soon like I said, and you easily convert the sticky Michelin Sport rubber on your R23 000 Ferric Grey or R25 500 Black 19 inch optional wheels to expensive smoke.
A sense of safety and well being is always available thanks to the high standard of safety equipment on board as well as the presence of the optional R90 500 BMW M Carbon Ceramic brakes that scrub off speed at a serious rate of knots over and over.
The cars will come standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, and there were two of them at the launch but I never drove them. I have to be honest I didn’t care to either. The optional seven speed M-DCT box does everything you ask of it so well – I can’t see why you would opt for anything else.
About now you might be wondering if the M3 and M4 even have an interior. Of course the inside of these cars are adorned with all the good M stuff you want like sport seats, thick leather steering wheel and enough comfort and technology to keep you happy every time you drive them.
You even have sufficient space for people and luggage in both derivatives, although I like the M3 Sedan more than the more stylish M4 Coupe.
It is almost impossible to criticise the new BMW M3 and M4. Sure paying one million rand for an M3 or m4 for that matter is quite a gulp, but you are getting a serious amount of car for your money in today’s terms. I have warned you already, you better be quick if you want one though.