BMW dropped a lurid gold M4 down to Goodwood recently, and although I’ve ripened beyond that phase of needing to advertise my virility with a flashy 425bhp coupé, it was fun to reminisce for a few days… and to equip myself for the debate Chris Harris refers to in his recent GRR post.
‘It’s hard really to judge a car when it is such a horrible colour. It is like trying to learn to understand the moods of a bald dog.’ Jeremy Clarkson.
We are all agreed (I think!), that the last M3 – endowed with that stupendously revvy V8 – was a pleasure unbounded, at least in terms of its power delivery. The latest version (now called an M4 when you order it with two doors) features a six-cylinder motor with a pair of fast-spooling turbos. It outguns the V8 for both power and mid-range torque with the aforementioned 425bhp and 405lb ft from 1900rpm.
Indeed the twin turbos overcome any discernible tendency for lag the moment the car is rolling, and the M4 sucks in the horizon like a bona fide supercar. Autocar reckons (with launch control deployed) it can knock off the 0-60mph sprint in 4.1secs and, at 12.3secs, its standing quarter-mile time is only a tenth of a second slower than Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS. Is there anything ‘practicably’ more accelerative on the road, outside of a superbike?
Where the new installation leaves a teensy something to be desired, perhaps, is in the cut and thrust of daily motoring. With all the M buttons set to Normal (which is the default position every time you start the car), there’s a heart-beat of inactivity following an urgent dab on the accelerator which is just enough to sap ambition when thinking about darting out into that small gap in the traffic. This seems slightly to defeat the object when it comes to driving something as obviously ‘thrusty’ as a BMW M car, but it may well be a bonus from the point of view of your insurers.
I’m sufficiently stubborn to remain grumpy about the steering, too. BMW has been making its electronic PAS more than long enough to understand that some of us like a bit of ‘analogue’ feel through our fingertips, and quite reasonably has settled on a more commercial view. In the M4 you can increase the resistance by clicking through the settings, but that seems only to add unnecessary leadenness to an already disconnected feel which – to my mind anyway – serves only to accentuate the original problem.
But do either of these ‘flaws’ really detract from the unbridled excitement of unleashing the M4 over your favourite B-road, or enjoying a little hooligan moment around your local mini roundabout? Of course not. You’d have to be significantly more grumpy than me to describe the M4 as anything but a wildly entertaining plaything, in any role once the taps are opened.
So you won’t find me arguing with Harris’s premise that the M3 (and by association M4) is a jolly good bit of kit. But his article did open with a question, and the most pertinent part went unanswered.
‘Why’ might people be beating-up on (sic) the BMW M3?
Surely it’s because over the years we’ve all become so invested in our own vision of what the M badge should mean, that we feel the need to argue about the finer points of how each version is executed. Or in other words, just because we care!