The renowned M3 badge may be alive and kicking to refer to the ‘M’ version of the latest generation of BMW’s 3-series sedan but for all intents and purposes, it is this car – the new M4 – which is the real successor to the legendary BMW M3 Coupé. As you’d imagine, it’s got a whole lot of expectations to live up to, especially in the performance and handling departments.
To take care of the performance bit, there is a new twin-turbo, 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine under the M4’s curvaceous bonnet. Meanwhile, a revised suspension, revamped electronics and weight savings all around are there to ensure the new car takes corners like it should.
All the new tech comes hidden under a body that is easily identifiable as one belonging to an M car. Massive intakes on the front bumper, the blacked-out wheels and the quad exhausts at the rear make it look the business. Oh, there’s a carbon-fibre roof too – there to minimise weight and to help keep the centre of gravity low.
It’s very business-like in the cabin as well. The cockpit, an all-black affair, feels sporty and is very much in keeping with the car’s character. Things to like include the low height of the dash (great for visibility) and how effectively the iDrive system has freed up the centre console of buttons. Of the few buttons of interest are the ones for the steering, engine and suspension settings that are neatly stacked alongside the stubby gear lever. And full marks to the carmaker for retaining the old M3’s clear analogue dials that light up progressively as you rev harder.
As expected, front seat comfort is really good with great support from the deep dish seats. But, also as expected, access to the back seats through the doors isn’t convenient. Still, the rear seats offer adequate space and comfort for short journeys.
What is it like to drive?
While we got to drive the new M only at the Buddh International Circuit, we weren’t necessarily complaining. That’s got to do with how much fun it is to drive. The 425bhp engine may develop slightly more power than the older M3’s naturally aspirated V8, but it’s the bump up in torque (courtesy the turbos) to 56kgm that is most evident. There’s a strong push from very low in the rev range which is something that comes handy when blasting out of slow corners such as Turn 3 at the BIC. On the straights, it will impress with the way it picks up speed. It’s undoubtedly fast but you’d also wish the engine revved a bit more. Sure, the 7600rpm rev limit is high for a turbo car but given that M3s are known for their highly strung engines, it’s a bit of a downer. Also, the exhaust note, though bassy and rich, lacks a bit in drama. Another point to note here is that the transition from one ratio to the next on the sportiest setting of the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is not particularly smooth. Fast? Yes. Imperceptible? No.
All said, these are things you’d happily live with once you experience how it drives around a race track. With the dampers and steering set to their most aggressive settings, the new car will win you over for how decisively it changes direction. The car does exactly what you want it to do – there’s no roll, no inertia and no delay between orders at the steering being executed by the front wheels. On a sequence of bends, it will simply keep you hooked. Pity we didn’t have an opportunity to test the leniency of the active rear differential. Because with so much torque channeled to the rear wheels, it seems like a car that would be happy to break traction at your command.
Should I buy one?
For anyone who has access to a race track and an inclination to drive hard, it is a tempting proposition like few others. It’s fast, sharp and entertaining enough to keep you smiling for a long time to come. True, it may lack some of the charisma of the older naturally aspirated M3s but in today’s era of turbo cars, this is easily one of the best around. Question is, is new M's Rs. 1.21 crore (ex-showroom, all India) price good? The answer to that will depend on its suitability to India’s less than ideal conditions outside of the race track. Just like you, we can’t wait to find out either.