A few weeks ago my colleague Ian McLaren drove the all-new M3 at the car’s international debut in Portugal. You can read about his experiences by clicking here. Considering that he chose to drive the iconically named M3 (now available only as a sedan), I decided to have a go in the two-door M4 at the local launch event.
It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it? Emm fore – not in the same way that we’re used to, at any rate. For now I refer to it as the “two-door M3”, well, at least until the new name starts to feel more natural…
My initial impressions were formed early morning on the arterial roads of Mpumalanga… and from the passenger seat. An extremely early wake-up call left me feeling a little slow out of the blocks and I was happy to hand over the driving duty to a counterpart from another title.
The first time he nailed the throttle open, I was WIIIDE awake. WOW, this car is fast. It’s not often one gets that sensation of sheer speed from the passenger seat. But this car feels it and then some.
By now you’re probably au fait with the details and intricacies of the newest M twins. The predecessor model’s naturally aspirated, rev-happy V8 has made way for a, some may say more traditional, inline six, only it boasts a pair of turbos. What this means is that the overall power hasn’t really increased over the E90/2’s V8 but the torque levels have, and how. The new engine dishes up 550 N.m and the shove feels (almost) instantly available.
A short while later, with both of us wide-eyed at the M4’s stunning turn of pace, it was my turn behind the wheel. I settled in behind the thick-rimmed M-specfic wheel and set off. My initial suspicions from the co-pilot position are well confirmed when I take the con:
Forget the zero-to-100 km/h time, which at a shade over four seconds for this M DCT-fitted car, is still impressive, the in-gear pace is eye-widening each and every time. The natural, comfortable cruise speed of the “two-door M3” is fast… at least faster than the pace of general traffic. So when you approach slower-moving vehicles and need to effect an overtaking manoeuvre, one’s natural tendency is to drop a cog, or two – which in this case means flicking the left-side paddle on the ‘wheel – and nailing the loud pedal. However, even while travelling at a fair lick the two-door M3 dishes up enough acceleration to feel like a fast hot hatch in second gear.
A serious track machine
Later that same day we got to tackle the 13 twists and turns of the historic Kyalami Grand Prix circuit. Here the “two-door M3” showed itself to be more than up to the task of delivering plenty of lateral grip (BMW representatives stated that the inherent balance of the car was so good in the development stage that it sent Michelin [the OEM supplier] back to the drawing board to produce more suitable footwear) and confidence-inspiring braking performance (especially when fitted with optional carbon ceramic brakes, a R90 500 option).
Unlike the V8 model, which felt as if it really needed every last rev to be wrung from the motor, with this new car you just ride the (very large) wave of torque dished up from very low down in the range. So much so, that more often than not, you’d find yourself short-shifting when going up a gear.
The two-door M3 attacked Kyalami with the verve of a real racecar. The front end especially seems to respond to positive inputs, though even with a tidy line scribed through the apex you have to dole out the 550 N.m with a measured approach if you don’t plan to wind on some opposite lock to prevent ending up in the kitty litter.
Amid the early morning drive on the virtually empty roads of Mpumalanga and the later racetrack exploits, the dual nature of the “two-door M3” really comes to the fore. Part of an M3’s appeal has always been to dish up sport/supercar levels of performance and entertainment but with a level of practicality that most others don’t possess.
This current generation usurps one of our all-time favourite cars, but thankfully it’s grabbed the baton with relish. The (lemme try it on for size) BMW M4 is a really worthy successor to the E92 M3; it’s a bloody fine car.