BMW M4 proves an impressive machine

IT is not unique to petrolheads, but their ability to engage in lengthy, detailed and often terribly dull discussions about the relative merits of individual cars — or, specifically, their engines — can characterise the breed.

A case in point is the ongoing debate about the BMW M3 and the replacement of the old V8, normally-aspirated powerplant with a twin-turbo straight-six, which has engaged BMW-istas like few other topics.

Indeed, the level of vitriol against the company, across a variety of internet and social media forums, is almost bewildering.

Certainly, it indicates the passion people have for their motor cars and how fervently they believe one engine is better than another; however, the accusations of ‘heresy’ and ‘sacrilege’ because BMW has ditched one engine and introduced another do seem over-the-top.

Sure, we all have personal preferences when it comes to any manner of things in our lives – and are very entitled to them, but I do think people lose the run of themselves a tad when it comes to evaluating the merits and de-merits of individual performance machines.

Change, after all, is the biggest single continuous factor in every aspect of our lives and trying to avoid or ignore it is a pretty futile exercise.

That is not to say change is always good – certainly not – but it is something we have to adopt and embrace every day of our lives and in the case of BMW introducing one new engine design in preference to another, is not something I believe we should dwell upon – or even waste much time – thinking about.

Part of the reason I say this is that the original M3 had a four pot engine which was, in time, replaced by a unit with two more cylinders and then – most recently – by the V8.

BMW M4 proves an impressive machine

However, it is the latest return to six cylinder power which seems to be exercising so many fans lately and, quite frankly, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.

I would have thought that as long as BMW is producing a car which has more power and is generally more Olympian – higher, faster, stronger, or whatever – then what’s to quibble about?

We didn’t actually try the M3, instead we drove the new M4, which, of course is the coupe version of the saloon M3 but is now called the M4 thanks to BMW’s new naming strategy – something else which has greatly irked the masses and which we have addressed before. And, as we’re not going to change BMW’s mind anytime soon, it is not something we are going to further dwell upon.

What we will concentrate on though is what an astounding piece of kit this is. Engine aside – and we will look at it in closer detail shortly – the level of engineering development BMW has put into the M4 is pretty impressive. The use of aluminium (wings, bonnet and various suspension parts) and carbonfibre (roof, boot lid and, amazingly, the driveshaft) as well as stuff like hollow half shafts mean that a car which is quite a bit bigger than its predecessor, it also quite a deal lighter.

Although the overall aesthetic of the car is one of brooding menace – even if the ‘Austin’ Yellow colourscheme did provoke certain unkind comparisons to dog vomit. Just look at the intimidating front air dam, the power-bulged bonnet, the muscular wheel arches, the steroid-pumped rear end and even the Darth Vader-styled door mirrors and you have a vision of performance-car-as-it-should-look.

And if it looks like a schoolyard bully, then it acts like one too – and here we come back to the engine. The six cylinder unit outputs some 431 bhp (17 more than previously) delivered between 5,500 and 7,300 rpm and produces a humungous 550 Nm of torque (up 40% on the V8) between 1,850 and 5,500 rpm.

The red line has decreased from 8,500 to 7,600 rpm, but that’s the only figure on the decline. The 0-100 kph dash is achieved in a shattering 4.1 seconds and top speed is limited to 250 kph. Economy figures are available, but if you need to know them, there’s something wrong with you. This is not a car where owners should in any way be concerned by how many litres it does per 100 km.

Concerns about turbo-lag are genuine and understandable – and it is in slight evidence – but the twin scroll twin turbos lessen the effect greatly and the issue will only concern the most pedantic.

Allied – in this case at least – to a seven speed double clutch transmission (there is a six speed manual) with a paddle shift option, the M4 feels race-bred and the bellow it emits when you get serious with the throttle, confirms it.

Under light accelerator loads you’ll get a bit of turbo whistling and popping, but stomp on the right hand pedal and it gestates into an animalistic roar which will definitely frighten elderly pedestrians and small children alike.

Sure the exhaust is tuned, as so often is the case these days, but when those butterfly valves open, it changes the whole aural landscape. On top of that, with the soundtrack augmented by trick sounds coming through the stereo speakers, the full effect of the din is thoroughly exploited.

Some performance cars are genuinely tricky to drive, but the M4 is not one of them. Everything about the handling is entirely predictable, including ludicrous tail-out action, if that’s what tickles you. Never, though, do you really get the feeling that it will maul you, although it does have to be said that in anything other than the ‘Comfort’ setting, the ride is pretty stiff.

This is a storming achievement from BMW and ‘M’ fans can argue all they like about the merits of one powerplant over another from here to kingdom come as far as I am concerned, but the bottom line is that the engineering effort which has gone into this machine has produced something which is a nothing short of a triumph.

This is not just a performance car, it is an achievement in its own right.

Colley's Verdict

The Cost: from €100,040 - €111,768 as tested.

The Engine: forget the naysayers, this is a classic.

The Specification: as ever with BMW, add-ons don’t come cheap, but the standard kit is very liveable.

The Overall Verdict: the ‘M’ brand’s allure had been added to and not diminished by the development of this car - never mind what the ‘experts’ tell you.

Star Rating: ****


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