Is the magic still there?
OK, we admit it – we’re big fans of BMW M cars. In order to minimize the risk of endless gushing throughout this review, we attempt to answer your most pressing questions surrounding these performance car icons:
What is it?
Does this car really need an introduction? If you’re new to Earth, behold the latest and greatest M3/M4 from BMW, dubbed F80. It is the 5th generation of an esteemed performance lineage, and the best version to date. No car extant is subjected to more scrutiny before the newest model hits showroom floors. BMW has the unenviable position of having massive shoes to fill every time they bring a new generation to market. With a car as important to the brand as it is to the performance automobile landscape en masse, the old adage of “Don’t screw it up” couldn’t be more important. Spoiler Alert: They absolutely nailed it.
Isn’t “M4” a bit of a dorky name?
Yes. Why they couldn’t have called it an M3 Coupe is beyond our comprehension, but we’ve had time to get used to it, and so should you- it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Will there be a diesel?
No. Just, no.
How about AWD?
For now, also no, but it isn’t out of the question. Main competitor Mercedes Benz now offer 4MATIC on their AMG products, and Audi’s S models have always been so equipped, so it’s not such a leap to imagine an xDrive badge on the fenders at some point in the future.
But wait. Aren’t some saying this is just a warmed over 335i?
Blessedly, a most emphatic no. The M skunkworks didn’t underestimate the need to ensure the M3/M4’s scared status as one of the world’s elite performance cars remained intact. Case in point: garden variety 335i’s do not mount their rear subframes to the chassis without the feedback spoiling barrier of rubber bushings. They do not twist the rear axle through a carbon fire driveshaft, nor do they apportion power as masterfully as the Active M Differential. Most of all, they don’t have the fire breathing S55 inline six underhood.
So the engine retains the M brand magic?
Yes and no. Yes, because this mill is without a doubt the finest example of a turbocharged engine out there. The way it pulls from low revs and then charges willingly to its 7,600 peak is nothing short astounding, save for the way it piles on speed along the way. No, because some will accuse it of relaxed power delivery on the basis that it isn’t as knife edged and urgent as its naturally aspirated forbearer, although it just isn’t the case. Naturally aspirated stuff will always hold an edge in terms of responsiveness, but the new engine just makes so much power low in the rev range that may fool you into thinking it’s got lazy power delivery characteristics. Despite this, the engineers did an exemplary job of retaining the alertness required of an M powerplant while endowing it with a wallop of torque everywhere in the rev range. It also sounds cool- think tuned diesel mixed with the menacingly dulcet tones of inline six and you’re bang on. Yes, there is sound piped into the cabin, but it isn’t obvious. It is properly nasty without being overbearing.
Will there be a convertible version?
Yes- in fact, a convertible is already available. Like other M Cabriolets in the past, expect this one to give up a slight advantage to its fixed roof counterparts in terms of acceleration and handling, but with the newly found prodigious grunt from the turbo six, no one’s likely to notice. BMW will stick to the folding hardtop recipe as it does with regular 4 series. We’ll bring you a report on that one soon.
What’s the major difference between the M3 and M4? Which is better?
Aside from door count and weight, not much. An answer to the question may be elusive, however- some folks pine for the slinky coupe profile of the M4 while others gravitated towards those luscious fender flares and increased practicality of the M3. Really, they’re both incredible, although in our eyes the M3 might very well be the best all-around car you can buy, period. In the case of the examples we tested, two different transmissions were on hand. The M3 was equipped with BMW’s razor sharp M DCT transmission while the M4 had the honest-to-goodness manual. As good as the dual clutch box is, give us the manual any day of the week and ten times on Sunday.
What’s it like to drive?
It will surprise exactly no one that the M3/M4 are sublime to drive. All the changes specified by M engineers turn out to be more than the sum of their parts. In lieu of the stratospheric limits afforded by the engine and chassis, this isn’t a car that constantly reminds you of the sacrifices you made to put one on the road. It will provide endless hours of track time shenanigans but won’t rattle your fillings loose when commuting. And speaking of track time, only if you spend a great deal of time there should you opt for the carbon ceramic brakes. Otherwise the regular steel rotors will be more than sufficient anchors. You can thank us for saving you close to $10,000 later.
So then…it’s fast.
Oh my, yes. Both cars rocket to 100km/h in the low four second range, but that never tells the whole story. In the E92 M3, you had to wring the V8 out pretty good if you wanted any sort of brisk pace. In the current F80, there is huge power to be had no matter where the tach needle is sitting. You’ll become well acquainted with the traction control light which will flash incessantly if you’re not judicious with the throttle. Even with the mountain of torque at your disposal the new cars are more friendly, their performance more accessible. That will broaden the appeal of the car to include not just frothing at the mouth fan boys.
It’s probably silly to even ask, but are they efficient?
Efficiency isn’t a word that comes up when salivating over sports cars, but this crop of M cars is exactly that. BMW says that the engine is 25% easier on fuel that the outgoing V8 screamer, and we believe them. Even with occasional sprints to redline, our mileage was impressive in everyday driving. (12.4L/100km for the M3, 11.9L/100km for the M4.) You will have to dig really deep to find another car that offers this level of performance while not running the tank dry in minutes. That’s one of the party tricks of the M3/M4- when you aren’t trying to lay down an impressive lap time, the car is as docile as a regular 3 series.
So which one should I get?
In a very informal poll, we discovered that most people who encountered the cars preferred the M4’s slinkier proportions, despite the love-it-or-hate-it Austin Yellow livery. If we’re writing the script, it has to be the M3- always has been, and always will be. The iconic name, the increased usability and those super sexy fender flares coupled with the everyday usability and efficiency make it the only choice.
2015 BMW M3 Sedan & M4 Coupe – Specifications
- Price as tested: $91,145 (M3 Sedan) $87,245 (M4 Coupe)
- Body Type: Sedan/Coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 425 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 406 @ 1,850 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic/6-speed manual with rev-matching
- Curb weight: 1,621kg/3,595 lbs. (M3) 1,601kg/3,529 lbs. (M4)
- Fuel consumption, Observed: 12.4L/100km (M3) 11.9L/100km (M4)