The fourth of July was not only a national holiday for one of Earth’s superpowers, it was also the day I got to spend driving two of the other superpowers of this planet. As I was one of the lucky few who got to taste the very first M3’s and M4’s that have arrived in NZ on loan from BMW Australia.
It’s no secret that I was excited about this review, as it was not like our normal reviews. I was so excited about it I even had trouble sleeping the night before. It was not only the fact that I was getting to drive the new M3 and M4 in the morning, but the fact that we were doing this at Hampton Downs courtesy of BMW New Zealand.
After road testing the BMW 435i Motorsport a few months ago I was very keen to see where BMW would go with the M models, as I had thought the 435i M was a pretty good car. My only real issue was the sound it made, which in my mind wasn’t enough. So I waited patiently, hoping that when the next iconic M3 and first M4 came along that they would be completely dialed to 11.
As I stepped off the bus that had taken us to the track, there in front of us lay the sleeping beasts, three brand new BMW M3’s and M4’s. It was quite a menacing sight, as it was instantly noticeable that these were not your average sedans or coupes. With their 19 inch wheels, flared arches, power dome bonnets, and massive front bumper air intakes, these cars were in their natural environment. So for looks the M3 and M4 safely tick the performance car visuals box. This selection of cars displayed a wide range of the colour options, which like all BMW M colours are named after famous race tracks around the globe. Mineral Grey, Alpine White, Sakhir Orange, Yas Marina Blue. All felt very sporty, bright and fun, the only exception to this was Austin Yellow, which was surreptitiously more Gold than yellow, which I quickly dubbed Dubai Gold as it was just a bit too much and hard on the eyes.
What the M3 and M4 are all about.
The E30 M3 was the first M3, and it was developed due to BMW’s lust for the World Touring Car Championship. The rules were simple, you could only enter with a production car that was available on the market. This race car could then be modified, but it must have a certain percentage of parts identical to the road going production car. So BMW decided that instead of trying to figure out how to make the best race car from their current production cars, they would develop a road legal race car that already has a large percentage of the race required parts as standard, making it easier to stay well above the percentage of original parts required. And to this day the E30 M3 DTM is one of the most successful race cars in the World Touring Car Championship with over 1500 wins.
From there an icon was born, and every generation has gone from strength to strength, pushing the limits and development of technology along the way. There have been four previous generations of the M3, with the F80 M3 being the latest model available for 2014. The M3 previously came available in Sedan, Coupe and Convertible, now the fifth generation M3 is only available as a sedan. The M4 is the first of its generation and the new home for both the Coupe and Convertible models as the 4-series range, with the F80 M4 being the first M model available in this range.
The M3 and M4 are powered by the same 435i inline 6 engine, but instead of one it has two mono-scroll turbos with valvetronic, double-vanos and high precision injection. All of these fancy words add up to some very impressive figures. Both cars produce 317kw (425 bhp) between 5,500-7300 rpm and 550Nm from 1,850-5,500 rpm. Compared to the previous E90 M3’s engine specs which produced 309kw (414 bhp) at 8300 rpm and 400Nm at 3900 rpm, there has been great improvements when you take into account the new models have two less cylinders. The torque figure is not only a mind blowing amount of torque for cars in general, but the fact that the torque curve is a straight line pretty much means you have 550nm all the time. And when let loose, both cars are able to do a 0-100km time of 4.1 seconds. In the M3’s case this is rather impressive for a 4 door mid size sedan.
The engines are not the only areas that have seen change over the models preceding them. The new designers were committed to advancing lightweight design that has resulted in a weight saving of around 60kg over the previous E90 M3. CFRP, Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic, has been used throughout both cars to reduce weight and increase performance. The front strut bar is made from CFRP, as is the main roof support that connects the right and left side of the frame. Both cars now come with carbon fibre roofs as standard and the M4’s boot lid has also been constructed from carbon fibre.
What are they like on the track?
Once strapped into the M3 or M4 you get a feeling that you are in a nice comfortable performance car, but once you set the M performance mode and touch the pedal you quickly realise that this is a performance muscle car that wants to go very fast. We had been instructed to use M2 performance setting on the main steering wheel, one of two totally customisable M performance buttons that would instantly flick everything to the extreme settings with one touch. M1 was setup to use give us a harder ride while still in an automatic sporty drive mode, while M2 was setup for fully manual seat-of-your-pants driving. The first thing that cannot go unnoticed is the incredible amount of torque. A tiny press on the pedal and it will get going, a good stab and you take off with a smile across your face like you have just passed your first driving test. The steering had also been adjusted in this M mode which made it stiffer, not in the way that it was harder to control, but in a way that gave you a lot more feedback about the wheel’s position. If not for the different M modes I would personally not have been able to tell this car had electrically assisted steering as it felt just like it was hydraulic.
Both cars were amazingly easy to drive on the track, and both sounded great. I really liked hearing the two turbos spool up as I pressed the accelerator to the floor wanting more and more of the intoxicating torque. I found that the M3 was a bit stiffer around the track than the M4, and it was probably only something that you would notice after testing them back to back, as the difference was minimal. I prefered the M4 on the track as it had a better seating position compared to the M3, but both cars ripped around Hampton Downs with very little effort. The heads-up display was one of my favourite features, in the normal drive mode it displays the basic info, but when switched to the extreme M performance mode it displays an F1-style RPM gauge with eight small boxes above it. Once you climb to the end of the rev range these boxes start to blip on and go from green all the way to the last two that are red. This indicates you have hit the perfect redline point to change gears, making it easy for even an amateur track driver to make near-perfect gear changes and make the most of every last bit of power. Both cars had an amazing amount of grip. Even though the track was drying out there were still wet patches, and I never felt either of the cars having trouble putting down all that power. The one understated part of these cars were the brakes, I never took that much notice of them as they just seemed to do what i needed based on the pressure I applied to the pedal, they reacted so well that they didn’t draw any of your attention away from the task at hand, very impressive.
What are they like on the road?
After we had our fun at Hampton Downs, we paired up and hit the main roads for some real-world testing. We jumped on the motorway for a bit, heading South to find some of New Zealand’s amazing country roads. Both of these cars handled as expected on the motorway, radar guided cruise control made it quite relaxing, and both cars were pretty quiet too with very little wind noise from inside the cabin. Once we got off the motorway we really felt these cars shine, pressing M2, popping it into third gear, and away we went. Both the M3 and M4 carved up the country roads with ease, and it was impressive to see how well they handled the uneven surface at speed. They instilled confidence in the driver, it was still a bit wet in places and at no point did we feel that it couldn’t handle itself or would let go unexpectedly. Overtaking a car with the continuous 550 Nm of torque at hand reminded me of driving my old twin turbo V10 Audi RS6. One quick jab of the pedal and you’re instantly in front of the car you were just behind. Once or twice I did however find myself popping down a gear when in fully auto M1 performance mode if we had to slow down for a turn that then started to go uphill. It was not that I didn’t have enough power, but it oddly felt like the wrong gear due to the sound and rpm of the engine. This could have been due to the engine noise that is pumped through the speakers, but I would require to have the cars for several days to do some more testing.
What are they like inside?
The M3 and M4 are very similar inside to the 435i M we tested not too long ago, around 90% of the layout is the same. Any of the chrome trim in the 435i M was replaced with carbon fibre in the M3 and M4, and the main gauges had extra LCD displays for additional performance info. The seats have been upgraded to M performance seats, bucket seats with a fixed headrest and adjustable bolsters, providing a very comfortable high-quality European feel. We didn’t get too much time to play with all the toys, but as we touched on most of them in the other review we will try and avoid doubling up on the info.
What it’s up against.
This is the center stage arena for many manufactures, where they clash their revered titans against each other, and the competition is fierce. This the the maiden voyage for the M4, and based on how it went on and off the track, BMW has wasted no time in getting right amongst the competition. There has been some shake up in the sedan range as Audi currently do not offer the RS4 as a sedan, and there does not seem to be any plan to either.
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||0-100 km||Price Highest to Lowest|
|Jaguar F-Type||5.0 L V8 Super Charged||404 Kw / 680 Nm||11.1 L / 100km||4.2 Seconds||$185,000|
|BMW M4||3.0 L Inline 6 BiTurbo||317 Kw / 550 Nm||8.3 L / 100km||4.1 Seconds||$169,900|
|Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG||6.2 L V8||336 Kw / 600 Nm||12.1 L / 100km||4.3 Seconds||$168,900|
|Audi RS5||4.2 L V8||331 Kw / 430 Nm||10.5 L / 100km||4.2 Seconds||$165,900|
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||0-100 km||Price Highest to Lowest|
|Jaguar XFRS||5.0 L V8 Super Charged||405 Kw / 680 Nm||11.6 L / 100km||4.6 Seconds||$185,000|
|Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG||6.2 L V8||336 Kw / 600 Nm||12.1 L / 100km||4.3 Seconds||$166,900|
|BMW M3||3.0 L Inline 6 BiTurbo||317 Kw / 550 Nm||8.3 L / 100km||4.1 Seconds||$159,900|
What do we think ?
I did not expect these cars to be this good, and since I sold my Audi R8 I have not driven any cars that have been this good. Both of these cars in my eyes are better than my R8, as they have all the power and madness of a supercar, are fun and intoxicating to drive and above all else are so easy to live with and drive in all conditions. It’s basically the best of both worlds. The M3 and M4 are so similar in performance, yet a bit different in feeling, neither one better than the other, just different. It was hard to pick between the two, so hard in fact that the group had to involve their living situation to make the final choice. This meant that anyone who had kids went for the M3 and anyone without them went for the M4. I have said it in the past there is no such thing as a perfect car, but these two are so damn close. I would have either in a heartbeat, because when you dig past all the numbers and tech that make these car what they are, the result is that they are both very fun to drive. And this is why both the M3 and M4 get a clean sweep 5 out of 5 chevron rating. Making them the second vehicles that we have reviewed to achieve this rating.
Rating – Chevron rating 5 out of 5
BMW M3 & M4
|Vehicle Type||Front Engine, RWD Performance Sedan / Coupe|
|Starting Price||M3 – $ 159,900 NZD|
M4 – $ 169,900 NZD
|Engine||3.0 L Twin Turbocharged I6, 317kW, 550 Nm|
|Transmission||7-Speed M Double Clutch Drivelogic|
|0 – 100 kph||4.2 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||M3 – 1595 kg|
M4 – 1572 kg
|Length x Width x Height||M3 – 4671 x 2037 x 1430 mm|
M4 – 4671 x 2014 x 1383 mm
|Cargo Capacity||480 Litres|
|Fuel Tank||60 litres|
|Fuel||Urban – 12.0 L/100km|
Motorway – 6.9 L/100km
Combined – 8.8 L/100km, 148 g/km CO2
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||Yet to be tested|