This is it ladies and gents, 35 years in the making and after a slightly shorter period of hopeful anticipation, the new BMW M3 and M4 have finally landed on our local shores and thanks to the kind people at BMW Asia, we were given first dibs behind the wheels of the most controversial iterations of BMW M’s latest pride and joy.
From polite discussions to full-blown Wars (on the internets), BMW’s latest M-cars have polarised the automotive fan-scape like no other Ultimate Driving Machine that has come before and chances are if you are reading this, you’d know why. At the same time, I’m guessing you would have already made up your mind on the very topic.
That very contentious are of discussion has to of course deal with the very intangible yet very emotional aspect of the aesthetics. Specifically, those very “interesting” new grilles. BMW’s new take on quite possibly the trademark element of their design language takes boldness up to a whole new level.
For some, these aggressive new faces are a welcome distinction from the regular cars, something which the same online commentators mentioned lacked from the previous generation. For others, the offence created by this pair’s outlandish appearance is akin to Banksy spray painting over the Mona Lisa.
For the rest of us who were present at the drive, finally seeing the cars’ sculpted lines under natural light was a blend of discomfort and unease settling into relief and acceptance before transitioning into admiration, appreciation and ultimately desire.
Discomfort because it didn’t matter how we approached it, those massive kidney grilles take centre stage, packing in a huge visual punch. Everything else was pretty much coming along for the ride.
Unease because after that first sensorial hit, a multitude of emotions started to churn up within and we found ourselves questioning those initial doubts we might have had after spending countless nights in online comment sections.
First seen on the 4-Series Coupe, these grilles are visually even more impactful on the pumped-up M-cars. With dark horizontal slats replacing the regular 4’s brightwork and chrome surround, the new kidneys coupled with the cars’ flared body panels stretched over their widened tracks instantly project much more than a subtle hint of aggression. Woe be to anyone seeing one of these charging up strongly in their rear-view mirror.
Relief that in the flesh(metal), the new M3 and M4 appear much less like the caricatures we’ve been made to believe and when viewed as a whole, their overall progressive muscular appeal overshadows any one specific design element. The M3 with its more pronounced arches, taller body and, interestingly, a slightly wider stance than the M4 (1,903mm vs 1887mm) projects a stouter, stronger bulldog-esque aesthetic and while the M4 shares the same length as the M3 (at 4,794mm), with its lower height (1,393mm vs 1,433mm) and svelte stretched styling, it possesses a flair the selfish reserve of 2-door Coupes.
Acceptance that ultimately, the one thing everyone can agree upon is that for both cars, they are anything but staid. Both visually and dynamically. Because in the Competition-spec, with (a modestly claimed) 510 horses (@6,250rpm) and 650Nm of torque coming on between 2750-5500 rpm, driving the M3 and M4 becomes at once an exercise in both restraint and heightened awareness.
With every dip of the throttle capable of squeezing your lungs into the figure-hugging seats as they catapult off to the century mark in a very socially unacceptable 3.9 seconds, you’ll be constantly checking yourselves as both these machines are deceptively capable of making highly rapid (and not very legal) progress a shockingly easy affair.
In practice, the M3, immediately more practical and visually more aggressive is the pick here by being a much more usable all-rounder, but it lacks the M4’s flair, flamboyance and sense of occasion. While the M3 is the one to have, the one you’d want, is the M4.
Admiration for BMW M painfully sticking to their guns when it came to developing these cars. In an era of ever-tightening emission standards from a world increasingly hostile towards those who embrace the joy of motoring.
Appreciation because these two beacons of joy strongly stand loud and proud in a sea of ever conforming appliances as the last generation of what we as automotive enthusiast have come to love and cherish from the internal combustion engine. They are the culmination of dreams from a generation who grew up pouring over magazines, sketched imaginary cars, visited motor shows and followed their favourite race teams. A generation who saw their driver’s license as a freedom of expression and whose hearts have stirred when the symphony of mechanical parts in an engine recite “Ode to joy” up towards their redline. These cars are a love letter from BMW M.
And so we come to desire because while we’re all able to savour the daring, bold and oh so exciting contents of this peculiar love letter, it wasn’t written for us. It was written for the Internal Combustion Engine. Enjoy it while you can.