The new BMW M3 and M4 have had a controversial start to their existence thanks to their frontend styling. But if you can look beyond the oversized kidney grille you will be rewarded with the experience of another great sports car from the ///M car stable.
Recently I got to spend a day at Wakefield Park Raceway driving the some of the best BMW M cars thanks to Macarthur BMW and South Coast BMW at their official launch of the M3/M4. During the day I piloted the M3, M4, M5 and M8, all of which were fantastic, but the one that stood out the most for me was the M4 and not just because it was Sao Paulo Yellow.
After our introductory briefing the owners present were invited to head out on the track in their own car or in one of the many cars provided on the day by the Clinton’s team. I started out in the M3 Competition with TCR Australia driver Michael Caruso as my instructor. Having never driven Wakefield Park before, I spent this session concentrating on my lines around the track rather than my experience driving the M3.
Next up I was in the M8 and I was now starting to get my confidence around the circuit, ready for my laps in the mighty M4 Competition. The first thing that I noticed about the M4 was the grip available from this rear-wheel drive coupe was astounding and I could have sworn I was driving an all-wheel drive car, it was that good. I can also report that the new 8-speed automatic gearbox changed with precision when and where I wanted it to.
Then there were the optional carbon ceramic brakes that I pushed hard on into some of the bigger stopping corners on the track. These brakes were magnificent and even though I was driving the M4 later in the day, there was no sign of any brake fade. I kept hearing Michael’s instructions in my head “Go deeper into the corner and push harder on the brakes.”
Last, but certainly not least, was the acceleration from the 3.0 litre, twin turbo, inline V6 engine that saw me nudging a top speed of around 190km/h at the kink towards the end of the main straight before I braked hard again for the right hander that takes you back up the hill. The engine produces 375kW of power @ 6,130rpm and 650Nm of torque between 2,650-5,500rpm and has a claimed 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds. The turbocharged engine was never going to be best sounding car on show that day, especially when there was also an E46 M3 going around the track. The official combined fuel economy is 9.6L/100km, but judging by the number trips to the bowser we were unsurprisingly not getting anywhere near that around the track.
You can’t talk about the new M3/M4 without a discussion about the front end and I am not a fan of the styling at all and I wasn’t alone. A quick show of hands from the participants on the day, many of whom already owned at least one M car, showed less than half liked the styling.
I am also not a big fan of the interior styling either and although the optional ($7,500) M carbon bucket seats look great, many of the men present were commenting on the placement of the carbon fibre at the front of seat. And from a previous drive in an old model M3 I can report that my children thought it was hilarious that they could poke me through the holes in the seat.
I didn’t have time to investigate the on-board technology, but from my time with the new BMW 3 series I know that it is good. The M3/M4 comes with a 12.3 inch digital driver’s dash and a 10.25 inch central infotainment display that can be controlled via the touchscreen, iDrive controller or voice control. The system now comes standard with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and your phone can be charged wirelessly, if it is compatible.
We also didn’t get the opportunity to play with the ‘Drift Analyser’, most likely because the cars we were driving on the track had to be driven back to the dealership at the end of the day. Nor did I get an opportunity to explore that different set up options on the M3/M4, which there are many.
The driver assistance technology on the new M3/M4 is extensive and thankfully we didn’t try any of it out while blasting around the track. Standard features include active cruise control, cross traffic warning, steering and lane control assistant and lane keeping assistant with side collision warning. Passive safety includes driver and front passenger airbag, side airbags for driver and front passenger integrated in the seta backrest bolsters and head airbags for the four outer seats. Neither the M3 nor the M4 have an ANCAP safety rating.
Prices for the new BMW M3 Competition start at $154,900 and the M4 starts at $159,900 (excluding on road costs) and you are going to want the optional M carbon ceramic brakes so add another $16,500 to that price. All new BMWs come with three years/unlimited km and the service interval for the M3/M4 is 12 months/20,000km, whichever occurs first. You are also eligible for one complimentary BMW Advance 1 Driving Experience place if you purchase a new M3/M4, but I would ask nicely for two places if you happen to have a spouse who will be driving the vehicle also. Because the one disappointing part of event was, besides myself, there was only one other woman who had a drive of the cars on track.
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine and Clintons Motor Group.