Built for road or track – or both?

Can two of the world’s best high-per­for­mance track-day pro­duc­tion cars in the form of BMW’s M3 and M4 also pro­vide suit­able daily trans­port? DAVE MOORE thinks he has the an­swer.

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS -

The tem­per­a­ture gauge dropped to mi­nus 3 de­grees Cel­sius, and the early morn­ing shad­ows along the route from Taupo to our ap­point­ment with a dis­tant Hamp­ton race­track har­boured black ice and pot holes. In other words, it was a typ­i­cal New Zealand win­ter’s morn­ing, and we were al­ways aware of the cars’ 317 kilowatts work­ing through the rear wheels. But it wasn’t twitch­ing and slip­page that gave the game away, it was the re­lent­less shove in the back that re­minded that this is BMW’s lat­est hot 3-se­ries. Ac­tu­ally it was a hot 4-se­ries, too, as now, the Mu­nich-based con­cern la­bels its sedan as a 3-se­ries and the coupe as the 4-se­ries and the re­spec­tive M3 and M4 ver­sions are the hottest of the lot. Pre­vi­ously, with two or four-doors it was M3 pure and sim­ple. We would be driv­ing each of them on road and track over two days.

It’s prob­a­bly not sur­pris­ing that the same cars that man­aged stun­ning times around the windy rain and hail swept Taupo cir­cuit one day, could carve through the North Is­land New Zealand coun­try­side the next with such aplomb. Af­ter all, one of the many pa­ram­e­ters set for the new pair of M-cars was to be able to man­age a sub-eight minute Nur­bur­gring Nord­schleife time, as well as per­haps the more sim­ple task of be­ing quicker in day-to-day terms than the pre­vi­ous V8-en­gined M3, not to men­tion the mod­els be­fore that, which of­fered four and six-cylin­der power units.

The first tur­bocharged M en­gine with six cylin­ders makes 317kW from three-litres, com­pared with the pre­vi­ously nat­u­rallyaspi­rated 4.0-litre V8’s 308kW and this helps of course. As does the new six’s amaz­ing torque spread of 550Nm from 1650 to 5500rpm, to the bent-eight’s 400Nm, which re­sults in the new cars man­ag­ing the ar­bi­trary zero 100kmh time in 4.1 to the pre­vi­ous car’s five sec­onds. But it’s the com­pany’s weight-sav­ing regime that also counts here, with the use of high-ten­sile steel, car­bon fi­bre and alu­minium re­sult­ing in a sav­ing of 63kg from the old M3 de­spite hav­ing more kit, more gears and of course more per­for­mance.

So, al­most de­spite the cars’ ex­tra per­for­mance, the sheer flex­i­bil­ity of the new M3 and M4 means that they now need just 8.3-litres to travel 100km, com­pared with the 11.2-litre re­quired by the pre­vi­ous V8-pow­ered car.

With the main dif­fer­ences be­ing their styling and bootlid num­bers, the new M3-M4 bi­umvi­rate have iden­ti­cal kit lev­els, pack­ing ac­tive damp­ing, with its one-prod-away Sport and Sport + set­tings.

With a rain and hail-washed Taupo track to start things off on the day be­fore our subzero drive to Auck­land, my co-driver and I were ex­posed to the un­canny talent of the new M3 and M4 chas­sis: there’s such an in­or­di­nate amount of grip af­forded by it, and de­spite the pres­ence of al­most id­iot-proof elec­tron­ics, the two cars talk to the driver lu­cidly and ac­cu­rately.

The cars’ ap­proach­ing lim­its are easy to recog­nise, and the elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal steer­ing im­parts all the right sig­nals to even the cold­est hands, while my pre­ferred M1 set­ting reeled in the tail so gen­tly that it made me look like a far-bet­ter driver than I prob­a­bly am.

The sheer flex­i­bil­ity of the car’s new twin tur­bocharged six comes into play very ef­fec­tively at Taupo, whose changes of ra­dius suit cars with strong mid-range torque de­liv­ery far more than one with a peaky, but more pow­er­ful en­gine – not that there are many in this seg­ment. With a pro­fes­sion­ally-driven in­struc­tor’s car ahead to show the new lines re­quired for the con­di­tions – much later apexes than we re­mem­bered from the sum­mer – the car’s seven-slot trans­mis­sion can help ei­ther Mmodel to stay up to speed with the pow­er­train pad­dled-back into third slot and left to it.

There is im­mense torque and cou­pled with so much grip, this means that there is no peak­i­ness to try and dis­lodge the cars’ rear end, which for the most part stayed res­o­lutely vel­croed to the track. While we were given a wicked slalom course to try and were en­cour­aged to use the full high­way straight at Taupo, the plea­sure with­out fright as­pect of the car was ever present, though it has to be said that in all-out rac­ing con­di­tions, the Ms are able to get a lit­tle closer to the fear fac­tor.

Truth be known, the be­hav­iour of the M-cars on the 300km blat from cir­cuit to cir­cuit was even more im­pres­sive. Go­ing though notes from the night be­fore the road drive, I wrote that I wasn’t sure that 19-inch rims would put enough rub­ber and air be­tween me and the road to be ex­actly com­fort­able for a four-hour drive – never mind on wet and of­ten ice af­fected sur­faces – pep­pered with pot­holes and slumps for good mea­sure, but the ride qual­ity was re­mark­ably smooth.

Even in Sport mode the cars coped well in the lousy con­di­tions, and when switched to the Com­fort set­ting, you’d wouldn’t even sus­pect the car is an M-ma­chine at all.

M4Coupe at Hamp­ton Downs: The track de­liv­ers the kinds of changes of el­e­va­tion that can sep­a­rate the pre­tenders from the real thing on track.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.