Six plus eight, minus loads
Sub-£20k V8 magic or a £32k six-cylinder M4 that looks new?
THERE ARE ALL TOO FEW M divisiontuned BMWs that can be categorised as bargains. But there are still options. Take the E90 M3 saloon, a rare M3 that packages a peak M division 4.0-litre V8 in a stealthy fourdoor body. It’s a condensed M5, and already collectible – today, V8 saloons start from £17k, and we’d expect that to at least hold firm.
If you crave the latest M4 but can’t stomach the £59k new price, early cars look much the same, but are readily available for a little over £30k. With lower running costs and better performance from its turbo-straight six, and a sharper chassis than its predecessor too, there’s much to recommend the M4.
The M3’s V8 sounds interesting…
It sounds amazing. The 4.0-litre unit marks the end of M division’s naturally-aspirated line, and scorches to 8300rpm like its pistons are fireworks. The power delivery is also perfectly in balance with the playful chassis. A relative lack of low-down torque – 295lb ft doesn’t arrive until 3900rpm – lets you get the
power down, while still providing the option of getting frisky if you really provoke it. The engine dominates this car, but it doesn’t overwhelm it.
New, the saloon used to cost £1415 less than the coupe at £49,415, but four times fewer saloons were produced and just 1909 came in right-hand drive. David Burton owns the example photographed. ‘It’s a 2008 car with 52,000 miles, and I paid £20k six months ago,’ he says. ‘It’s by far the thirstiest car I’ve owned but the noise is worth it. I’ve had a main oil service at Munich Power in Redhill, which cost £600 – more than my old E46 M3, because the engine takes more oil.’
Who wouldn’t like the idea of a half-price M4?
It’s a lot of M for the money. The M4’s twin-turbo straight-six can’t match the old V8’s charisma, but you do get a huge extra serving of torque – 406lb ft at a far more accessible 1850rpm – and it still hauls strongly to 7300rpm. The chassis is also better resolved than the old M3’s. Jump in the low-slung driver’s seat, fire off down the road and the M4 feels like the sharper, more polished machine.
The cabin, too, marks a big leap in quality, and the sculpted bucket seats do the daily stuff as expertly as they hold you tight on a trackday. Put it all together and you’ve got a comprehensively more modern machine than the V8, one that can show its predecessor a clean set of quad exhausts.
What goes wrong?
V8 throttle bodies can fail. ‘Some 50,000-mile cars have had them done, others are getting to 70,000 miles and need them for the first time,’ says Dan Norris of Munich Legends. ‘You’ve got two cylinder banks, and if one side goes, really you should replace the other; it’s around £1000 a side.’
The M differential can get noisy. If diff additive doesn’t work, you’ll need a replacement for £2500.
But the M4? ‘We’ve had next to no issues with them and certainly no major failures,’ reports Norris. ‘Most tend to be quite low mileage, and they’re often still under warranty.’ 4
Thanks to Munich Legends (munichlegends.co.uk), BMW Car Club
GB (bmwcarclubgb.uk) and David Burton