Six plus eight, mi­nus loads

Sub-£20k V8 magic or a £32k six-cylin­der M4 that looks new?

CAR (UK) - - Used Car Stars 2018 -

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

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