2015 BMW M3 & M4 – first drive (video)

Sideways with a smile – we hit the road and track in Portugal to try out the latest M cars

By Shahzad Sheikh

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Feast your eyes on the latest BMW M3. Oh, and the M4. Because the new M4 is actually the new M3 since the M3 started out with two doors. The M4 does not have four doors. But the M3 has four doors… confused? Yeah, me too.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Fortunately during the launch event in sunny Algarve in Portugal, BMW had taken care to differentiate the cars by having all the four-door saloon M3 models in blue, and all the two-door M4 coupes in a sort of yellow gold.

Lurking in the shadows of mystery was also a black car. But we’ll come back to Black Beauty a little later.

What you need to know about the new 2015 BMW M3 & M4

  • Out goes the previous M3’s V8. Welcome back a silky smooth BMW straight six, with twin turbos and tiny turbines that spin up instantly – so every time you start an M3/M4, you must say ‘Turbines to Speed’ like Robin did in the Batman TV show. Although no ‘Atomic Batteries to power’ – perhaps they’ll be introduced when the facelift comes round.
  • It produces 431bhp (the V8 managed 414bhp) and puts out an astonishing 406lb ft of torque (compared to only 295lb ft for the old Eight) and that too from just 1800rpm right up to 5390rpm when the power curve hits its peak. This shaves half a second off the 0-100kph time, now a blistering 4.1seconds, and the delimited top speed is 280kph.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

  • Here’s a nerdy fact for you – it has not one but two additional pumps in the engine to avoid oil starvation under acceleration and when cornering hard. And whilst you have thundering torque at barely over idle, you can still rev it hard up to 7600rpm (the power band ends at seven grand).
  • Emissions are down 25% and fuel economy is astonishingly reasonable. You really want to know how much? Okay then – 8.3L/100km.
  •  The M4 weighs 1497kg – 80kg less than the old car, largely thanks to carbon roof (you could lift the whole thing easily on your own. There’s more carbon in the bootlid, alumium for the bonnet and front body bits, plus even the drive shaft is a single piece made of carbon fibre – 40% lighter.
  • Seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission with Launch Control and ‘Smokey Burnout function’ sends drive to the rear (of course!).

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

  • Praise the Lord and sacrifice a goat because the manual transmission has NOT been abandoned. Far from it. The six-speed manual transmission with a heavy-duty double-clutch plate is smaller and 12kg lighter and now has a rev-matching feature which automatically blips the throttle for you on downshifts.
  • Drift-happy Active M Differential still happily present – just switch it to MDM – M Dynamic Mode!
  • Rear axle subframe bolted directly to the body with no rubber bushings – like a race car!
  • Electronic power steering employs smaller motor for more precision and sacrificing assistance for ‘feel’.
  • Just three modes each now for throttle, steering and transmission – so much easier to comprehend!

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Styling and presence

Whilst at first glance it feels familiar to the previous M cars, viewed from the front it’s a flatter, squatter face with intimidating arched eyebrows and wider more flared kidney-grille nostrils. You won’t mistake it for a regular flavour 3 or 4 series as it comes up in your rear view mirror either, thanks to its angrier bared teeth and menacing jowls.

You will not be able to distinguish between the M3 and M4 however, although the saloon is fractionally taller by 41mm. From the side the coupe has the most striking, better flowing profile with that vent-leashed waistline cutting a clean dash through the elongated door and wrapping over the bulging rear wheel arch to meet the more steeply sloping roof and rear window.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

From the rear too, the coupe is fatter but lower, lending a sense of really digging the rear down into the ground, compared to the more tapered and upright saloon sides. The taillight and bootlines are sexier on the two-door too.

Overall the coupe is slinky and sleek, definitely the better looking. But the saloon loses nothing in terms of sheer presence and of course serves up those practical rear portals.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Driving them on the road

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The ride is incredibly harsh and crashy – you feel and hear bumps and undulations that you’d need a microscope to actually see on the tarmac. But this is the payoff for the DTM-racer style rigidity and solidity. It’s bearable – just be sure to always leave it in Comfort mode. Having said that, it’s perhaps not what you might be expecting from your expensive junior executive car.

Also the steering is nicely weighted, accurate and responsive, but somewhat quietened when it comes to the chatter, countering the ride with unobtrusive isolation. This steering will not fight you, or threaten to wrench itself out of your hands taking your thumbs with it, but it is faithful.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

With particularly windy weather, the cars seemed a little too prone to buffeting in crosswinds and felt less than fully planted at higher speeds – hey sometimes weight is a good thing, and possibly that’s why the 23kg heavier saloon was fractionally more stable, despite the slightly higher centre of gravity.

And that’s it for the bad stuff. Eminently easy to just jump in and drive, it’s all perfectly logical in the cabin with a good seating position, and of course familiar to existing BMW owners. The optional heads up display is extremely handy, but I do wish that what gear you are in would also be displayed on the HUD (although maybe I needed to change some setting to be fair).

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

The paddle shifts are well located to encourage you to take over the shifting duties, not that the DCT has any issue doing an efficient job by its own. Shifts are quick and snappy and quite satisfying. Performance of course is superb, and seemingly relentless from the get-go as the twin-scroll turbos do their thang.

Initial braking is relatively gentle, so you really have to stomp on the anchors to get the brakes to bite hard, but they are certainly strong.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Very mild initial understeer quickly makes way for composed neutral cornering, and barely believable amounts of grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (offered as standard on 18-inch wheels which should help with the ride, but you’ll all opt for the 19s) developed specifically for these M cars – even in the wet.

On the road, both M3 and M4 are fantastically fast, uncannily composed, and fiercely faithful to the inputs of the driver as the DSC and various electronics look after vehicle and human. The blue car being the more sociable choice for comfort, space and practicality.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Whilst a lot more powerful and torquey than a BMW 335i or 435i, the M cars are really only a second faster to 100kph though. And in terms of real-world accessible performance you’d have to question whether it’s really worth the inevitable significant extra premium, especially for owners merely requiring the German exec experience from their compact saloon. For them, it’s not.

However…

Driving them on them on the track

The track is where the hard-core semi-racer inner depth of the new 2015 BMW M3 & M4 blue streaks and yellow lightnings are truly revealed. Turn it all up to Sports, or even Sports Plus, and punch the DSC button once for MDM, then these M-Motors finally shed their pseudo daily-driver personas. Instead you get tarmac tearaways with a massive side helping of throwaway tail-sliding antics.

Suddenly both the cars are alive, frisky and, off the leash as they are, finally happy. The embrace the more natural surrounds and revel in being pushed to their mechanical limits – set way too high for humbled mortals like yours truly to access anyway.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

We’re on the Algarve International Circuit, which is a short, very tight track with hairpins and fast sweepers punctuated by crests, dips and blind corners. It’s rather scary frankly. But the M cars are talking to me now, screaming even, in sharp contrast to the husky whispers of the previous day.

Though that could also be to do with the twin exhaust flaps having opened up and bypassing the silencer bellowing out surprisingly grunty and growly aural theatre.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Imbibed with confidence you push on harder, but when the inevitable slide does arrive you can just drive on through it depending on how severe it is, or catch it with a little help from the latent but ever-present stability control.

The brakes too suddenly take on a newfound ferocity as they welcome the repeated abuse and haul you up with unstinting reassurance.

Of the two, it’s the yellow car that, only by the smallest of margins, feels the more playful to drive and more adapted to the all-or-nothing of track-life.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

The black car

But if I was having fun with the DCT cars, it was nothing compared to the nirvana I was exposed to when I got the keys to the fabled black car; for there, in place of that autodrive joystick was a manual shifter – to mine eyes a thing of sublime beauty.

Back out on the tricky track, the gods of gears served up their bounty – the clutch may have been slipping tiredly on this abused press launch beater, but the lever moved amongst the ratios with delectably crisp dexterity, let down only by my own fumbling ineptitude as I suddenly found myself working up an antidote to underarm ‘Dry Impact’ Nivea for Men.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

First lap I tried it in Sports, which gives you the amazing rev-matching, fooling outside observers into believing you have Senna-esque gear-changing finesse. However seeing as the pedals are intimately close, making ‘heel-and-toeing’ almost instinctive, I switched over to Sports Plus (which switches off rev-synching) to take on even more of the workload.

‘So were you faster with the manual?’ someone asked me after the keys to the black car had been prised from my sweaty fist. No, actually I was probably slower, sloppier, sideways-er and generally all over the place. Plus I was exhausted! But none of that mattered, because I was utterly elated, thrilled and pumped.

And that’s what an M-car should be able to do. On this day, on this track, the black one did.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

Verdict

Possibly smarting from accusations of dumbing down the legendary M brand, BMW has gone all out and injected back the untamed, slightly unhinged, raw serious intent and lunacy to the latest M cars. If you only want quick but sensible, safe and sexy small saloons and coupes then stick with the 335i and 435i – that’s all the BMW you need.

But if you want unfiltered motoring with a triple-X rating – all the time – then rejoice, the ultimate driving machine is back and it wears an M4 badge. And an M3 badge. Get the old-skool manual and you’ll be timewarped back to an era when M-car drivers were hero-worshipped in car park corridors.

2015 BMW M3 & M4 arrives in the region next month. Confirmed prices have not yet been revealed, but we expect them to start from not less than AED350,000 ($95k).

2015 BMW M3 & M4 first drive global press launch

2015 BMW M3 & M4 – The Specs

How much? M4: AED425,000 ($116k)and M3: AED410,000 ($112k)
Engine: 3.0-litre Six cylinder M TwinPower Turbo, 431hp @5500-7300rpm, 406lb ft @ 1850-5500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed DCT auto or six-speed manual, rear wheel drive
Fuel economy: 8.3L/100km (DCT) 8.8L/100km (Manual)
Performance: 0-100kph 4.1sec (DCT), 4.3sec (Manual), Top speed 250kph (280kph achievable delimited)
Weight: 1497kg M4 coupe, 1520kg M3 saloon

Let us know what you think of the new 2015 BMW M3 & M4 below

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