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Does the new M4 still have the mojo of the E92 M3? We ask Gaurav Gill

WORDS by OusephChacko
Photography by Gaurav S Thombre

There comes a point in life when you start to introspect: why are we here; is there life beyond this planet; should the m Division really resort to turbocharging? Well, Ferrari, that bastion of natural aspiration, is doing it and yes, the m division went the forced induction way a long time ago. The M5, M6, X6M, and X5M were all blowing intercooled air much before this F82 M4 came along. There’s one key difference though – the current generation of big m’s are heavyweight champs: big, fast bruisers for fat, rich people. The M3 was the Ali – float like a butterfly, sting like a bee – for people whose bucket lists included hot laps at the Nurburgring.
a banshee wail and naturally aspirated redline were what the M3 called home and sliding into its seat was like plugging into the matrix. but now it’s seems like the mighty mdivision is bowing to the strong arm of the law. It’s bowing to tax brackets, emissions, crash safety and fuel efficiency norms and it’s doing it with the help of two turbochargers and extra girth. I wish you could see the face I’m making now.

But, let’s think sensibly – this is the M division, the people who built the E30, E46 and E90 M3’s and I don’t think they are going to throw away what they’ve learnt from creating three generations of unadulterated stimulation. I think they’ll just come up with clever solutions to powerslide around complicated laws and so, we’ve got our not-so-tame rally driver to come along and verify a few hard facts.

Gaurav Gill is just back from kicking ass at the New Caledonia round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and he’s over the moon. More relevant to this test is the fact that he loves M cars. He owns not one but two m cars – an E92 M3 (the coupe) and an E93 M3 (the hard-top convertible) and he’s going to drive the new M4 (the coupe version of the new M3) that we’ve brought along to see if it’s still got the mojo of its ancestors.

Lucky for the M4 he likes its shape – there’s enough devil in the details and slats in the bumpers, sides and rear to keep the aerodynamics and brake cooling part of his racing brain happy. To us mortals the M4 has enough differences in its details to differentiate it from the regular 3 Series to keep us happy.

Like every successive generation of M3 this one has grown as well – it is 53mm longer than Gill’s coupe, 180mm longer than the E46 and a full foot and something longer than the E30 M3. BMW’s engineers wanted the new M4 and M3 to have the same aero properties (the airflow over the coupe’s shorter roof would have required a large spoiler) and so the coupe gets its own special composite bootlid with an integrated spoiler. The roof is unpainted carbon fibre and the front wings and bonnet are aluminium – all key elements that make it weigh less and lower the centre of gravity. It still weighs circa 1600kg.

There’s more. The regular road car has rubber bushes between the rear subframe and monocoque that allow some squirm to make it more comfortable over bad roads. In the m4, the subframe is bolted directly to the body and this, along with additional bracing and a stiffer suspension, results in a car that is vastly more responsive.

Gaurav likes the new dashboard. It’s an evolution of the dash in his M3 and the improvements to this one make the old dash look a bit 2012. The driving position is perfect – supportive chairs and a hugely adjustable steering wheel – and that, he says, is one of the most important things a driver’s car has to get right. If you’re not sitting right, you’re not driving right. Well, the way he’s hanging the m4’s tail out, I guess he’s found the right driving position. he says it’s easy to get the tail out because of this new motor’s torque and the electronically controlled, mechanical limited slip differential … we’ll get to that in a bit.

This new S55 motor loses a litre in capacity to the naturally aspirated 4.0-litre v8 in the e92 and taking its place are two small turbochargers, each feeding three of the engine’s six in-line cylinders. The beauty of modern turbocharging is that despite being considerably smaller, the power is up by 11bhp to 425bhp and torque is up by a whopping 150Nm to 550Nm.

The S55 still revs to 7600rpm (the old one went to a heady 8500rpm) and BMW engineers spent many nights burning 97-octane to keep throttle response as pure as possible. The way to do that is to minimise inertia and that’s why all the engine ancillaries are driven electrically (so there’s less load on the engine), the propshaft is made of carbon fibre (40kg shaved) and the half shafts to the rear wheels are hollow! There’s still a hint of lag despite this, but, really, you won’t complain. The motor feels brawny in its midrange and still has manic pull to the redline (if not as manic as the old car). and, make no mistake, it’s bloody quick! BMW claims a 0-100kmph time of around four seconds with this car’s responsive seven-speed, twin-clutch automatic.

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What’s clearly missing is the old motor’s charismatic yowl as it tornadoes to its maximum crankshaft speed. The new engine sounds nice enough – like the m5, it enhances engine noises in the cabin via the speakers – but sounds quite farty and flat on the outside. It simply isn’t as evocative.

Gaurav slows down, steps out of the car and tells me what I’ve suspected all morning – that the m4’s gone a bit soft. There’s a bit more slop in the suspension and he says it moves about a lot more on uneven roads. You have to really lean on the springs and drive it very hard to get it to settle down which, he admits, is fun too.

I ask if I can have a go in his M3 and he nervously hands me the keys. The difference is immediate. The M3 may not have the flair of the M4, but your connection with the road is starkly apparent. The old one is so much more chatty (I forgot what an incredibly feelsome steering it has) and the car feels so much tighter and ground bound over so many different surfaces. The new one’s electric steering is great in its weight and directness but it simply doesn’t give you that natural feeling of control that the old one does. And he’s right (obviously) about how tight the E92 feels – it has got impeccable body control and it’s so intuitive you’re instant best friends with it.

It’s not all bad though – credit is due to the m division for losing two cylinders, gaining two turbocharges and still managing to keep things exciting. No doubt the new car gives up some of the old one’s hardcoreness but it makes up by being a more wholesome car, one that is actually more supple and suited to our roads than the old one. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. I ask Gaurav if he’ll spend `1.21 croreon an F82. He says he will and quickly adds that he’ll keep the E92 as well. Lucky guy.

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