BMW M3

The secret of the car's psychopathy is a button marked 'M'. Press it and it suddenly turns into a sledgehammer macho phallus

I have been known to express opinions about Kabuki. I own a Debussy CD. And I have read Eat, Pray, Love (although I did skip most of the Indian bit). In other words, I am a highly cultured, refined polymath, in touch with my feminine side; kind of a cross between Rodin's The Thinker and Richard Madeley. I shouldn't, then, be even mildly amused by a sledgehammer macho phallus like the new BMW M3, but I am, very.

Few cars truly soar like this, at least not unless they have domesticated quadrupeds* on their badges. It can reach 60mph in 4.8 seconds and were it not for a top speed limiter, I suspect it would keep accelerating until it ran out of petrol (not for long, then, admittedly). But the real secret to the M3's psychopathy is a little button marked "M" that turns what is a relatively comfy, easy-to-drive coupé into a kind of hair-trigger land mine, by increasing throttle response, firming up the dampers and quickening the steering. It sends pure kangaroo juice coursing through the piston heads which makes the first few clutch-lurching miles quite trying. Master it, however, and you won't stop smiling for days.

This raises an interesting question about people owning cars that don't fit their image – old ladies who drive Porsche Boxsters (a surprisingly large demographic); young men in Honda Accords (rare); humans driving Audi Q7s (purely hypothetical), and so on. To what extent do you let people's perceptions of you dictate the kind of car you drive? Would you be surprised if I told you that Michael Frayn owns a Pagani Zonda? Would it change how you feel about Alain de Botton if you knew he had a Corvette? What if William Rees-Mogg phoned to say he was thinking about buying a Vauxhall VXR8? (I told him to stick with his Camaro.) You'd feel a bit unsettled, wouldn't you?

So would I buy an M3 if I had the money? Well, £50,000 would buy an awful lot of Edith Wharton novels and potpourri but, yes. I'd go for the four-door. Almost as fast yet cheaper than the two-door, and much cheaper than the slower, heavier convertible.

But I'd still probably take the 2CV to Glyndebourne, were I ever to go there and if I had a 2CV.



See? This is a good example of how us polymaths speak

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