BMW M4, motoring review: The new M3 is more powerful than ever - and duller

BMW's new M3 is more powerful than ever – and duller, says John Simister

Price: £56,635 (M3 saloon £56,175)
Engine: 2,979cc, six cylinders, 24 valves, twin turbos, 431bhp
Transmission: 6-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 0-62 in 4.1sec, 34mpg, CO2 194g/km

In the latest BMW M3, and its coupé-bodied M4 sibling (pictured), are embodied all the imperatives, conflicts and existential angst of the modern ultra-rapid motor car. A simple argument says that if fast is good, faster is better. The same with power and grip. But if these are taken as read – a standpoint to which we shall return – they still ought to be achieved within parameters laid down by society. This is where the difficulties begin.

As cars get ever more powerful, so it becomes harder to explore that extra energy on public roads. It also means that when you're not doing so, your new very-fast car is nowhere near its limits, so there is little skill required to drive it and little satisfaction to be gained. Another thrust of perceived progress is that technology makes things easier to use, so you don't have to think as hard. When operating a machine in which involvement in the process should be as important as the result of that process, because that is what makes driving fun, this may not be a good thing.

BMW's first M3 had four cylinders and an impressive-for-1986 200bhp. On the road it could be very fast, but it was never less than completely absorbing whatever the speed. The M3 which has just been replaced had a madly revving, rather thirsty, 4.0-litre V8 engine with more than double the power. It came close to being too much of a good thing, but still there was that intimate connection with the driver.

So here is a new M3, its coupé version now separately designated as M4, and it's more powerful again, with a monstrous 431bhp. That's despite a smaller capacity (3.0 litres) and a reversion to the straight-six cylinder of the second and third-generation M3s. How so? Thanks to a pair of turbochargers. And with the smaller capacity come lower fuel consumption and emissions, while with the higher power comes a huge increase in torque, right across the speed range but especially at low speeds. Sounds like a win all round, especially as the new M3 and M4 are around 80kg lighter than their predecessors.

So the new M3/M4 is even more ballistically accelerative, requiring just over four seconds to scorch to 62mph – but the driving experience has changed fundamentally. You no longer interact with the engine in an interface of subtle precision. You just put your foot down and go. Blam! The optional double-clutch transmission, with a pair of sequential paddle-shifters and no clutch pedal, further reduces the need to work and enjoy doing so, no matter how fierce and guttural the engine sounds with its digital aural enhancement through the stereo. A synthetic M3? That can't be right, when Version 1.0 almost defined naturalness in cars.

Fantastic grip, a near-perfect balance in fast corners and quick, substantial-feeling steering, all of it electronically massaged, all add to the feeling of dynamic, otherworldly impregnability. But something is not quite right when a car makes it so easy to go very fast while leaving you oddly unmoved.

In cars intended to thrill their drivers, we have reached the stage of too much power, too much pace, too much electronickery. Meanwhile, BMW has another car in its range rather closer to an original M3 in spirit. It's called the M235i, is smaller and more agile, and it costs £20,000 less. Deal, I think.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Retail Store Supervisor

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to become a part of a mot...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - ASP.Net, C#

    £28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business IT support compan...

    Recruitment Genius: Commercial Manager / New Product Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company mission is to be th...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Tester

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Tester is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project