The first reviews of the new M3 and M4 have appeared on the Internet, and there seems to be something of a common theme between them. Two of the most anticipated—and controversial—vehicles on the market, the G80 M3 and G82 M4 are exalted as being incredibly capable in terms of their razor-sharp performance thanks to a powerful engine and a refined chassis, but lamented for their appearance. Read for yourself on Road & Track and in two articles from Car and Driver.
It’s an outcome that was anticipated here on BimmerLife the moment the new 4 Series foreshadowed the design of the upcoming mainstay M cars. Although neither the M3 or M4 seem to offer much in the way of compromise in terms of performance, whenever a reviewer with some seat time compliments either model, the praise is often tempered with something along the lines of, …if you don’t object to how they look.
Nevertheless, the way the new M3 and M4 behave on the road (and track), and more specifically at the edge of the performance envelope, has the automotive community facing something of a crossroads. Where else can you get blistering capability in such a practical package—with a six-speed manual transmission? If you need any affirmation of BMW’s commitment to building engaging vehicles, look no further than those two aforementioned qualities. There are some excellent competitors in the same category as the G80 M3 or G82 M4, but none seem to possess the formula of every day usability of either BMW, and none can be had with a traditional manual transmission.
There’s also the caveat represented by the Competition derivative of either car. If you want the most potent current variant, with 500 horsepower, you’ll be opting for an M3 Competition or an M4 Competition, and that means no six-speed. It’s going to be the same when M xDrive joins the option list, which introduces another quandary to the G-chassis M3 and M4 decision. BMW has never sold an M car with both xDrive and a manual transmission, as the two seem to be mutually exclusive, and the new M3 and M4 won’t be an exception. If you want maximum performance capability, you’ll need xDrive, and that means getting a Competition model which come standard with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
The flip side of the coin is that the model portfolio remains diverse, and for the purists among us, the so-called base-model stick-shift cars aim to please.
If you prefer the substance of a video review (and really, who doesn’t when it comes to the review of something as subjective and engaging as a car?), then you’ll want to watch Chris Harris driving an M3 Competition for Top Gear below, and you should also check out both of Doug DeMuro’s bits on YouTube. Both cars have highs and lows, and the Competition sub-models add some neat ingredients to the mix, but at the end of the day, the reviews seem to arrive at the conclusion described above. DeMuro seems to offer the most concise explanation: “It really is a special car, and it drives great, and if you’re nervous about the new M3, you shouldn’t be.”
Of course, with M xDrive not slated to become optional until later this year in the summer, we’re still waiting to get the full story, and to find out just how fast the new generation of BMW M cars truly are.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG. Video courtesy Top Gear on YouTube.]