The Indian launch of the 2014 BMW M3 and M4 Coupe held recently at the Buddh International Circuit in Noida was a display of Bavarian might, to say the least. BMW's M division, the performance division of the German manufacturer, showcased the aforementioned two new models, with special appearances by the gorgeous and the growling-the M6 Gran Coupe and the M5.
The launch was combined with the BMW Expedition Tour experience for the large group of invited media from all over the country, which unfortunately meant that driving the M3 and M4 Coupe was out of the question, at least for the smaller fry.
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After a brief press conference which saw BMW India President, Philipp von Sahr addressing invitees along with cricket superstar, Sachin Tendulkar, who entertained the crowd with anecdotes like convincing his wife that his former M5 was a ‘family car', and the inevitable comparisons of BMW M cars to cricket. You need balance in cricket, and BMWs have great balance, that sort of thing.
Some hooliganism in the ‘devil cars' followed, with the professional BMW drivers performing brilliantly executed donuts precariously close to the edges of the main straight. Listening to the turbo-six of the M3 hitting its limiter and dropping circles of rubber on the tarmac was quite thrilling, but I was looking forward to my first drive on a track, obviously being a touch naive assuming this was going to be possible, given the sheer numbers of eager press present.
But it was finally time to see what many of us present had come from far and wide to witness, the all-new 2014 M3 and M4 Coupe in action. They made a couple of howling passes down the straight at full tick, spun their low profile tyres shamelessly into clouds of white smoke, before coming to rest and looking pretty for the pictures.
After hounding the registration counter like hyenas lining up for their share of meat, we at last headed down to the paddock, where the stars of the show were parked. The heart of that Bavarian matter, first, is the same TwinPower Turbo, inline six-cylinder engine that provides similar performance for both the M3 and M4 Coupe—4.1 seconds for the nought-to-hundred dash and a 250 km/h top speed. Quite enough for a car that can actually combine everyday driving practicality with fairly serious track credentials. Still, it hit its own booming exhaust note; the 3.0-litre mill must be one of the best-sounding six-pots out there.
We think the latest M3 is one of the best looking generations of the much-accoladed car's history, with the aggressive air intakes being the highlight of the front fascia, combined with the chiselled, muscular hood, that lend the M3 its intimidating looks. These should hold it in good stead against the Audi S4 and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, its chief rivals.
This is one of the reasons why we feel the M3 is even better looking than the delicious M4 Coupe. Those superbly executed wheel flares seem more prominent in the M3, and the soup-bowl-effect 19-inch alloys give the new car a beautifully balanced, yet supremely sporty design. Maybe that's just us, you take your more-than-one-crore-pick.
If that don't mean business, I don't know what does. There's sport detailing everywhere, like gaping bodywork, quad exhausts and famous M badging. Devil Car is right, it looks the most possessed of the Big Three's offerings in this extreme segment-the C63 AMG with its bigger wheel flares looks aggressive but its face doesn't intimidate you quite like the M3. The Audi S4 in comparison, somehow reminds you of a upmarket business suit, and definitely can't deliver the sheer impact of the M3's cuts and creases.
What the M4 Coupe looks like is a very pissed off hornet, especially in this Austin Yellow Metallic hue. But it will suit those buyers who require their ride to look like a proper sports car, with its uncluttered two-door layout.
The side breathers get M badging again, and spawn an upper crease that runs along the side panels all the way to the wraparound LED tail lamps. This character line stands out more prominently on the M4 Coupe that's without the additional two doors of the M3 sedan.
M4 badging again, this time so the guy following is quickly schooled about passing intentions.
BMW M wheels aren't BMW M wheels without the iconic front grille placement of the M badging, the Coupe too gets M4 credentials attached to a pair of twin glossy black rods of the twin Kidney Beans. Things that make you go MMM.
The devils inside.
One devil outside.
These guys were doing more donuts than the Yank police force. But then again, BMW does things in grand style, and there was plenty enough rubber to be shredded by everyone. Well, almost.
My flight was only a little over two hours away, and I unfortunately had to decide on one experience, piloting a BMW around specially set up cones or riding shotgun with one of the professional company drivers around the technical Buddh circuit. It was a no brainer.
Just a little while earlier I had a quick chat with David, one of the pro drivers present, about what you need to keep in mind during competitive circuit driving. The down-to earth expert driver highlighted key things like slow into a corner and fast out, and remaining calm and smooth behind the wheel. Turned out that he shared a passion for oldschool manual gearboxes too, but alerted to me the importance and benefits of the quicker shifting paddle shifters, and how in BMWs, they rightly move with the steering wheel, to allow accurate gear changing.
I was hoping to have sat with David for my Buddh ride, but it was to be one of the other no doubt extremely capable drivers in the deceptively quick Malaysian, Ewvyn. We taxied in the pit lane at the speed limit of 60 km/h and then all M broke loose. Ewvyn planted down the throttle as soon as we passed the pit lane marker, and the car exploded towards Corner 1, and I experienced my first power-on drift round the turn.
This was the view down the back straight at over 200 km/h, as we approached the 150-metre braking marker, which signalled the corner was approaching. Ewvyn concurred David's earlier statement, seeing slow in and fast out first hand was enlightening. He continued talking as we hit corner after corner, and explained how one should treat a technical double-apex turn as one bend, and always think of where you need to be for the next one. Smooth steering inputs, he added, and you'll be quick.
Who says big people can't drive? There's Ewvyn, after the exhilarating ride came to an end in the pit lane. You wouldn't think that this was after a whole day of driving, these guys sure know how to take the Gs with the Ms. I was truly privileged to have experienced a drive on the fast Buddh circuit, albeit from the passenger seat, because when you learn from the best, it should come in handy when you're actually put to the test, er, drive.
And before you knew it, all was normal again.