You know that it’s going to be a good day indeed when you have a trio as colourful as this. But are they really ‘Magical?’
Ever since we’re able to first decipher shapes and letters, we’re told that ‘A’ is for ‘Apple,’ ‘B’ is for ‘Ball,’ and ‘C’ is for ‘Cat.’ But today, ‘B’ is for ‘Buddh’ and ‘C’ is for ‘Circuit.’ ‘M,’ on the other hand, stands for ‘Manic, Magic’ and a couple of other similar adjectives. Quite frankly, days don’t get much better than this. After all, it’s not everyday that we have a bunch of M cars at the BIC. And, today, we have not one, not two – but three!
And, as trios go, they don’t come much prettier than this – the four-door M3, M4 coupe, and M6 Gran Coupe. In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the M3 is one of my favourite cars of all time. I should also point that, last year, I finally got to drive the original E30 M3 – which was an absolute joy, and a dream come true. It’s one of the most successful racing cars of all time, so there’s a lot for the latest model to live up to. The original M6 (well, the M635CSi to be precise), from the 80’s, is another car that I would absolutely love to drive. It was big, but slender and simply beautiful. Much like the latest one then.
This very car, in fact, was voted as one of the top-five new machines of last year – in our ‘Best of 2014’ 33-car mega test right here at the BIC for our 8th anniversary issue. With a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 that pumps out 565 horses, it’s a bruiser of a machine if there ever was one. Well, if you’re going to propel two tonnes of mass to three digit speeds in 4.2 seconds, then I suppose you’re going to need 565bhp and 680Nm of torque. Where the M6 goes well above and beyond the call of duty, though, is in the way it looks. Let’s put it this way – if this track test were actually a beauty contest, the M6 (in electric blue, with anthracite alloys) would win hands down.
Fortunately, though, it’s not too shabby on the go either. It’s not as shouty as you would expect from an M car, but it is plenty fast. Show it the 1.2-kilometre back straight of the BIC, and it’ll exceed 230km/h before you hit the brakes for turn four. Throw it into the decreasing radius bend thereafter, however, and you begin get a sense of the girth of this machine. Of course, the M division has chassis wizards who can engineer road feel into a flying carpet if need be. And so, with the exception of a little bit of initial understeer on turn-in, the M6 responds beautifully indeed. Moreover, to counter the understeer, all you have to do is turn off the electronic nannies and give it a boot-full. That’s when the magic begins. The M6 has got to be one of the easiest cars in the world to powerslide. It’s rather generous proportions and long wheelbase means that the chassis sends you a telegram before it swaps ends. It’s incredibly stable and easily controllable on the limit, so you can take great liberties with this gargantuan sports car.
Well, perhaps sports car is a bit of a stretch. The M6, really, is the perfect tourer. It’s serene, comfortable, beautifully appointed, and stunning to boot. And, on a solo test, you may be fooled into believing that it is a rather large and comfortable sports car – but that illusion is banished the second you get out of the M6 and into the more compact M3.
This is an altogether different beast. Compared with the M6, it feels like it’s been shrink wrapped around you. All the controls are far more immediate and direct. The exhaust is louder, the engine note is more aggressive, the ride is firmer – now this is proper M car territory! While it may be just one-tenth of a second quicker to 100km/h (at 4.1 seconds), the immediacy and savagery of the power delivery means that it feels far faster. Of course, there’s more noise filtering into the cabin as well. But, honestly, it feels like it could be a little too much. Like the M5, the M3 has what BMW calls Active Sound. Fortunately, its only actual engine and exhaust notes that are amplified ever so slightly via the speakers of the audio system. Personally, I would deactivate it if I could. More than that, though, I would prefer if the actual sound itself were a little more sonorous. Yes, it’s loud and aggressive, and purposeful – it’s just that it’s not particularly pleasant.
But, with that complaint out of the way, I can now start gushing about this machine once again. I’ve already done so before – when I first drove it in Portugal last year – but since then the M3 has received some mixed reviews from the world’s motoring press. Honestly, though, I can’t for the life of me understand why.
I’ve had the pleasure of driving all kinds of supercars at this track – and, sure, some of them have been faster, but I can safely say (with hand on heart) that none have been this much fun. Ferraris are a little intimidating. Porsches are just too well glued to the tarmac. Audis are ever so well behaved. This is a raving lunatic – and I love it.
Turn off the traction control in this machine, and it’s sideways everywhere – on turn-in, at the apex, and, of course, at the exit. It’s an absolute riot at the track. The best part, though, is that it’s so incredibly controllable that it makes the M6 seem like a sack of potatoes with wheels at the four corners.
Don’t make the mistake of putting the steering in Sport Plus though, because, in that setting, the electronic steering is just too heavy – and it feels a little wooden as well. So, leave the steering in Sport. The dampers and the engine, though, are at their sharpest best in Sport Plus. Set the transmission to its most extreme setting, and turn off the traction control (or put it in M dynamic mode, which enables a fair amount of slip before it cuts in), and you have a recipe for utter and sheer lunacy – and unbridled joy. This is, by far, the easiest car to slide around every single corner of the BIC. The beauty is that it’s also incredibly well balanced and controllable, while being absolutely mad at the same time. It just makes you feel completely at ease when you’re driving in a manner that should have you arrested. And that’s the mark of a true sport car, isn’t it? It should wrap itself around you, should get under your skin, and should become an extension of your limbs – and that’s exactly what the M3 does.
The M4 is exactly the same – just that it’s a little wider and more sculpted. Also, you sit a little lower in the M4. And, while, ordinarily, I prefer to sit as low as possible – so as to feel the chassis as best as possible – the M3 feels just as communicative and playful. And, with a nine-year old and five-year old causing perpetual havoc on the home front, I would personally opt for the practicality of four doors versus two.
Ah, but then reality bites – hard! You see, I would like my M3 specced out with carbon ceramic brakes (not that you really need them of course, our test car had standard steel rotors and they worked perfectly well on track), a full leather interior, and carbon fibre trim. And with those options I fear that the M3 would be almost as frightfully expensive as the M6 Gran Coupe.
So, for me, I’m afraid, I’m just going to have to cherish the limited time that I’ve been able to spend with these machines on the few occasions in which I’ve been lucky enough to place my bottom in their respective driving chairs. All of these machines embody the true spirit and legacy of the M badge. Quite simply, they’re epic machines – they are, in fact, magical!
A track temperature of 57 degrees C (38 ambient) meant that we couldn’t match the M6’s previous best of 2:22.1. The best lap time this time around was a 2:24.5 – which means that the M3/M4 stands a shot of being even quicker than the 2:21.4 lap time that it registered, which makes it a staggeringly quick car!
All the best lap times were achieved with the traction control off. Even though M Dynamic mode enables a little bit of slip, it would still cut in a little too much at the exit of the tight corners – especially considering that the track temperature was high and the track surface was dusty.
- BMW M3/M4
- BMW M6 Gran Coupe
Engine: 2,979cc / 6 Cylinders / 24 Valves / Twin-Turbocharged / Direct Injection
Transmission: 7-Speed Manual Dct / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 425bhp @ 5,500-7,300rpm
Torque: 550nm @ 1,800-5,500rpm
Acceleration: 0-100Km/h – 4.1 seconds
Price: Rs. 1.25 crores
Engine: 4,395 cc / 8 cylinders / 32 valves / Twin-Turbocharged / Direct Injection
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic / Rear-wheel Drive
Power: 565 bhp @ 6000 – 7000 rpm
Torque: 680 nm @ 1500 – 6000 rpm
Acceleration: 0-100Km/h – 4.2 Seconds
Price: Rs. 1.8 crores
Video: BMW M3 / M4 & M6 Track Tested @ the BIC
Lap Time: 2:21.4| Top Speed: 233 (Km/H)
BMW M6 Gran Coupe
Lap Time: 2:24.5 | Top Speed: 228 (Km/H)
* Slightly different circuit layout W = Wet