The sideways acquisition
Almost exactly 24 years ago, my parents had just taken delivery of a new 4×4 when my best friend from school coaxed his Dad into taking us for a spin in his latest acquisition – a Dakar Yellow E36 BMW M3 Coupé. That spirited June drive through Windhoek left quite an impression and a secret yearning to own an M3.
There are problems though. Finding a clean E36 M3 is near-on impossible because they’ve all been dropped, turbo’d and crashed. If you somehow manage to bag a good one, you won’t be able to leave your driveway because hordes of young men will have camped there in the hope of buying your M3. Which they want to drop, turbo and crash.
The force is also strong with BMW’s two-door E46 M3 but it’s starting to follow a similar path, laced with rear sub-frame fractures and catastrophic VANOS valve-gear failures. The V8 E90 makes a strong case for itself but this is where I come over all purist… an M3 should only howl a metallic straight-six melody.
Happy Days, I thought, when the Bavarians reverted to in-line six cylinder power for this F80 generation, albeit with turbo power and F82 designation for the two-door M4 / 4-Series. What better engine to plonk under the domed bonnet of the new M3/M4 than the legendary twin-turbo six pot of 335i and 1M fame.
Obviously it’s been severely fettled with and, in this “Competition” variation, produces 331kW (450hp) or 550Nm. It also sounds superb, like an M3 should, especially when put into Sport mode/s and poked with a stick. Not that I could immediately do that; this test car arrived in torrential rain so I drove everywhere slowly; or a bit sideways.
Yes, the rear-wheel-drive M4 has traction issues. It likes to axle-stamp (or spin) in the wet or burn rubber on dry tarmac when you dilute the traction control. BMW claims 0-100 in 4.0 seconds but the adjustable launch control of this car’s otherwise slick DCT gearbox struggled to find grip and our best run resulted in 4.52 seconds… and considerable fish-tailing.
However. Keep it clean while driving fast and the howling Beemer responds with pin-point accuracy – borderline nervousness – in terms of handling, steering and power delivery. Sure, the ride will be too choppy for most, but that combination of attributes should thrill sporty drivers. On top of that, its “Comfort” mode is almost comfortable. Almost.
The brakes have pleasing feel and force but our once-off emergency stop (as they tend to be) measured 2.80 seconds and 38.84 meters; a mediocre distance for this type of vehicle. I’d love to tell you my average fuel use was but forgot to check because I was too busy enjoying myself. BMW claims 8.3L/100km from the 60L tank…
Other complaints I’d like to quickly slip in are the car’s awkward parking and low-speed movements; completely normal for a DCT. Someone also pointed out that the wheels and styling details are a bit zeff and that this coupé lacks seatbelt butlers. True, but did you see the lit M4 emblems in these alien-looking bucket seats?
I also love the speedo’s plain M-logo, the rev-counter’s adaptive red line and that, instead of a coolant gauge, they fitted an oil temperature dial. Where other Bee-ems have a drive mode toggle switch, this one has four buttons to configure power, gearbox, suspension and steering in three ways or any combination thereof.
The trip computer is rather basic, the BMW infotainment system isn’t. Headlights, sound system, luxury and safety equipment are all top-notch and there’s even a 445L boot with collapsible rear seatbacks. To seal the deal, you also get a two-year unlimited-km warranty and five-year/100,000km service plan.
It may sound like I’m selling myself this sports coupé but I don’t have R1,45m lying around right now. What I do have is a feeling I first had 24 years ago… an all-consuming passion for BMW’s agile and addictive M cars. If you have (or know of) a clean E36 two-door M3, kindly drop me a line.
0-10km/h: 0,43 seconds
0-20km/h: 0,84 seconds
0-30km/h: 1,25 seconds
0-40km/h: 1,70 seconds
0-50km/h: 2,13 seconds
0-60km/h: 2,58 seconds
0-70km/h: 3,02 seconds
0-80km/h: 3,48 seconds
0-90km/h: 3,99 seconds
0-100km/h: 4,52 seconds
0-110km/h: 5,13 seconds
0-120km/h: 5,79 seconds
0-130km/h: 6,48 seconds
0-140km/h: 7,24 seconds
0-150km/h: 8,06 seconds
0-160km/h: 8,94 seconds
0-100m: 5,66 seconds @ 118,10km/h
0-200m: 8,30 seconds @ 152,78km/h
0-300m: 10,49 seconds @ 175,12km/h
0-400m: 12,45 seconds @ 191,85km/h
100-0km/h: 2,80 seconds @ 38,84 meters (once-off)
Maximum deceleration G-force: 1,12G
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0,72G
0-10mph: 0,68 seconds
0-20mph: 1,34 seconds
0-30mph: 2,06 seconds
0-40mph: 2,75 seconds
0-50mph: 3,50 seconds
0-60mph: 4,33 seconds
0-70mph: 5,29 seconds
0-80mph: 6,39 seconds
0-90mph: 7,61 seconds
0-100mph: 9,02 seconds
1/4 mile: 12,49 seconds @ 119,40 mph
All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box