Early 90’s kids are arguably the luckiest bunch, for we witnessed the transformation of the world as we knew into an entirely new one, and that gave us a unique opportunity to easily absorb the best of both worlds. We are the last to enjoy earthly things that are now archaic, like a smartphone-free upbringing (at the same time we were not deprived of cool electronic gadgetry either), spending most of holidays playing outdoor with friends, not relying on Google for homework (I can only speak for ‘early’ 90’s kids) and so on. We eagerly waited for our 18th birthday, not because we could legally create our Facebook/Twitter accounts but because we could finally get our driving licenses. More importantly, we grew old enough in time to drive what could be the last generations of high performance petrol powered cars.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sustainable modes of transport, pure EVs and hybrids, but our nerve endings are programmed to get excited every singe time an IC engined automobile goes through its rev range ferociously. And this indescribable sense of excitement only gets amplified when we realize that we are possibly going to be the last breed of homo sapiens to have experienced this exhilarating feeling.The rate at which the world is moving, these performance machines could be adopting hybrid powertrains in their next iterations.
So when I entered the MMRT circuit premises located in the industrial belt of Chennai on that scorching Wednesday, I knew it was a moment I wouldn’t have had the privilege of cherishing had I came into existence a few years later. The task ahead was to go out on the track and have some mad fun with BMW’s eclectic fleet of M Powered petrol cars ranging from the compact M4 Coupe, all the way up to the burly X6M and X5M that were to be launched the following day. I couldn’t have asked for a better venue to have my first tryst with the pumped up Bimmers!
Since we only had a half day session to get acquainted with the highly technical track and six high performance machines, I hardly had time to play with electronic aspects of the cars but all of them were operating under the same drive mode (Sport +), making characterization of every model easier. Here is a brief overview of the drive experience.
BMW X5M and X6M
Apparently the supremely talented M division engineers were not very enthusiastic at first when they were given the task of creating high performance SUVs that are truly worthy of M badge. We can see why. A full-sized SUV with sportscar like driving dynamics and uncompromising luxury quotient is almost as unthinkable as a warrior who is equally adept in Sumo wrestling and Kung Fu!The engineers have achieved a seemingly impossible task of making these SUVs feel absolutely at home on a race track.
However, since the folks at sales always have the final say on product planning, the engineering team was set to challenge the status quo, disregarding the postulates of Sir Issac Newton in the process. The results, as they turned out, are truly amazing.The 8-speed Steptronic autobox with paddle shifters complements the 575 PS V8 motor quite well.
The 4.4-litre V8 M Twin Power turbocharged petrol engine powering this mighty pair is capable of a monumental 575 PS and 750 Nm of torque. The quick shifting 8-speed M Steptronic transmission is aided by an Xdrive AWD system that can send all the power to rear wheels whenever necessary. Boy that monster of an engine rumbles away to glory with endless supply of grunt!There is surplus grunt at any given point in the rev range.
Both X5M and X6M are sportscars in SUV clothing and I’m not exaggerating. The manner in which they accelerate and go around corners stands testament to that statement.
In a nutshell, the M SUVS are bestowed with physics-defying dynamic capabilities that most other luxury SUVs can only dream of. Besides their grin inducing on-track antics, the X6M can announce your arrival at a party better than any other automobile and the X5M lets you switch seamlessly between a bad ass and a family man.
The X6M and X5M are priced at INR 1.6 cr and INR 1.55 cr respectively (ex-showroom).
BMW M6 Gran Coupe
The BMW M6 Gran Coupe hides all its evil intentions underneath an elegant low-slung body work. Despite sporting the usual M design elements that are supposed to make the car sportier and aggressive, the M6 continues to be amiable.The M6 Gran Coupe moves with an inherent discipline that matches its elegance.
On the track, the performance coupe felt very disciplined, calm and composed even though 560 horses from the 4.4-litre V8 M Twin Power petrol motor were raring to go. While there is no questioning its fun-to-drive quotient, there is nothing intimidating about the car either. In my opinion, the M6 is the mildest of all the go-faster BMWs and that need not necessarily be a bad thing. It is the M car that can be driven by you as well as your spouse but it would set you back by INR 1.75 cr (ex-showroom).
The BMW M5 is bigger and badder than the M6. It can almost pass as a regular 5-Series but it has a bad boy attitude that only people who have driven it can relate to.The M5 is not an easy beast to tame and that is precisely why it’s so much fun to let loose on a race track.
The M5 also has 560 PS on tap like the M6 Gran Coupe but is more challenging (hence more indulging) to drive. Lack of respect is something the M5 doesn’t take lightly and it won’t hesitate to sting you back. It takes a highly skilled driver (and several sets of rear tyres) to tame the M5 but once you get the hang of it, it would let you have massive fun behind the wheel, that is if monstrous power slides are your idea of fun. It can be your’s for INR 1.35 cr (ex-showroom).
BMW M3 and M4 Coupe
The smallest BMW Ms on sale in India are also the most fun to drive. There are no noticeable differences in the way the M3 and M4 Coupe behave.The duo adds gravity to the notion good things come in small packages.
The twins are powered by a 3.0-litre M Twin Power turbocharged petrol engine which dishes out 431 PS and 550 Nm of torque. The delightfully sharp chassis allows you to make the most out of the available power. Both cars are extremely good at indulging the racer in you, challenging your driving skills yet covering your back in case you overcook it.The BMW M3 sedan is easily my pick of the lot.
It suffices to say the M3/M4 Coupe offered the most rewarding driving experience I have had on a road-legal car. My personal favorite is the M3 sedan which can blend in with the regular traffic without screaming for attention yet can smoke pretty much everything else when asked for it. The M3 retails for 1.19 cr while the M4 Coupe has a price tag of INR 1.21 cr (ex-showroom).
There is no generalized description of BMW M
While all BMW M cars are invariably sharper, sportier, lighter, quicker, faster and better sounding than their respective base models, every M model carries a distinct personality. So if you are rich enough to afford them all, you can be assured that the garage would be filled with cars that will suit your varying moods and occasions.The common denominator is, in all that quest for performance, only a negligible amount of practicality is lost.
Unless some Nobel prize worthy chemist soon comes up with a non-polluting equivalent of petrol that would keep the IC engines alive, these cars need to be preserved for the posterity who, I’m afraid, may not be fortunate enough to know how much fun petrol powered performance cars can be.