For me, the letter ///M has been a childhood hero and it was love at first sight when I stumbled across the power lines on the bonnet of my Z4M three years ago.
The first thing you notice after weaving yourself into the cockpit is that it is somewhat sedate. I won’t go as far as to say basic, but when sat next to cars of late, it is less fussy. The two clocks are cowled towards you displaying ‘that’ logo to remind you that you’re not in an ordinary Z4.
It’s practical too. The quick folding vinyl roof drops like a pin and tucks neatly behind the seats without intruding on the boot space as you’ll find in some of the tin top convertibles where the boot is often rendered useless if you want a top-down blat in the sun. Shallow door pockets hold the essentials, keys, wallets, phones – although you’ll want to avoid nestling phablets in them; open the door with a bit too much gusto and you will be forking out for a new screen. There is a usable glove box but with the BMW bible in there, you’ll be lucky to fit more than a wallet and a few trinkets in. Map nets behind the seats keep a few documents secure from flying away in the wind with the roof down – which, trust me, WILL happen to any notes or receipts that you leave on the passenger’s seat. A centre cubby hole sits between the driver and passenger seat backs, which holds a valuable or two. My model is equipped with a 6-cd changer and sat nav which takes up most of the space of this area, but the unit locks with the doors – a particulary handy detail which provides security if you leave the roof down when parked.
“Practical” as cited above has to be taken in perspective however, this is a two seater roadster after all. That means that you will need a good chairopractor if you’re climbing in and out of her often, and while the boot is surprisingly spacious, don’t expect an prosperous visit to ikea. Service intervals are bmw-priced, with top-shelf oil required and a revolving schedule of inspections, but there have been no reliability issues – wearing steering wheel trim aside. I average 11.9 litres /100kms or, Smiles per gallon, but then who buys an M car for their environmental credentials?
So it has luxury and it has muscular styling, but it’s turning the key to the 3.2 CSL derived powerplant when things begin to get serious. From the get-go the clutch is stiff. Very stiff. For the first 50 or so kms, expect to be bunny hopping around town. The ‘sports’ button only compounds this issue. But master the low-speed finesse required with the controls and get out of the city to some twisty roads and things change. It is clear that M take a very different approach to the lab-coats at Porsche. You don’t navigate around corners, you launch at them, cling to life and bury the loud pedal. The induction roar from the straight six as you hurtle towards the 8,500 rpm redline keeps you on edge until the last moment before squeezing the sharp brakes which assisted by the drilled and vented discs keep you stopping as late as possible. Mid-range, it hits you with a ferocity that you’ll become addicted to. The ride is hard which soaks up the corners nicely, but may prove discomforting for passengers if still conscious. The rear suspension is a touch too soft, so the car has an element of old-school mustang lurch to it on acceleration. The hydraulic power steering in this case combined with a strut bar provides sporty feedback through the wheel. Flick the traction control off and you can ride a wave of sideways power-slide through the bends and that lurchy sport button snaps up the throttle response providing sharper gear changes and meaner blips and pops from the exhaust. 100 arrives in under 5 seconds, as does a huge grin developing on your face.
I’ve never been one to hold onto a car for more than 6 months, but every time I think about putting the car(and I use the term loosely as it feels like so much more) up for sale, I feel like someone trying to quit smoking. Proof that you don’t need pub talk kw figures to feel special. One of the last of naturally aspirated M cars. The ultimate driving machine.