How does one define a legend? Is it perhaps a certain level of achievement that needs to be reached before legendary status can be granted? Or is there a correlation between immediate success and longevity of that success?
How about the progenitor of an entire performance division? The vehicle from which BMW’s M division would descend?
In South Africa, we wanted to race BMW’s, however, BMW didn’t have a racing division. A renowned racing driver by the name of Jochen Neerpasch was enlisted by BMW and soon after that two BMW E12 5 Series’ were prepared for racing. As racing regulations in those days stated, homologation vehicles needed to be created in order for a vehicle to qualify for racing and as such, 110 530 MLE Type 1 vehicles were produced in 1976 by BMW Motorsport as limited edition “homologation” vehicles.
Such was the success of the 530 MLE that 117 Type 2 MLE’s were produced at BMW Plant Rosslyn in 1977. Little did anybody know that this would be the spiritual successor to the original super saloon, the spectacular BMW M5.
Fast forward to 2018 where after years of searching, chassis number 770100 (unit 100) was found and acquired. Having been owned by 530 MLE racing team manager Peter Kaye-Eddie, the matching numbers MLE was in a serious state of disrepair after years of neglect.
Enlisting the help of BMW Group South Africa employees who assembled the original 530 MLE’s, Luis Malhou of Custom Restorations undertook the gargantuan task of restoring this homologation legend to its former glory in October 2018. A year later, the completed vehicle was unveiled at the end of the production line at BMW Plant Rosslyn to a group of factory employees and motoring media.
Accompanying the restored MLE were other vehicles significant to BMW in South Africa such as a 1969 BMW 2000 SA, a 1986 BMW 745i which featured the M88 motor for our market only, a 1986 BMW 333i which was our answer to the E30 M3 which was never sold on local soil, the last BMW 3 Series to have been produced at plant Rosslyn (number 1 191 604) and the very first BMW X3 to have been built at BMW Plant Rosslyn which now supplies Europe with BMW X3 units.
SO there you have it, the story of the forgotten BMW 530 MLE – arguably the most important motor vehicle in the history of BMW M.
“Zukunft”. If like myself you don’t speak fluent German, then a quick Google translate will reveal that the strange word “Zukunft” actually means future when translated into English”. Funnily enough, It also happens to be the naming inspiration behind BMW’s range of Z vehicles, one of those being the all-new BMW Z4. Unfortunately, BMW’s latest roadster must have got lost In translation because for me, the new Z4 has only gone one way, and it isn’t forward.
Allow me to explain.
The new Z4 has undergone much refinement inside and out. You’ll find some of BMW’s latest tech inside the vehicle including digital displays and BMW’s personal assistant. All packaged in a cabin pretty much identical to that of the new 3 series – albeit a little smaller. From the outside, a host of nips and tucks bring the Z4 in line with BMW’s latest design language, narrower lights, sharper lines, you get the vibe.
Now while my opinion on the design of the Z4 is somewhat positive, I can’t help but feel the overall appeal has shifted. What was once a sporty roadster suited for dawn and dusk Sunday runs now feels rather superficial. Its similar to the whole craze of dressing up in sporting gear fit to set personal record’s, however instead of going to the gym you’re actually just dropping the kids off at school. The Z4 doesn’t appeal to the driver at heart.
I say this for two reasons.
The first being that as we drove the new Z4 through the bustling city centre of Cape Town with the roof down and the sun just dipping behind the mountains, many pedestrians passed comments. The comments were all positive, albeit all from the wrong target market…
On the road things didn’t improve either. The 20i variant lacked the punch a sporty roadster needs, the steering felt limp and lifeless and while the Z4 showed at times that it has plenty of grip to offer, dialing that grip in, gauging what the front wheels are doing and trying to find a rhythm proved extremely difficult. After being impressed by the handling characteristics of the new 3 Series and M850i, I left the driver’s seat of the Z4 feeling frustrated and disappointed. I didn’t, however, get the chance to sample the M40i variant, which produces 250 kW and 500 Nm. It will be interesting to experience the performance characteristics of the more powerful model and see if things improve.
Frankly, I feel the new BMW Z4 has lost its personality. If you’re looking for a two-seater convertible with a sporty nature, but plan to doddle around, enjoy BMW’s finer luxuries and technologies all while looking very pretty, though, the new Z4 is a very good vehicle.
However, as a vehicle marketed for an exhilarating driving experience on said Sunday morning, it really doesn’t make the cut. There’s too much. Too much fluff, too much leather and too much tech. Who really needs “ Hello BMW” when you’re thundering down your favorite stretch of tarmac? I wish BMW had really dialed this vehicle back and simplified the approach, the interior and the tech. Less leather, fewer buttons, more Alcantara and a greater focus on what was supposed to be truly important – the driving experience. But sadly, that doesn’t sell to the masses.
Most of the motoring launches we attend are often for the facelift of a vehicle or a new generation model, such as the 7th Generation 3 Series launch we attended a few weeks back. It’s not every day, however, that a manufacturer resurrects a vehicle line that could only ever be described as iconic. Meet the new BMW 8 Series.
With 390 kW, 750 Nm and the letter “M” before the Series number, you may expect this to be another brutal, aggressive, exciting ruthless and unforgiving BMW M Performance car which we’ve come to love in vehicles such as the M3 and M5, you’d be wrong. However, like the rest of the BMW M Performance range, the M850i is not quite that…
The 8 Series range is aimed at providing the full essence of BMW. The power, performance and acceleration of an M vehicle but with the comfort, luxury and refinement of a 7 series, all while providing the sporty nature of 6 Series coupe and the host of tech found in brand new models such as the 3 Series and X5. Confused? No. Flagship? Yes.
My initial impressions when piloting the M850i for the first time, weren’t that of its performance, power or crackling V8 but rather the comfort and serenity I experienced in the cabin. Road noise was minimal, the interior was plush and the vehicle almost seemed to float across the surface of the tarmac – it really was that comfortable.
It became increasingly obvious that the M850i was built to devour up the road in front of it, it’s a vehicle in which you’d rather drive over long distances than short ones. A 3.9 second 0-100 km/h time makes the 8 Series rather quick, sorry, blistering quick, and it’s delivered through a rear-biased xDrive system in a linear, smooth fashion. Think the smoothness of Johnny Walker Blue over the bite of VAT 69. You’ll hit figures that will leave you phoning home from a prison cell in no time, while feeling like you’re still cruising under the law.
The M850i is a grand tourer” but that doesn’t mean the “M” stands for nothing. Two twin-scroll turbochargers are nestled within the V of the 4.4-litre V8 motor, while a new cooling system and changes to the crankcase make the vehicle lighter and more responsive.
Want noise? Just ask for it. A simple push of the sport button will bring the M850i to life in ways you wouldn’t expect. A symphony of noises erupt from the rear under acceleration, when downshifting and on the overrun which just weren’t present in comfort mode. Best of both worlds? Just maybe.
One mustn’t forget though that as sporty as the M850i is, it’s not exactly light on its feet weighing in at just under 2 tonnes. Dynamically, the M850i showed us on our driving routes just what was possible. It hugged some of Cape Town’s finest roads and even performed on the tightest of passes in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a vehicle with this mass.
As plush and as sporty as the cockpit styled cabin is, we would have liked to see a bigger differentiation between this and BMW’s other model ranges. Yes, the touches of glass on the gear selector, iDrive wheel and sound nobs are nice but you can have those in an X5 – could BMW have given the 8 Series a little more exclusivity? Probably. From the outside, the M850i makes a statement. Its gorgeous, aggressive and bold. From the rear, it may just be one of the best looking BMW’s I’ve ever laid my eyes on, which builds up excitement for what our eyes will experience when the full-blown M8 comes along.
I really do understand why BMW reinvented the 8 series. They’ve merged the lines between comfort and performance, creating a vehicle which rivals lets say, a Mercedes-Benz S63 Coupe, which for me has a very similar appeal.
After years of having to make do with warm versions of X3’s instead of a full-blown M Car, the BMW X3M andf X4M are finally here!
The X4’s looks will always be polarizing, but one thing that everyone can agree on is that it’s hardly a sedate-looking thing. The X3M is handsome and well-proportioned and features all of the M goodies that you’d expect to find on a M-fettled version of the X3.
Initially, both are being launched in Competition guise, something which makes marketing sense more than common sense, but what that means is that would-be buyers are going to have to make do with the full-blown 375 kW until the lesser, non-Competition cars make their appearance featuring 353 kW.
The source of all of this power is a newly-developed in-line six-cylinder twin-turbocharged engine. A peak torque figure of 600 Nm is available from just 2 600 RPM with maximum power generated at 6 250 RPM. The redline is at 7 200 RPM. The motor also features a forged crankshaft capable of withstanding extremely high torque levels. 0-100 km/h is done in just 4.1 seconds for the Competition and 4.2 seconds for the standard vehicle and top speeds of 285 km/h for the Competition and 280 km/h for the standard X3/X4 M.
The cylinder head core of the engine is manufactured using 3D printing, a process which allows the core to be much lighter while allowing coolant ducts to be routed in such a way so as to optimize temperature management. Again, focusing on temperature management, the indirect intercooler forms part of a low-temperature circuit, along with upgraded compressors and an electronically controlled, servo-actuated wastegate. The turbochargers feed compressed air into cylinders 1, 3, 4 and 6 and are both monoscroll units.
The engine features a central radiator, as well as another two radiators positioned either side of that. An additional engine oil cooler, as well as a transmission oil cooler also do duty in the advanced powerplant with elements such as oil supply being optimized for high-performance driving. As such, the weigh-minimised oil sumo features two chambers and an integrated suction channel. This ensures that the engine is sufficiently lubricated, regardless of the lateral forces experienced during enthusiastic/track driving.
Of course, an active-type sports exhaust features and also plays its part in reducing emissions. Power is fed to BMW’s M xDrive system which we first saw in the F90 M5, through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission with Drivelogic and three shift modes.
BMW M Adaptive damping features as standard on both Competition and non-competition models which will allow for that dual-character nature BMW M Cars have come to represent.
BMW X3M & X4M in South Africa
The BMW X3/X4 M Competition will both arrive within the fourth quarter of 2019 with non-Competition models to follow at a later date. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.
One might have thought that it’s a bit soon for BMW to be face-lifting their flagship model – you see; the 7 Series is not something that comes around every 5 minutes. When revisions are made to the model, they are never too drastic as one might argue that the ‘cream of the crop’ should not be fiddled with, but the facelifted BMW 7 Series, due in South Africa in the second quarter of 2019, has received quite the refresh. Here’s the low down on BMW’s rejuvenated flagship.
At the time of its introduction in 2016, the G11/12 7 Series caused quite the stir thanks to its lightweight construction, exceptional driving dynamics and class-leading technology. World firsts such as being able to park the car remotely with the car key and a third-person 360° parking camera were just two of the dazzling array of features The 7 offered in 2016. Offered in both standard and long wheelbase forms, South Africa will only be getting the long wheelbase 7’s, perhaps in a response to market research and consumer trends. Total length of the new 7 Series has increased by 22 millimeters to 5 260 millimeters.
BMW’s kidney grille is perhaps one of the most defining features of any of the Bavarian automakers vehicles, along with BMW’s signature four-eyed face, both of which have now been resized with the kidneys now being significantly larger than before, and the headlights notably smaller. LED headlights are standard across the range with BMW’s Laserlight featuring as an optional extra. The BMW roundel on the 50 millimeter higher bonnet is now larger, too.
Slightly larger integrated tailpipes and sleeker and sculpted LED taillights make up the rear which now features a distinctive 6 millimeter thin LED light strip which spans the width of the new 7 a la Porsche. It’s all very handsome and while it brings the new 7’s looks more in line with those of the all-new 3 Series, it is still unmistakably a 7 Series.
Interior and Tech
Additional interior options such as extended quilting on the door panels tie in with more trim options to make the cabin all that you would expect from the best of the best. There’s a bit more space for passengers too and a considerable amount of work has gone into reducing exterior noise within the cabin.
“Hey BMW” will prompt BMW’s new Intelligent Personal assistant to, well, assist you in whatever you may need with voice-activated functions ranging from seat ventilation, heating and massage functions, to ambient lighting, air conditioning and window blind operation. BMW’s new digital instrument cluster now features as standard, too. Dubbed BMW Live Cockpit Professional, it comprises a 12.3-inch fully digital, high-resolution instrument cluster behind the steering wheel and a 10.25-inch iDrive Display. This package of equipment also features an adaptive navigation system and a hard-drive-based multimedia system with 20 GB of memory. 10-inch full HD touchscreens now feature in the back too, with integrated Blu-ray player and version 7.0 of BMW’s Operation system, capable of remote software updates.
The local lineup will consist of two petrol, one diesel and a plug-in hybrid derivative, badged 750Li xDrive, M760Li xDrive, 730Ld and the 745Le respectively. It’s nice to see the 745 moniker making a return for those who remember its significance in the South African market…
The 750Li xDrive features a newly-developed twin-turbocharged petrol unit with a stonking 390 kW and 750 N.m available from just 1 800 rpm. The big daddy of the range is the ballistic M760Li with its exquisite 430 kW turbocharged V12.
The 745Le will boast a specially tuned six-cylinder inline petrol motor mated to an advanced high-voltage battery and an 83 kW electric motor which come together to return fuel consumption as little as 2.1 l/100 km, yet will be capable of 0-100 km/h in less than 5.3 seconds. Combined power outputs of the petrol and electric motor are 290 kW and 600 N.m.
The 730Ld will be propelled by a single-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six diesel motor with outputs of 195 kW and 620 N.m, returning an average fuel consumption of as little as 5.3 l/100km.
Unfortunately, the all-new quad-turbocharged variant, the 750d/Ld hasn’t been confirmed for our market. This sublime piece of engineering features multi-stage turbocharging with four turbochargers and direct injection operating at over 2 500 bar. This straight-six diesel motor can propel the luxo-barge to 100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds with its 294 kW and 760 N.m of torque, available from as low-down as 2000 rpm.
BMW 7 Series Facelift Pricing in South Africa
There’s no news on local pricing at this stage which will be confirmed closer to launch in Q2 2019.
We all knew it was coming, and now it has arrived. The first-ever BMW X7, featuring the biggest kidney grille on any BMW ever, fact. Here are five things, other than that, that you need to know:
Seating for 7
For the first time, this BMW X model features a third row of seats, making seating for 7 people standard. All seats are electronically adjustable with USB ports all-round. If desired, the 2nd row of seats can be specced as two individual seats for more luxury and comfort. The BMW X7 is taking direct aim at the Mercedes-Benz GLS – a formidable competitor.
Big, Bold design
The design and styling fo the X7 can only be described as bold, it’s obvious that BMW wanted this vehicle to stand out and show prominence. Even so, the finished product might not appeal to everyone. Large, front kidney grilles in chrome dominate the front end. Compared to the BMW X5, the X7 is over 200mm’s longer, 60mm’s higher and has a wheelbase increase of 130mm’s.
BMW has not held back on the technology front. Led headlights are standard, whilst laserlight headlights, which increase long beam range from 300m t0 600m, are optional. Inside the cabin, you will also find the third-generation Head up display which is larger and provides more information, while Live Cockpit Professional, which features two 12.3 inch displays is also standard. BMW’s latest Intelligent Personal Assistant which activates in-car experiences is also included, along with BMW’s driver assistance and semi-autonomous systems. Like music? Bowers & Wilkins 3D surround system with 20 speakers and 1,500-watt is available. While you are enjoying deep beats, you can be comforted that your Coffee will be kept hot and your passenger’s Coke will remain cool thanks to the hot/cold cup holders.
BMW X7 Engine Options
The BMW X7 is paired with 4 engines variants. The xDrive40i, xDrive50i, xDriveX30d( 195kW and 620NM and M50d (294kW and 760NM). Interestingly only the two diesel engines will be available in South Africa, from March 2019. BMW SA has confirmed they will consider introducing a petrol variant at a later stage.
The off-Road package which enables modes such asxSand, xGravel, xRocks and xSnow driving modes at the touch of a button is also available as an option.
BMW X7 will be available with two packages – Design Pure Excellence and M Sport with the latter providing a much more sportier appeal in design with the M Aero package, and performance with M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes and noise provided by the M Sport exhaust system. If you’re into chrome, the Design Pure Excellence package will be the option you may prefer with more chrome options and an increased feel of elegance rather than sportiness.
With a low slung back, wide stance and unique design, Sports Activity Coupes can be one of those love or hate scenarios for many-including the BMW X4. Think Marmite, Cardi B or Apple for example. BMW started this “new” segment with the original X4, selling over 200,000 units since 2014 and encouraging other manufacturers to follow suit.
The new BMW X4 has definitely become more eloquent, featuring a bold, aggressive front end and BMW’s new hexagonal running lights. The rear is also pretty impressive too, with new slimmer rear lights, and a sharp edged upper rear spoiler which sits just above the rear window. From some angles, Sports Activity Coupes can look a little odd and while the X4 isn’t completely immune from this, BMW have done a pretty good job.
The BMW X4 is longer, wider and lower than its counterpart; the BMX X3. If you’re one for numbers, the wheelbase is 54mm longer, the body is 3mm lower and the rear track features an increase of 30mm. In simple terms, this makes it sportier.
BMW X4 20d
For our first test drive of the morning, we found ourselves in the scrumptious Flamenco Red Metallic X4 20d. The staple diesel model produces 140kW and 400N.m and comes in at R843,000. It’s buttery smooth, quiet and comfortable, and while I do feel the 2.0 diesel could of had a tad more power, on the open road it was pleasant and easy to drive. One can expect pretty good fuel economy figures and great range with this variant.
I’ve always found BMW’s to have very solid interiors, they use good materials and feel sturdy, strong and luxurious. This is no different in the cockpit of the X4, featuring a driver-focused cockpit and new sport seats further play on the X4’s sportiness, while my favourite feature happened to be the thick but soft leather steering wheel.
Technology doesn’t go amiss either, you will find BMW’s latest iDrive system which is always a treat to use, complemented by the digital dashboard. BMW have taken a different approach to others here, instead of being able to display everything and everything, BMW’s system displays classic information such as speed, revs and fuel but in a crisp and clean manner. Small features such as highlighting the nearest RPM number while driving shows nice attention to detail. When bumped up into sport mode, dials turn red and emphasize speed, while dropping into Eco displays a cool blue interface aiding you in stretching out the km’s. I like BMW’s approach, its classy and we don’t always need to be bombarded with information.
Following on with the sporty persona, M Sport suspension, the Performance Control function, and variable sport steering all come as standard. If you so wish M Sport brakes and Adaptive Suspension are option extras, although I personally feel this would be a waste on the entry-level diesel variant. In terms of model lines, Standard, M Sport and M Sport X are available, with varying wheel and trim options to suit individual taste.
BMW X4 M40i
With the X3 M40i evading me, I was keen to find out what the M40i range in an SUV was all about. Set eyes on the flagship M-Performance model and you will probably agree that it certainly looks the part. It also sounds the part, which becomes evidently clear on startup as the 3.0 6-cylinder roars into life. Whenever I drive vehicles like this, they go straight into their most “performancy“ mode, in the case of the BMW X4 that would be Sport Plus.
Straight out of the gate, I could tell this was going to be an exciting vehicle. Let’s get one thing straight, the X4 M40i is fast for a car, nevermind an SUV. What stood out to me was the experience as a whole. In Sport Plus, more engine sound is pumped into the cabin, it’s loud, and as the engine fires all the way to a 7000 rpm redline you just can’t help but smile. Step off the throttle and enjoy the pops and bangs that have become ever more present on vehicles nowadays. Gear changes are quick and punchy, throttle response is sharp and body roll is minimal due to the X4’s low centre of gravity, M Sport suspension and M Sport diff – it’s all pretty wonderful and I began to do the mechanics in my head of what an X4 M is really going to be like.
The X4 M40i can also behave, yes, being an M-Performance model it’s never going to be as plush and comfy as the less performance orientated models, but hit comfort mode and the M40i quietens down, chills out and becomes much more like the X4 20d. A faint 6-cylinder purr can be heard in the background, and that isn’t a bad thing, it’s always nice to be reminded of what you have on tap and what you paid for.
Other Engine Variants
BMW have sadly scrapped the X30i and X30d due to lack of demand, which means you have the option of the 20i, 20d or M40i. For some, the removal of the X30d maybe sad, as a nicely powered diesel is always a great option. Need not to worry though, as January 2019 will bring the M40d to South Africa. Producing 240 kW and a lovely 680 N.m of torque, the M40d will hit 100km/h in under 5 seconds – this engine will surely be a treat!
X3 or X4?
This is a big question that’s relatively easy to answer and It all depends on your requirements. Both models offer the same tech, very similar interiors and the same engines. The X3 offers slightly more space in the rear, including headspace and a bigger boot – and this may be of big value to you. Whereas the BMW X4 offers a sportier package and dynamics, while still not being shy of space – plenty for a family. You may just prefer the look of X3 and are not quite sold on Sport Activity Coupe’s just yet, and that’s also cool. At the end of the day, go for the one that suits you best, as you won’t be missing out no matter your choice.
BMW X4 Pricing in South Africa
BMW X4 xDrive 20i & 20d
Standard – R843,000
M Sport & M Sport X – R887,900
BMW X4 M40i – R1,132,800
Learn More Here: https://www.bmw.co.za/en/all-models/x-series/X4/2018/x4.html
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is what many men would like to look like. 6 foot something, muscles for days and he can lift up one eyebrow independently like a boss. Ask yourself however, can he fit in a MINI Cooper comfortably? Can he easily pop into Woolworths and find a shirt that fits? I’m pretty sure his “bog” must be a little bit bigger than others too…As impressive as his mass is, when he’s not using it, it can be cumbersome. Kevin Hart on the other hand is someone who is also in very good shape as well. In fact, if you follow him on Instagram, you’d know how ripped the guy actually is. He’s a small man though, a very small man. That being said, he probably doesn’t battle doing everyday things. Clothes? No problem. Shoes? Easy fit. MINI Cooper? You damn right. Kevin’s size gives him a nimbleness that The Rock just wouldn’t have. I bet if you asked both of them to run through a busy mall of people, Kevin would be first to get to the end point of the race. The BMW M240i is the Kevin Hart of BMW’s, it’s loud, fast and after many hours of driving it, you don’t get tired of it.
I’ve always known that the M240i was good, but having both an M240i and an M4 Competition Package on test made me realize just how good the car really is. Let’s talk about size. Being a compact car with a big engine, you have no problem finding, taking and even creating gaps in traffic. “You’re not meant to drive like that!” Um, last I checked, I was in a red BMW M240i with M Performance parts and an exhaust that goes PAH when I change gears, I can drive how I like thanks. I joke. Seriously though, the marriage of size and 250kW on tap is the recipe for one of the most usable cars on the road you can get right now. Yes, if you have kids you’re screwed, but who needs kids? The only kid you need to worry about is the one the BMW M240i successfully brings out in you.
Next up is the chassis on the car. What a chassis it is. Let me put my journo pants on and say, “steering feel is not what it used to be in older BMW’s blah blah blah”. Now let’s talk real-world driving. In Comfort, the car responds well, steering is light, gearbox is calm and ready to use all the gears. For day to day stuff, this is the mode you’d want to use. In Sport, personally the car is perfect for my type of driving. It’s responsive, holds the revs slightly longer and is always ready to pounce on unsuspecting hot hatches. Sport Plus does the same but with some allowance for rear end slippage. This mode is best for quiet nights and roundabouts. Who said that? No one likes to wag some tail at the exit of a roundabout! That’s not responsible! (Wink wink) The only time you should put traction off in the BMW M240i is if you’re on a racetrack, or you’ve just watched any instalment of Fast and Furious. Should you get caught doing anything untoward, simply get out the car, raise both hands in the air and tell the cops that “this is Brazil”. If you need me to bail you out, I’m reachable on 011 555 22 55. Yes, it’s a landline.
Jokes aside, the fast cars available today are not always the most usable. The BMW M4 is a classic example of this. On the normal road, you probably only get to use 60-75% of the M4’s dynamic attributes and power. Traffic, curbs and backache are realities of life. Also, have you tried parking any car with an M DCT Transmission? It’s the gearbox equivalent of bipolar. The M4 is in my opinion a peach on a track and is still very enjoyable on the road, but it’s The Rock of the car world. The problem is that the line between enjoyment and making a mistake is often very close. For cars with as much power as the M4, like The Rock, you may battle to find a “shirt” that fits. The road is either to short or to small to really exercise all its muscles. The M240i however is the right balance. Enough power, the right size and a forgiving chassis allows you to push the car to 80 – 90% of what it can do, on the road. The difference is that you’re less likely to make a mistake if you know your car well enough. Responsible driving is obviously important. Sometimes just enjoying the overrun burble of the car at 60km/h is enough to put a smile on your face. Like Kevin Hart, it’s relatable, it doesn’t try too hard and most of all it can make you giggle. It’s automotive comedy packaged very attractively. The optional M Performance parts fitted to the car also make individualizing your 2 Series easier. They don’t come cheap however, especially considering that some of the parts are made of real carbon fibre. At a startup price of R720 500, it’s not um…cheap. In fact, it’s quite pricey considering you’re going to throw in a few extras. Then again, for the performance and thrill you can extract out of the car, very little rear wheel drive cars will give you that experience for that price. In the world we live in, proper rear wheel drive thrills come at the R1mil + mark, so depending on what you want, you may find the M240i reasonable compared to its rivals.
The definition of a purist according to the trusty internet is someone who, “insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures, especially in language or style”. That would best describe most BMW aficionados to the letter. It is for this reason why there was a huge outcry from BMW fans when the brand first decided to turbocharge M products. Over time, the anger subsided and the die-hard fans soon saw the benefit of the new direction that BMW took.
A resurgence of this panic ensued recently, when the configuration of the new BMW was announced. Not only would it carry on with a forced induction motor, but now – it would be the first thoroughbred M saloon car to have all-wheel drive (The M760li is not an M Performance vehicle). Did the public miss something? Did we wake up in a strange alternative universe straight out of Black Mirror? No. And for good reason.
You see, for you to understand this new thought process you would have to go back to the previous generation BMW M5, the F10. Having had the privilege of driving one every day for some time in the past, this M car was one that demanded great respect. The relationship between your right foot and the accelerator pedal was normally where the tension brewed. One a cold day, with the rubber at odds with broken tarmac on our infamous roads, the vehicle would snap into oversteer or simply bog down with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) intervening and stopping that tree from humbling the often over-eager driver. But catch the vehicle on a warm day, with the right amount of tyre tread and the M5 would come into its own. It would gladly come along for the school run, and then change into Mr Hyde whilst leaving 295 section black lines at will – often accompanied with a trailing sports car in its cloud of smoke. It was a weapon, but a weapon that needed all the checks and balances in place, for you to get the best out of it. One of those checks was a huge bravery pill as the mass of an M5 and the power it produced could easily become a handful for most. It was a matter of time then, when the limit of power that could be sent to the rear axle, would reach its limit for a car such as this. Many would agree that the limit was reached with the F10 and its last iterations, such as the Competition Package. I’m sure the Audi guys sent out their “we told you so” emails to both Mercedes and BMW when they decided to go the all-wheel drive route.
Enter the F90 M5 with M xDrive. Kyalami raceway made for the perfect backdrop for the new M5’s local introduction. Cars like these often don’t need much of a press briefing as journalists have read up on all the specifications way before the time of launch. From an engine technology perspective, the revisions are just that, revisions. Even aesthetically, the F90 is not a major departure from the F10. The new car has followed in the footsteps of its predecessor of being a silent bruiser. The quad tailpipes, three-piece front air dam, rear spoiler and more pronounced wheel arches are tasteful, but discreet signs that you are not about to get behind the wheel of a regular 5 series with M sport package. Power driving this new M5 is the tried and tested 4.4l twin turbo V8 – this time producing 441kW/750N.m. Mated to this motor is a ZF 8 Speed single clutch gearbox. Having experienced this configuration on the current X5/6M, you would be hard pressed to tell that this wasn’t a double clutch gearbox.
We went out on the first sighting laps just to get the various temperatures up and make sure that there weren’t any nasty surprises on Kyalami’s pristine asphalt. Warm up laps done with, Sport Plus was engaged – sharpening throttle response, dampers as well as steering feedback. Letting all this power loose came with a natural expectation of drama, but the weirdest thing happened. A sense of purpose that’s never been experienced in an M5 took over. The balancing act of keeping an almost two tonne beast on the black-stuff was no longer required. The sense of impending death was gone, replaced with no-nonsense straight line performance. In 4WD Sport, the new BMW M5 has reached a new level of grippy performance. With a road long enough, the vehicle gives you that tunnel vision experience, that you get from a supercar. The ability to shorten straights and have corners appear much sooner than you anticipated is nothing short of frightening. Should a vehicle this big be able to do this? The Bavarians certainly think so, especially since their friends from Affalterbach have done the same with the Mercedes AMG E63 S, but that’s a story for another day. The 0-100km/h sprint in the new M5 is claimed at 3.4 seconds. Yikes. The 0-200km/h run is achieved in 11.1. You read that correctly. What’s most impressive is the manner in which the vehicle does this. This performance is now accessible. All the time.
This begs the question, is this still a proper M car? Aren’t M’s meant to shred tyres and behave badly all the time? Things have changed. The target audience of an M5 is a mature audience, one that requires safety, luxury and refinement. When all that is taken care of, the vehicle then needs to perform like a sports car. Tough ask, right? The M5 now gives you that. During the cool down lap, the vehicle in its most normal mode is as docile as a 530d. However, engage 4WD Sport and you will find the DNA of its predecessor coming to the fore. Around corners, the front end turns in sharply, allowing you to accurately place the vehicle where you want it. The front wheels are not obtrusive, but rather pull you out of corners – working with the rear wheel biased setup of the vehicle. As a result, you can carve a better line and feel confident whilst doing it. In 4WD sport, the rears are still keen to light up, but in a very controlled fashion. For someone handy, this may be your favourite setting. But wait, there is more – 2WD mode. At the launch, the journalists weren’t allowed to use this mode as driving skills differ, which means the risk increases too. In this mode, DSC is automatically switched off, which is a scary thought.
To demonstrate this, BMW very wisely brought in GTC BMW driver, Gennaro Bonafede, to show what the super sedan could do. In this mode, you’ve basically got a more powerful F10, one that is followed by a cloud of smoke. That being said, the vehicle still possessed tons of grip as Gennaro proved. So as much as that the setting is meant for fun, 2WD mode, doesn’t make the car undrivable.
The BMW M5 has for long been hailed as the benchmark in this segment. The competition has closed the gap over the years, especially with the likes of the new E63s around. Will the new BMW M5 remain the king? A more thorough test will be needed to conclude that. For now, we can tell you that this is the most accessible M5 since the e39. With a starting price of R1 732 300, we’re not referring to price but rather performance. The addition of M xDrive adds a new dynamic to the car, a welcome one for the average driver. This change has not ruined it for the enthusiast too, as the vehicle can still be exploited via the rear axle like M5’s before it. Altogether, you have a large nimble and blisteringly fast M5.
New BMW M5 Pricing in South Africa
The new BMW M5 starts at R1 747 500 and is available now.
The mid-sized SUV market is fast becoming one of the most hotly contested segments in South Africa and for good reason. For the family, it’s a perfect combination of space, versatility, ground clearance and all the weekend activities rolled into a sleek package that can climb pavements, swallow the kid’s kits bags and the weeks shopping. What else do you need? In this segment, you get the usual spilt of affordable and premium vehicles as you would in most segments and this has been dominated but the big three Germans with the Swede making a name for itself in the last couple of years with its XC60 iteration. One of the major players, and the topic of this article, is the BMW X3. It’s led the pack in-terms of being the right blend of functionality, Sportiness and looks and with the latest generation, chassis code G01, it’s looking to add to the 1,5 million units sold from its first-generation introduction in 2003.
Our introduction to the latest addition to the BMW X family is the 20d xDrive adorned with Luxury line. One thing that stands out from the first time you open the door and have a seat is the cabin and the materials used. Taking a lesson from the new generation Q5, the cabin is a luxurious place to be. From the light contrast seats – not advisable if you go by the name Mom or Dad- to the dark oak, the cabin gives you the right feeling for making you way to the premium shopping isle. Like the Q5, and to be honest most of the players at this price bracket, you feel like your hard-earned money bought you a lovely place to be in and you don’t feel short-changed at any time.
As is my preference on launch drives, I elected to be passenger for the first stint as this give me a chance to really get acquainted with all the new gadgets and really come to grips with the new technology, something that modern BMWs seem to be doing well. This variant seemed to have all the gizmos that your heart would want but your rational mind would decline as this would mean a second to third mortgage on your home. Straight from its older sibling’s spec baskets, our test vehicle had, amongst many standard features, the full LED lights, professional navigation, multifunction instrument display, Harmon Kardon sound, drive assist, and and and. We told you about the second to third mortgage. In terms of safety features, most of the features are non-cost and come standard, so that means that you get the full alphabet soup to keep you and your loved ones safe. The one thing that we must mentioned is that the partnership between BMW and Harmon Kardon has been a long and fruitful one and if you are a family that enjoy your sing along trips, this option is one to tick off.
I couldn’t stay riding shotgun forever and at one of our scheduled stops, it was time for a driver change. This new 20d motor married to the tried, tested and loved ZF 8 speed gearbox, is a little bit more eager and with vast use of weight saving materials, isn’t slow out the gate as well. The 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a claimed 8,0 seconds, and the feisty diesel will run all the way to a 213km/h top end. This sportiness is thanks to a hike in power and torque to the tune of 140kW and 400Nm respectively. We got some twisty bits in a damp and foggy Knysna and the BMW DNA came to the forefront very quickly. With 50/50 weight distribution cornering becomes very enjoyable and predictable. With the revised xDrive system, power and torque gets distributed seamlessly to all four corners without hesitation and never did we see the DSC light flash to warn us that we are trying a bit too hard for road conditions.
Off the beaten track, the X3 remains composed and well damped to the point of thinking that the footprint is courtesy small wheels on water balloons underfoot. On closer inspection, we found that the 20d Luxury Line was shod with 19” alloys with 245/50 section tyres. Not really off-road kit then and tell us that the Bavarians spent a decent amount of R&D on the suspension. Being a BMW and having off-road capability, we were impressed that it didn’t cower on the lose stuff and inspired confidence to the point that we started steering the vehicle via the rear axle. Not that anyone who buys this car would have this high on the importance list, but it’s good to know that should the mood take you, and you have some muddy roads on the way home, you could have some fun without working up much of a sweat.
We all met up at the superb Conrad Pezula hotel where we were to spend the night. The media briefing highlighted a very important fact for BMW South Africa and that is that this new vehicle will be built locally. This is thanks to a R160M investment upgrade to the facility in Roslyn to make sure that all is in place for the new vehicle. This does however mean that the new X3 will be replacing the locally built 3 series though. This new upgrade was done while still producing the aforementioned 3 series and new X3s are expected to roll of the production line after the last 3 series from South Africa towards the middle of 2018.
The next day, we were greeted by the previous day’s rainclouds, ever so keen to show us the handling capabilities of the new M Performance variant of the X3. Named the X3 M40i, it sports the in-line 6 cylinder with numbers squarely aimed at the Audi SQ5 and the Mercedes GLC 43, it produces 265kW and 500Nm. Claimed performance figures are 0-100km/h in 4,8 seconds and the autobahn nanny comes to halt lift off at the familiar 250km/h. Nursing this “340i with xDrive X3” variant out of hotel and through the busy centre of Knysna was like walking a very strong but lovable mature pit bull terroir. With a careless extension of the right foot, the M40i lunges forward in a fashion not fit for school run vehicle. We finally got out to the country toad and could let the M40i off its leash. This B58 in-line 6 motor is one of the best out there and with soundtrack from the exhaust, it was common to see the needle chase the redline in most of the lower gears. My fun was halted by my co-pilot who mentioned something about a Driver swop. What a kill joy! It was then I saw his cruel but genius plan of doing the second leg of the driving. See, the second leg of the driving roads had some of the most beautiful switchbacks and esses that I have seen and knowing the area, he saved them for himself. It was from the passenger seat that I had a sense of how quickly the M40i can cover ground and the pops and bangs from the exhaust on lift off and overrun are just simply sublime.
We got the airport and felt that BMW has organised the rain, fog and mud. It certainly highlighted the strength of the new vehicle and has variants to appeal to all needs and driving styles. At launch, two petrol and two diesel variants will be available being the 20d, 30d and the 30i and the firecracker M40i. Engines are an evolution of the familiar BMW drives trains with a bit more power and torque here and there but with economy being better than the last generations.
We have no doubt that BMW will continue being successful with this latest generation of the X3 and being a local vehicle now, I’m sure there will be some attractive packages to get more bums in seats. From what we have briefly seen, they are not bad seats to be in.