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BMW revs up its M performance portfolio

BMW revs up its M performance portfolio
The new BMW M2 will launch locally next year. (Photo: BMW Pressclub)

The all-new M2, M4 CSL and XM were recently unveiled at the sold-out BMW M Fest at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit

As I stood in a queue last Friday morning, that snaked halfway through the domestic departure hall at OR Tambo International Airport, waiting to check through my luggage, the concept of “revenge travel” struck home. The term, which emerged late last year as Covid travel restrictions began to lift slowly, has become a popular media buzzword, referring to an unprecedented surge in world travel to make up for lost time and cancelled plans during the pandemic. 

Having travelled a fair amount locally in 2020/21, masked up and physically distanced in sparsely populated airports reminiscent of abandoned church halls, I had not seen ORT this jam-packed since 2019. 

And while “revenge travel” is a thing, so too it seems is “revenge shopping” if 2022 car sales are anything to go by. Over the past year, up until October 2022, there has been significant growth in the motoring industry despite high inflation, rolling blackout interruptions, interest rate hikes and other volatile economic factors. According to Naamsa | The Automotive Business Council, the new vehicle market’s performance, year-to-date, is 13.4% ahead compared with the corresponding period in 2021. I have a sense that, just like the urge to “revenge travel”, people are throwing caution to the wind and making “passion-purchases” — buying things that they truly desire and don’t necessarily need — or can afford — like M performance BMWs.  

This gets to the reason I found myself in that ungodly queue at ORT. I was returning to Cape Town after spending the previous day with BMW at the Kyalami Grand Prix racetrack, showcasing their M performance brand which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 

Globally, when it comes to high-performance sales, BMW rules the roost ahead of its archrivals: Merc AMG and Audi Sport. In South Africa, the trend is echoed. According to the head of BMW in SA, Peter van Binsbergen, BMW M brand sales have increased by 24% year on year. The M performance brand holds a 20% share of the market, ahead of its aforementioned German performance rivals.

As media, we were also given a taste of what was in store for the public at BMW’s M Fest that took place this past weekend — like holding on for dear life on hot laps with South Africa’s wunderkind racer Sheldon van der Linde, who was recently crowned the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) champ. But undoubtedly the other mega crowd-pullers would have been the all-new BMW performance M models on display. On press day, BMW SA unveiled no less than three new Ms, making it clear its mission is to increase its dominance in this high-priced segment.  

Recently crowned DMT champ, SA’s golden boy, Sheldon van der Linde, at the M Fest. (Photo: BMW SA)


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2023 BMW M2 

Set to go on sale in April internationally and locally in the second quarter of next year, the all-new M2 enjoyed its global premiere at Kyalami last week. Manufactured in Mexico at BMW’s plant in San Luis Potosí, the new M2, nicknamed “the baby M”,  is a two-door coupé, with a boot that probably won’t accommodate much more than the golf clubs or kit for a weekend away. 

It’s a rear-wheel drive with a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six petrol engine tuned to deliver 338kW and 550Nm of torque. The new speedster enjoys 7 kilowatts more than the previous generation M2 Competition model while it’s a significant 66kW up on the last straight M2. Offered in a 6-speed manual and 8-speed Steptronic, the new Bimmer hurtles 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds in the manual derivative and a speedier 4.1 seconds by way of the auto gearbox. 

These thrilling figures have been made possible by significantly decreasing the M2’s weight. The coupé now has a carbon fibre roof and carbon fibre bucket seats. In years to come, when naturally aspirated engines will surely be regarded as relics of a carbon-sinful past, this M2 will be remembered as the last of BMW’s M performance models not to employ any type of hybrid or electrification systems. 

The 405kW M4 CSL on the racetrack. (Photo: BMW Pressclub)

BMW M4 CSL 

Aimed purely at racetrack fanatics, with a mere 1,000 global units made, and just 15 earmarked for the local market (which have all been sold), the all-new M4 CSL will undoubtedly become a collectors’ piece. It’s the first time BMW has used the CSL moniker in two decades — which stands for Competition Sport Lightweight — and this one is touted to be BMW’s fastest accelerating performance model to date. Uprated from the previous M4’s 375kW to 405kW, offering massive torque of 650Nm, the M4 CSL sprints from 0-100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 307km/h.

Like the new M2, BMW designers worked hard at saving weight by way of adding a carbon bonnet, carbon boot lid and carbon M sport seats, trimming off around 48kg in weight. Forget about sharing this drive with rear passengers as this speedster has done away with back seats, saving a further 21kg.   

The all-new limited edition BMW M4 CSL. (Photo: BMW Pressclub)

BMW XM 

Rumoured at one time to be called the new X8, the XM made its local debut at the M Fest. There’s been mixed response to this massive 2,710kg SUV with its squinting headlights, ginormous illuminated kidney grilles and stacked trapezoidal exhausts. It aims to draw big guns with the Merc AMG G63 and Lambo Urus (I’ve secretly dubbed it the “new Bimmer Hummer”). 

Celebrated as the most powerful series-production M ever built, the XM employs a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, paired to a 25.7-kWh lithium-ion battery. The 145kW/280Nm electric motor is integrated with the eight-speed Steptronic gearbox and offers an all-electric range of 88km. Combined with its electric drive, the XM delivers 480kW/800Nm, accelerating from 0-100km/h in just 4.3 seconds. I must say after getting up close with this giant, I became rather fond of its polarising looks. 

After a three-year Covid-impaired hiatus, the world’s largest BMW M Festival at Kyalami was by all accounts a huge success for the local arm of the German brand, with all 25,000 tickets sold out. “Revenge jolling” might soon become the next buzzword. DM/BM

The massively powerful new BMW XM. (Photo: BMW)

Pricing:

BMW M2 — No official pricing yet, but expect around R1.5-million

BMW M4 CSL — R3,570,038

BMW XM — No official pricing yet, but expect around R4-million

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