2018 Audi RS5: Road Test Review
- May 14, 2018
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I’ve been pacing for quite a while thinking why the M3 and M4 felt so special after a stint at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC). I recall a fantastic drive in Portimao, Portugal in May, where the cars were at my fairly amateur helm for a good two days. It was a blast of a time driving around stunning Portuguese countryside and the Portimao race track, but they never felt as good as they did yesterday. Why? A few minutes and shredded calories later, I had my answer.
It’s the M5 and M6 Gran Coupe. Relativity is a strange thing. At the international drive, the M3 and M4 were compared to the older generation naturally aspirated model (their memories) and every critic had an opinion about how good or bad these two cars are, relative to the E90 M3. That’s totally understandable as these cars need to better their predecessor. At the BIC, BMW also had the M5 and M6 Gran Coupe for company. As much fun as they individually are, the older, heavier and larger cars just amplify the fun that can be had behind the wheel of their younger low-cholesterol siblings.
An extensive review will follow about the M3 and M4 once we get them out of a track into our urban landscape so if you are eager to know how it handles our roads, weather, fuel, the clichéd cows on the street and all, you will have to wait a bit. But know this and know this well, if there’s money to be spent in your account for one of these and track days aren’t into consideration, you aren’t doing justice to the letter M, which in BMW’s words, is the most powerful letter in the English language. Of course, A, M, G, R and S will beg to differ but that’s a debate for another time. Right now I’m in the pit lane adjusting a myriad of buttons to make the M4 track ready.
But first a quick recap on the strange new addition to the M-lineup, which is the M4, if you aren’t aware of the history and a new model butt-in. The M3 and M4 are mechanically the same. Historically, there wasn’t a M4 as there wasn’t a 4-series. The M3 is a maniacal problem child of the 3-series that is in its fifth generation now. Previously, it was available in sedan, coupe and convertible form as well but with the 4-series coming in, the 3-series is restricted to sedan form and so the M3 also has to stay as a sedan only – 4-doors, light coloured interior, negligible extra weight, but a history to die for compared to the M4. The M4 is a Coupe and will be followed by a convertible – it’s the spiritual successor to the E90 M3, has two doors, minor other detailing changes as it is based on the 4-series and is hoping to make a legacy.
Unless these two are driven to their full potential and not yours (mine in this case), the difference is negligible. Either will thrill you to bits, both are willing to snap if prodded unwittingly and neither is anything less than special at any point of time. Exiting the pit lane towards turn one I quickly check the setup of the M4 I’m driving. You can adjust the steering, suspension and engine mapping according to road conditions. Comfort for road, sport for good roads, sport plus for track is a short and easy way to sum it. In Sport Plus, the 3.0-litre in-line six cylinder mill is at its raucous best revving to the particularly high 7500rpm redline and holding it till you grant it an upshift. For a twin-turbo six cylinder engine, the M4 unit is quite high revving and pulls all through the band. Two turbos get the output to 437PS, about 17PS more than the E90’s V8 unit and it weighs about 45kg lesser than the latter. More so, the near perfect 52:48 weight distribution keeps the car balanced and ready to attack apexes till the mental 550Nm of torque is fed to the rear wheels.
Yes that’s a lot of torque for the rear end of a fairly light car to handle from as low as 1850rpm, and even sticky 275 section Michelins can’t keep it in check without the ESP. That brings me to the brilliant stability programme that lets you have your fun as long as you aren’t a buffoon with a metal for a right foot. Think of the ESP as an overworked, underpaid staffer who doesn’t complain. That’s every firm’s dream hire, and here in the M4, it’s my dream team as I go through the first corner accelerating uphill towards the blind turn three. It holds back power and feeds it in small rapid measures to keep you entertained.
I am quick enough to recollect a driver briefing I had in a training academy where the challenge was to focus on the ESP and keep it from flashing without driving slow. That requires a smooth driving style, not fighting the car, and finding the fastest and least steering input line around the track. Now after driving the M5 and M6 just a while ago, I am amazed for an instant at the agility the M4 is showing. And then am not. The M4 is about 330kg lighter than its larger siblings, and on the track it counts for a lot. Sure there’s more than 120PS of power deficit but the power to weight ratio is nearly the same and there’s lesser bulk to carry around. The aero works better as well which is evident few corners into the lap. Hard braking at the end of the 1.2 km back straight at the BIC, with the top speed close to the 250kmph limiter, I am nearly there with the heads-up display showing about 225kmph.
Slam on the brakes as hard as possible, downshift to second gear as the tail gets wiggly under heavy braking. As the weight is transferred to the front of the car, the light rear is itching to get naughty but the ESP keeps it in check as I hit the apex of turn four at about 60kmph. The M4 can do the 0-100kmph sprint in 4.1 seconds, making it the fastest of the M cars and the brakes have the bite of a lioness who’s been starving for days. But the way such a powerful RWD car puts the power down exiting the corner is something else. By the time I’ve cleanly put the power down to the tarmac, and straightened the M4, the engine demands an upshift. The 7-speed DCT is lightning quick to respond to a tug of the paddle shifter and I’m already carrying in excess of 150kmph. What a hoot!
The next set of corners, I carry more of a boyish grin than speed I can muster through the snaking sequence. It is just way too much fun. The M3 and M4 are a lot more forgiving and blisteringly fast at the same time in comparison to the M5 and M6 and that makes them irresistible. If you are familiar with the Buddh circuit, you’ll know of the large and very technical double apex parabola coming up next. You can get your lines all mixed up and at very different speeds as you exit it. Smooth through this long right hander shows how much more speed (relative to the fatties in the M5) I can carry in the M4 through this section.
Final corner, hit the gas hard and the start finish straight reverberates with the sound of the inline-6 at full poke. This is just one lap. A few more in the M4 and a set in the M3 only make it better. The new M3 and M4 are the best BMW track tools you can have that promise to be fairly useable outside a circuit as well. A car needs that split personality. It needs to feed your adrenaline when you pull up your sleeves and take you to the darker side when sanity just gets too boring. I’ve stared theM3 and M4’s evil intentions right in the eye, and it is nice to know it won’t kill me. Can’t wait to switch habitats to know how they fare because no one wants a flatbed and a truck driver when point A is home and point B is track.