Is there a hilarious joke about the BMW M4 being driven along the M4? Not really, just something cringingly obvious; surely I wouldn't subject you to that? But the M4 was on the M4 and it turned one of the world's most boring motorways into an event. Not because I was maxing out the M4 (the car, not the motorway) in some re-enactment of Jack Sears' 185mph Cobra escapade on the M1 - that would be stupid, especially bearing in mind Highways England has just turned 32 miles of the M4 (the motorway, not the car) into a 'smart' motorway, littered with little yellow flashing boxes. It's because the M4 (the car, not the motorway) is one of those cars that you can be doing 70mph in and still feel its joy.
What joy, you might wonder? What can possibly be so absorbing at a steady state? Well, pertinently, its ride. I get a genuine, visceral pleasure from sitting cars that feel very well engineered, and the M4's damping exudes that quality to a tee. For a car with minimal wheel travel and tyres so wide, yet so thin (if you catch my drift) it is sublime. It's so just flippin' comfortable. And I don't mean in a wallowy way, because, as some might have you believe, the M4 is now the 'new' M5 (the cars, not the motorways). It might be comfortable but it is not a cruiser at heart. It's an absolute weapon, especially in xDrive form and certainly not despite it. If there's anything cruisy about it, we're talking in the Tomahawk sense - devastatingly accurate.
And nowhere is that displayed more acutely than by studying its damping and spring rates over a long drive. They are beautifully executed and approaching the fluidity of the best supercars out there. I just couldn't stop myself marvelling at its elasticity over the ups and downs of a boring motorway. Which meant, of course, it was no surprise that, when I did get it on something more challenging, like the road heading over the top of Llangattock mountain, it's just sublime. It may as well not have switchable dampers; not once did I think "what this car needs is more vertical control" as I came off the back of a quickly taken crest. It settles so gently, in one controlled motion.
And another thing struck me as Dan, Harry and I spent a large proportion of the day staring at the Brecon Beacons and the M4 (the car, not the motorway): I don't actually mind its divisive aesthetics. I don't love the nostrils, but I don't hate them, either. And as I wandered round, taking it in from every angle, I discovered pleasure in its scalloped sides that narrow between the purposeful, but not over blown, front and rear arches. My only real criticism is that it looks a bit heavy when you're stood directly behind it. And it is a heavy thing, of course, but with that beautiful damping, you really wouldn't think so from behind the wheel.
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