There's always some controversy, or so it seems, when a new BMW M3 is announced. Obviously there has been more than a little uproar about the latest car, but it extends further back than that as well. When the V8 arrived, there was a concern about how much it weighed, and whether it looked aggressive enough to be an M3; when the car returned to a straight six people worried about the introduction of turbochargers. There's always something to fret about; some pre-launch angst that puts people off the M3 and M4. Then, by the time it's ready to go off sale, it's often back in favour and on its way to universal acclaim. This is how it almost always goes, so don't give up hope just yet...
Which means that, right now, the old F80 M3 and F82 M4 are looking about as tempting as they ever have. Despite initial reservations, it gradually evolved through model year updates and Comp packs into the class of the sports saloon and coupe field, sharper to drive than a C63 and way more charismatic than an RS5. Now, moreover, the emergence of the G80 has - for now, at least, before anyone has driven it - only furthered the appeal of an old one.
It was always a great looking car, and appears more so now with the controversial appearance of the latest duo. Though clearly still a BMW 4 Series, it also never left passers-by in any doubt as to the potential. We're leaving a particularly good era for BMW interiors, too, with logical buttons, proper dials and displays that help rather than hinder the experience. And the S55 turbocharged straight-six, which hardly won unequivocal praise at launch, is now finding favour in the M2 CS. With another 20hp. So perhaps it was more than okay to start with, given both cars weigh about the same.
The particular appeal of this M4 is that it's about as far as it's possible to get from the current Competition car. The three-pedal model proved extremely unpopular with buyers at launch and truthfully the dual-clutch was probably a better fit. But don't pretend like you're not slightly intrigued by a manual, rear-wheel drive M car having seen the new all-wheel drive pair. Go on, admit it...
This is a reasonably early 64-plated M4; a Competition pack would be ideal, because they do represent a marked improvement, but you'll seldom come across one of those with the six-speed manual in place of the seven-speed DCT. White with red leather (and some extra carbon bits) might not be a spec to suit all tastes, but it presents very nicely on 50,000 miles: the seat bolsters show few signs of wear, the wheels are unkerbed and the paint is blemish-free. Perhaps the steering wheel is looking a little shiny, but that's just more excuse to have it retrimmed in Alcantara (and have some of the needless girth taken away).
Perhaps best of all, as one of the earlier M4s it's also one of the more affordable, at £28,395. That's about half its new price, and obviously a significant saving over the new car. Which it would be daft to compare this to, of course. Let this M4 perhaps just serve as a reminder, if you look close enough, that the old BMW ways are still out there for those willing to look for them. After all, the only similar car at the money - offering this power, rear-wheel drive and a manual gearbox - is an M2. Nothing else in the like-for-like class offered it. BMW persisted with a manual back then and continues to do so now, bless it. But if you can't wait for the latest M4 to get the six-speed (and perhaps a facelift), then at least you know exactly where to look instead...
SPECIFICATION | BMW M4
Engine: 2,979cc, twin-turbocharged straight six
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 431@7,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 406@
MPG: 32.1 (NEDC)
First registered: 2014
Recorded mileage: 50,000
Price new: from£56,635
Yours for: £28,395
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