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      01-24-2014, 08:45 PM   #1
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The Myth of the "Real M Car" (via Jalopnik)

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On two occasions in the past week I've had brow furrowing moments where someone made reference to a "real M car." The most recent being the comments on Chris Harris' comparison of the M6 GrandCoupe, E63, and Jaguar XFR-S where someone said "Finally maybe people will respect the M5/6 as real M cars." ...this raises a lot of questions, the most obvious being "what the hell does that even mean?"

The phrase a "real M car" is used A LOT in modern automotive journalism. Watch or read any outlet's coverage on a car BMW M has touched and the phrase is bound to turn up. It's often referenced as a comparative benchmark with no explanation of what it means. In reality, it's completely subjective nonsense. But that fact doesn't stop journalists, enthusiasts, and even members of BMW's marketing department from making the assumption that everyone has settled on a mutually understood, albeit completely nebulous, standard of excellence.

Now that we've gotten how ridiculous the whole idea is out of the way...let's get down to what a majority of people are talking about when they say it. When you hear someone say "real M car" more often than not, they are referring to one of two periods in BMW M's 40 year history.

The first being a time when "M" literally meant "Motorsport"

The 3.0CSL "Batmobile" was a homologation special for the European Touring Car Championship. The M1 was a homologation special that ended up ineligible for it's class due to rule changes by the time it came out
The E30 M3 was a homologation special for Group A Touring Car races. The ultimate form being the Sport Evolution of 1990; technically the last road car they built solely for the purpose of being able to race it.

They were "race cars for the road" in the literal sense and were built because race rules said they HAD to be. The more hardcore of the BMW M purists consider these the only "true M cars" ever made. They tend to view BMW M more as a religion that "heretics" took and perverted when they made the subsequent road cars.

The BMW 3.0 CSL, E30 M3, and M1 are spoken of in hushed, reverent tones. Modern M cars are false prophets to be denied and shamed.

These are the people that aren't going to be pleased until BMW starts selling street legal race cars again. They want the new M3 to come with a triangulated and seam welded chassis, Ohlins suspension, radio/cruise/climate/etc delete, non-adjustable race buckets, fire supression, etc. They risk a stroke every time they look at a X5 M or M6 GranCoupe.

The next group are those that would (and do) argue that the last "real M cars" are from the early '00s. The E46 M3, the E39 M5, and the E36/8 M Coupe being the last cars made before BMW M "sold it's soul for higher profits." It was a time when senior executives of BMW M were saying things like "there will never be a M SUV" and "turbocharging would fundamentally change the character of the M brand." And even with the E60 and E90 that followed, it felt like some of the old guard were still there, pushing for high-revving naturally aspirated V-8s and V-10s while their direct competition went forced induction. Then came the turbos and SUVs...and these people (myself included) threw up our hands and yelled "it's over!" Oh, THE BETRAYAL! Many of these people haven't set foot in a BMW dealership since on principle alone. They lament that luxury has begun to take a priority over sportiness in modern BMW M, that the balance has shifted the wrong direction. But they forget that when the 3-series, 5-series, etc get heavier and larger, the M variants can only do so much to combat the bloat. Current electric steering can only approximate the directness and feel of hydraulic steering. Adaptive suspension can only hide so much weight. We're still in a transition period with young tech, it will get better, but patience is part of the process.

Both groups have valid complaints about the direction of BMW M. There is the concern that ///M is now just a trim level you spec because you want the most expensive and luxurious variant of a BMW model. You buy a M5 because you want everyone else to know you spent more on your car than your neighbor with the 550i. You buy a M6 GranCoupe because you want a M5 in a better looking $23k suit. The choice to move up to a ///M car is one of one-ups-man-ship and not a statement that you care about dynamics over comfort. There are enthusiasts that still buy into the classic idea of BMW M when purchasing new, but they are a rare breed. The question then becomes, does any of that matter as long as the cars are great? There's an argument to be made that non-sporty buyers end up babying the car and you end up getting a great deal on a M5 that hasn't been abused, 2 years later.

In either case, it is widely thought that BMW M doesn't mean what it used to. That the introduction of things like M-sport dilute the brand and further bring into question what it means to be a "real M car." I tend to think it's more of an issue with perception and competition. BMW M has the gift/curse of being around long enough to have an established legacy and the expectations that come with it. A brand where things once considered sacred are now long gone. So there's some merit to the perception that the principles have been thrown out in the pursuit of sales and profit. But these changes are necessary to stay competitive in a market where your competition is willing to do anything and everything to usurp you. AMG, Audi GMBH, and Jaguar have gone from out-of-their-league "also ran" cars to legitimate competition that meet or exceed BMW M in areas they once dominated. Cars like the E30 M3, E28 M5, E46 M3, and E39 M5 stand out because their contemporaries never held a candle to the driving experience they provided. The E30 had no direct competition in the US. The E28 M5 blindsided every other German Saloon maker with a car that was outperforming Ferrari.

The RS4 and C63 challenged the E90's supremacy way more than the C43 and B5/6 S4 did the E46's E39 M5 owners never felt heat from the E55 or (C5) S6 the way the F10 is from the E/CLS63 and RS6/7.

So while AMAZING in a vacuum, BMW M's current offerings seem less impressive compared to their direct competition this time around. If that is discouraging, remember that competition is good.

"The BMW M you once knew is gone"?...not exactly.

They can't and don't need to produce road going race cars in extremely limited quantities.

The cars they're based on moved upmarket, got heavier, and areas that were considered taboo by old school BMW M were tapped to stay competitive
The other guys got better. The good news? BMW M knows they have a problem including weight and that the competition has caught up as evidenced by interviews with the BMW M executives. A profitable BMW is capable of taking chances. They have invested heavily in volume carbon fiber production to reduce the weight of all their cars in the future. (Who doesn't want a M3/4 with a carbon tub?) They also know that with Audi and Mercedes readying RS and AMG models offering relatively "affordable" models like the RS3 and CLA/GLA45 they need to have a presence in the sub-$50k market.

Am I disappointed that BMW M has "changed"? Sure. But I've also accepted that they've had to. A lot of enthusiasts act like the mere existence of modern M cars takes something away from the classics. The fact that the M5/M6 have lost feel and feedback doesn't make the old cars any less appealing. In fact, it makes them even more special than they already were.

Cherish the past, accept the present, and anticipate the future. They are listening to feedback wherever feasible, but they can't repeat the past.

There is no such thing as a "real M car." It's a myth.

I just hope no one tells BMW, Audi, AMG and everyone else...because I never want them to stop chasing it.

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      01-24-2014, 09:44 PM   #2
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I 100% agree. All of these "M has sold out" or "M stand for Marketing" are full of shiet. M is the motorsports division of BMW. Period. There's no M car formula. Period. Nothing unique to the M division.

Yes, you are driving a spruced up BMW. Nothing more. Nothing less. So we all need to stay off this M brand superiority complex and stop complaining when the new model isn't the same as the previous one. If you don't like the new...then just buy the old. Problem solved.

I will say that the M division does a damned fine job of sprucing up regular BMWs which are pretty damned good as is.
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      01-24-2014, 09:56 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjae1976 View Post
I 100% agree. All of these "M has sold out" or "M stand for Marketing" are full of shiet. M is the motorsports division of BMW. Period. There's no M car formula. Period. Nothing unique to the M division.

Yes, you are driving a spruced up BMW. Nothing more. Nothing less. So we all need to stay off this M brand superiority complex and stop complaining when the new model isn't the same as the previous one. If you don't like the new...then just buy the old. Problem solved.

I will say that the M division does a damned fine job of sprucing up regular BMWs which are pretty damned good as is.
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      01-24-2014, 10:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjae1976
I 100% agree. All of these "M has sold out" or "M stand for Marketing" are full of shiet. M is the motorsports division of BMW. Period. There's no M car formula. Period. Nothing unique to the M division.

Yes, you are driving a spruced up BMW. Nothing more. Nothing less. So we all need to stay off this M brand superiority complex and stop complaining when the new model isn't the same as the previous one. If you don't like the new...then just buy the old. Problem solved.

I will say that the M division does a damned fine job of sprucing up regular BMWs which are pretty damned good as is.
Agreed. And that was a great article
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      01-25-2014, 12:36 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjae1976 View Post
I 100% agree. All of these "M has sold out" or "M stand for Marketing" are full of shiet. M is the motorsports division of BMW. Period. There's no M car formula. Period. Nothing unique to the M division.

Yes, you are driving a spruced up BMW. Nothing more. Nothing less. So we all need to stay off this M brand superiority complex and stop complaining when the new model isn't the same as the previous one. If you don't like the new...then just buy the old. Problem solved.

I will say that the M division does a damned fine job of sprucing up regular BMWs which are pretty damned good as is.
so are you buying forward or looking back. i know for me the past is more interesting than the future for me at bmw. not so at some other brands.
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      01-25-2014, 12:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lute View Post
+1

I am still scratching my head about BMW's 3 and 4 naming convention?
I understand the financial incentive to seperate their line but not sure money should be the only motive for a company that preaches heritage also. I think what is happening for me and a lot on this forum is we want a more aggressive car and are getting softer ones from bmw.
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      01-25-2014, 01:05 AM   #7
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Great article, but it only served to reinforce my prejudices. There may not be such a thing as a "real M car", but it's very clear the mentality of the division has shifted and the bean counters are in full control. This shift may have been necessary, but that doesn't make it any less disheartening.
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      01-25-2014, 01:08 AM   #8
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so are you buying forward or looking back. i know for me the past is more interesting than the future for me at bmw. not so at some other brands.
Agreed.
And if you've been a fan of //M since the beginning and read MULTIPLE articles and interviews by the guys who started //M, you have a certain mindset as to what makes an //M car. There was an AWESOME article in Roundel a few years ago by the previous head of //M who CLEARLY spelled out what an //M car was at the time and why there was no X5M or M7. They had a very clear vision of what an //M car was. I really wish I had saved that issue, because it would give a LOT in insight as to why many of us are so resistant to the new direction //M is going. What we have now is so far from what the mission statement was for //M when it started, it's just sad.

It's pretty clear the main motivation behind the niew direction is $$$, with the excuse that //M cars need to get better mileage. But then you look over at Porsche and the new Cayman and 911 are getting crazy good mileage and are fast as hell. Obviously they're essentially 2 seaters, but they made more power and get better mileage... so what's BMW's excuse?
It's also discouraging to see MB bring the Black Series here, Porsche the GT3-RS and even the 4.0 here and BMW pisses on it's largest //M market when ever it comes out with a higher performance version of the M3- claiming it'll be too expensive to bring here... but Porsche can do it REPEATEDLY with their very limited run cars with special engines that make more than the standard engines, so they must of had to get them certified too. How many GT3-RS 4.0 did Porsche bring to the US?? NOT THAT MANY!!

.
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      01-25-2014, 01:08 AM   #9
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Its our world dynamic at its best, placing profit of higher imprtance than any other consideration.
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      01-25-2014, 01:20 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Koldun View Post
Great article, but it only served to reinforce my prejudices. There may not be such a thing as a "real M car", but it's very clear the mentality of the division has shifted and the bean counters are in full control. This shift may have been necessary, but that doesn't make it any less disheartening.
This.^
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      01-25-2014, 08:36 AM   #11
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Its our world dynamic at its best, placing profit of higher imprtance than any other consideration.
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      01-25-2014, 09:04 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aus View Post

It's pretty clear the main motivation behind the niew direction is $$$, with the excuse that //M cars need to get better mileage. But then you look over at Porsche and the new Cayman and 911 are getting crazy good mileage and are fast as hell. Obviously they're essentially 2 seaters, but they made more power and get better mileage... so what's BMW's excuse?
It's also discouraging to see MB bring the Black Series here, Porsche the GT3-RS and even the 4.0 here and BMW pisses on it's largest //M market when ever it comes out with a higher performance version of the M3- claiming it'll be too expensive to bring here... but Porsche can do it REPEATEDLY with their very limited run cars with special engines that make more than the standard engines, so they must of had to get them certified too. How many GT3-RS 4.0 did Porsche bring to the US?? NOT THAT MANY!!

.
Porsche is part of the vw group (Audi, vw, Porsche, lambo ) and is actually a huge company with deep pockets to engineer specific "porsche" only engines.

People don't realize BMW is a smaller company in the car world. They don't have the same volume as Toyota, daimler (Mercedes), gm, vw group, ford, etc. They need to abide by the same fuel regulations per the EPA with a smaller product line up. It's hard for them to pay for m specific engines and stay profitable. It's no surprise to me the new s55 is based off a production n55. A completely m only engine (s65) will probably never happen again unless BMW merges or is bought by another big car company.
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      01-25-2014, 09:17 AM   #13
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Ranking Company Revenue
(USD billions) FY Headquarters Ref(s)
1 Volkswagen Group $265 2012 Wolfsburg [1]
2 Toyota Motor Corporation $210 2013 Toyota [2]
3 Daimler AG $157 2012 Stuttgart [3]
4 General Motors Company, LLC $152 2012 Detroit [4]
5 Ford Motor Company $134 2012 Dearborn [5]
6 Fiat S.p.A. $116 2012 Turin [6]
7 Bayerische Motoren Werke AG $106 2012 Munich [7]


BMW is 7th at $106 billion in revenue (source is wiki)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...ies_by_revenue
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      01-25-2014, 09:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koldun View Post
Great article, but it only served to reinforce my prejudices. There may not be such a thing as a "real M car", but it's very clear the mentality of the division has shifted and the bean counters are in full control. This shift may have been necessary, but that doesn't make it any less disheartening.
Bean counters? I would agree somewhat. But that's the reality of the auto industry unless you want to spend 6 figures on a no compromise car. The generally accepted industry figure to remain in business in the car industry is to sell 2 million cars annually. This is due to gov't regulations, specifically safety and environmental. Not to mention that different countries have different regulatory requirements.

Marketing? DEFINITELY. I think BMW is trying to fully capitalize on the M brand right now to increase its sales to the above goal. I think we all believe that there is an aggressive marketing campaign of the M brand.

When we drive a BMW, its a BMW through and through. The only other mainstream luxury brand that can claim that is Mercedes. Unlike the Audi Jetta, Lexus Camry, Acura Accord, and the Infiniti Altima...you really do get a BMW. IMO, this larger use of the M logo is a necessary evil to keep BMW independent...then I'm all for it. Better than driving a BMW Fusion.

In the end, when you look at what you get for a $55k base on the E9X M3? Its an absolute AWESOME deal! At the track, I see some IS-Fs, G37s, and a couple of C classes and A4s...you don't see a lot of them long term. Magazine Reviews are meaningless...its the smiles at the track that tell the story. The only cars that I see more of than M3s are vettes, 911s, and Miatas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1MOREMOD View Post
so are you buying forward or looking back. i know for me the past is more interesting than the future for me at bmw. not so at some other brands.
tHere is an example if my personal M snobbery. To me...The F10 M5 doesn't really represent the aesthetic departure from sedan transformed to sports car like the E90 M3 does. I'm not too keen on the M4 so far. And...the M5 seems like its just stupidly over powered with a mountain of unusable low end torque. I've never experience an over powered M car from the factory...they all seemed to be just enough to excite but not an over the top drag racer.

I am in no way suggesting that the new M3/4 won't be superior in every way as far as driving dynamics. I am VERY excited about that.
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      01-25-2014, 09:50 AM   #15
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It is kinda funny how all these articles normally manage to ignore the first true M cars after the M1 which was the E24 M6 with a great racing history and still to these days a timeless design (it also happened to share similar power train with the M1) just my .02 cents...
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      01-25-2014, 12:26 PM   #16
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Engineers/designers answer to management; management answers to senior management (president/CEO); senior management answers to the board; board answers to shareholders. And shareholders answer to $$. M division might have initially started as a "cool" project, but it's kind of hard for shareholders to ignore the potential profitability of the M brand now, no? I can't think of any other successful "special" projects division of a major international corporation ever remaining independent this long from the almighty $ as BMW's M division (feel free to provide counter-examples). So, to me, nothing new here, and it seems pointless to pine for the good ol' days (unless M crashes and burns, is shuttered by BMW, and then is revived years later as a special projects division again).
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      01-25-2014, 12:45 PM   #17
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Engineers/designers answer to management; management answers to senior management (president/CEO); senior management answers to the board; board answers to shareholders. And shareholders answer to $$. M division might have initially started as a "cool" project, but it's kind of hard for shareholders to ignore the potential profitability of the M brand now, no? I can't think of any other successful "special" projects division of a major international corporation ever remaining independent this long from the almighty $ as BMW's M division (feel free to provide counter-examples). So, to me, nothing new here, and it seems pointless to pine for the good ol' days (unless M crashes and burns, is shuttered by BMW, and then is revived years later as a special projects division again).
Right, they have to change, but it doesn't mean I have to like it or keep buying their cars out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. They are no longer making cars for me, and the ///M is just a trim level. Look at me! I can pay more money for basically the same car than you can! Look at my 37 ///M logos and despair!
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      01-25-2014, 12:58 PM   #18
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Right, they have to change, but it doesn't mean I have to like it or keep buying their cars out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. They are no longer making cars for me, and the ///M is just a trim level. Look at me! I can pay more money for basically the same car than you can! Look at my 37 ///M logos and despair!
Brand loyalty is a curious thing; as any marketing major/expert can attest, it significantly shapes how we make our purchasing choices. In fact, me personally, I've always wanted to own an M car, and when I had an opportunity to do so, I jumped at the chance. Brand loyalty? Clearly. "Missplaced" brand loyalty? Depends on one's expectation. For myself, I answer in the negative given the massively-wide grin every time I get behind the wheel of my e90 M3.

I suppose this article is meant to address the question: should we shift our expectations for the M brand? I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, as it's not an ethics/morality/math question. But for some, I suspect after reading the article, it will. For others, not so much.
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      01-25-2014, 02:08 PM   #19
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Nostalgia and rose coloured glasses can distort reality, and both of those forces are strong in the ///M camp. I think people can lose sight of the fact that the E9x M3 is simply an amazing all round car.
No, it's not the best track car, luxury sedan, tourer, dragster, exotic-designed or street racer.
BUT
It has the right combination of performance, daily usability, comfort, understated class/design (but enough cues in design to remind you that this car can get serious ), heritage, and value (all this car for <$80K) that I would put up against any other car. And I think this is what the goal of the modern M division is, and should be. Once the new M3/4 hits the streets, I'm gonna guess that most of these goals will be met again.
Compared to the competition, and I may sound a bit mad for saying this, there is no other car that I would rather have. I love (!) my car.
(Plus, I would look like an absolute tit if I showed up to work in a green Lambo...)
As you were...
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      01-25-2014, 07:11 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjae1976 View Post
Nothing unique to the M division.

Yes, you are driving a spruced up BMW. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I strongly recommend you do your research and or homework before you make a statement like this!

I have know I visited the ///M Division and there are fine enginners at work to produce this fine car.

It all starts with a standard three series car then they replace about 50% of the components on a three series and modify about 80% of the rest before they call it an ///M3 car. Then final results are tested on the Nürburgring and modifyed until all expectations are meet.
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      01-25-2014, 08:10 PM   #21
bigjae1976
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. ///M3 RD View Post
It all starts with a standard three series car then they replace about 50% of the components on a three series and modify about 80% of the rest before they call it an ///M3 car.
You just repeated what I said earlier...an M car is a spruced up BMW.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harpua View Post
Nostalgia and rose coloured glasses can distort reality, and both of those forces are strong in the ///M camp. I think people can lose sight of the fact that the E9x M3 is simply an amazing all round car.
No, it's not the best track car, luxury sedan, tourer, dragster, exotic-designed or street racer.
BUT
It has the right combination of performance, daily usability, comfort, understated class/design (but enough cues in design to remind you that this car can get serious ), heritage, and value (all this car for <$80K) that I would put up against any other car. And I think this is what the goal of the modern M division is, and should be. Once the new M3/4 hits the streets, I'm gonna guess that most of these goals will be met again.
Compared to the competition, and I may sound a bit mad for saying this, there is no other car that I would rather have. I love (!) my car.
(Plus, I would look like an absolute tit if I showed up to work in a green Lambo...)
As you were...
Well said. The E90 M3 is a fantastic car! BETTER than an E46 M3 in just about every aspect besides some certain personal preferences...which are emotional. OK, the cup holders in the E9X are pure garbage but that wasn't designed by the M division.
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      01-25-2014, 11:21 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobS View Post
Porsche is part of the vw group (Audi, vw, Porsche, lambo ) and is actually a huge company with deep pockets to engineer specific "porsche" only engines.

People don't realize BMW is a smaller company in the car world. They don't have the same volume as Toyota, daimler (Mercedes), gm, vw group, ford, etc. They need to abide by the same fuel regulations per the EPA with a smaller product line up. It's hard for them to pay for m specific engines and stay profitable. It's no surprise to me the new s55 is based off a production n55. A completely m only engine (s65) will probably never happen again unless BMW merges or is bought by another big car company.
Don't be going to the F9x forum and saying the S55 is based on the N55 unless you have the flame suit on.

So you're saying BMW could afford to make bespoke /M engines when it was a MUCH smaller company and didn't have Mini or Rolls, but now it's so big (relative to 10-15 years ago), that they can't afford to make a real /M engine?

.
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Let me get this straight... You are swapping out parts designed by some of the top engineers in the world because some guys sponsored by a company told you it's "better??" But when you ask the same guy about tracking, "oh no, I have a kid now" or "I just detailed my car." or "i just got new tires."
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