M Fest held a few surprises in store
The past weekend’s M Festival may have been a spectacular show about everything BMW M, but the event also played host to a unique media event where selected scribes were treated the first public viewing of the brand new M8 Grand Coupe at the Kyalami event. There was far more too, with the SA unveiling of the new X5 M and X6, as well as its M version, the local release of the X3 M and X4 M the SA launch of the new 1 Series among many other highlights, but the first glimpse of that M8 Grand Coupe was one of our two highlights.
The most powerful BMW to date, they promise that the 460kW 750Nm biturbo 4.4-litre V8 all-wheel drive M8 will rush from zero to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds (we bet we’ll beat that!) and a 305km/h top end. The sleek dark burgundy machine drew deserved oohs and aahs as the black sheet was tugged off to reveal it. Set to follow the soon to be launched M8 Coupe and Convertible, we expect the local arm to only bring Grand Coupe here in full cream Competition spec, as it has already confirmed the new X5 M and X6 M will be launched — there will be no common garden models of the super SUVs this time around — it's full power only
BMW also showed the regular 8 Series Grand Coupe at M Festival — like its M sibling, 8 comes in 40i six and 50i V8 turbo petrol, 40d turbodiesel six and the M in rear-or all-wheel drive depending on engines and in a proper 2+2 configuration with individual rear seats and enough room for real people — we tested that!
Also new at M Festival, they tugged the covers off the new X5 M and X6 M super sport utes, which as mentioned will only come in bareback 460kW Competition format early next year, there seems to be no call for that pesky 441kW normal version and you can only buy the sub-4 second zero to 100km/h behemoth in SA. Talking X6, the new version of the everyday SUV coupe was also rolled out at Kyalami, of which BMW appeared quite proud that you will be able to differentiate the sleeker coupe from the front this time around, as it now looks quite different to its knob-nosed wagon sibling. Expect the same engines we mention above, but all of these with xDrive AWD.
Sticking with M-SUVs, the Festival played host to the national reveal of the quite stunning new X3 M and X4 M and I had the privilege of whisking the three version around the Grand Prix Circuit, where the only real issue proved to be a pretty rusty driver! Crisp, quick and quite splendid, they tell me that this newcomer is quicker on track than an M3 — driven of course by someone with a few less cobwebs on the brain! That rear-biased all-wheel drive instills confidence and the M is far defter than you’d ever believe for the truck X3 actually is, never mind a really cool soundtrack as it wails along. Look forward to it in our Performance car of the year 2020 shootout in a month or two…
Beyond that, we were allowed to take the new 1 Series for a spin — we’ll attend to that story separately — and then there was all form of BMW history on display — it’s taken BMW a while, but it has finally realised that its M division actually emerged out of South Africa and it celebrated the fact by showing off that glorious 530 MLE just restored by Plant Rosslyn staff to the assembled media from around the world. What we did not expect, was the arrival of the now fully restored Star Modified Saloon Car racing MLE that Eddie Keizan raced to it's first championship, pulling in to the presentation. Glorious — and that was our other M Fest highlight .
There were several other classic racing BMWs on display, from a 635 CSi ‘Batmobile’ race replica through a street M to a Group N 328iS Shadowline and Tony Viana’s mad M1-powered Modified Saloon 745i, while the company offered taxi rides with Sheldon van der Linde in a DTM M3 V8 and with lovely Dutch lass Beitske Visser, whom I had the opportunity of a hot lap alongside in a M4 GT4.
All if which left me scratching my head — I have one question for you, BMW South Africa — here you are celebrating such a significant race history borne out of this country but today you all but ignore the local sport… why the hell are you no longer proving your local product by racing it in South Africa today — what are we going to show our grandchildren about our generation achieved on South African roads and racetracks? — Michele Lupini