The new nomenclature says M4, but for all practical purposes you can put that to one side.

This is M division’s variant of BMW’s two-door 3 Series, hitherto called the M3. The original M3, the E30 of 1985, was a homologation car created to allow BMW to go Group A touring car racing.

Ultimately, however, selling an M3 for the road was more compelling than racing it. Later versions of the M3, such as the six-cylinder E36 (1992-1999) and E46 (2000-2006), were road cars first.

Any racing activity came later and was secondary to development of the production model. The first and, so far, only eight-cylinder M3 arrived in 2007, making way now for the current M3/M4.

There are two things of note this time around. First is the return of a six-cylinder engine – two more pots than in the first M3 but two fewer than in the just-departed version.

Second is the arrival of turbochargers to keep the power output of the downsized engine appropriate for a new performance car. It follows a now-familiar formula: more powerful, faster, lighter, cleaner.

Turbos aren’t renowned for providing the kind of instant engine response we’re used to in M cars, but they do produce torque and improve engine efficiency, thereby lowering CO2 emissions – hence their adoption here. The 2017 BMW M4 could raise the bar further as the formula looks set to remain the same while it use many of the performance parts fitted to the limited edition GTS.

How these two things will affect the BMW M4’s character, then, are the big questions. The ensuing review will provide the answers.

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