Adaptive drive, integral active steering, driving dynamic control – who needs ‘em?
There are just two buttons that alter the driving characteristics of the BMW M Coupe – one turns off the ESP and the other, mounted on the steering wheel, alters the throttle mapping of the 340bhp straight six, although the storm of torque stirred by its twin turbos is so swamping that you barely need it.
Otherwise, this is a refreshingly straightforward car to drive. It’s a manual. It has manually adjusted seats, an unalterable setting for its dampers and a solitary map for its Servotronic steering. You just get in it, and drive. And if you’d planned to be somewhere in an hour, there’s a good chance that traffic permitting, you’ll be arriving well before that, because it’s hugely fast.
Whatever the gear, whatever the revs, arcing that floor-mounted accelerator through a chunk of its travel will squish this BMW’s full-fat rubber into the tarmac for a solid assault on the space-time continuum. Dare to keep the throttle sunk, and the M gains momentum like avalanching snow.
Deploying its power, then, is simple. Just as simple is the obediently assured way it deals with corners, and this despite the ever-growing temptation to deep-dip the accelerator, coupled to a surprising bounciness through scab-crested bends. Bounciness? Show it a small, jabbing walnut lump of a bump and this BMW squirms it away, just as it soaks up long, heaving crests. But launch it over anything in between, and it suspension jerks and checks in a way that has you wondering whether the road is going to fling you into a high-speed slither.
Yet even with the ESP recklessly turned off, the tyres hang on no matter what the suspension fails to absorb. Fling it at a tight bend, though, and you’ll learn that the ESP, which intervenes with the subtlety of a seasoned diplomat, is a very necessary fitment.
All of which gives us a car that is not quite as simple and unsophisticated as it seems. The engine is a paragon, its near diesel-like torque delivery perversely contriving to diminish its pleasures because you don’t have to work it to extract the go you need.
And though the chassis is troubled by the kind of bumps that are what most British B roads are about, its trick linkages and those super-sized tyres allow the M Coupe to maintain a surprising grip on things. It has good steering too, whose feedback you’d feel even more of were the wheel’s rim not so absurdly thick.
But the suspension fields a curious, velvet crudity, proving quiet and mightily grippy but short of the supple panache of a Cayman or an Evora.
So though electronically stripped for simplicity, this Motorsport machine falls short of delivering the ultimate in rewards, because its engine is almost too able, because its damping lacks subtlety and because it doesn’t demand enough of its driver to go fast. Simplicity is great – but we need more engagement, too.