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BMW's M Festival rolls into town

2019-10-25 19:49

Sean Parker

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Image: BMW / Rob Till


South Africans can expect high-speed thrills, loud machines, and awesome performing artists at this weekend’s BMW M Festival at the Kyalami race track in Johannesburg. 

This is the second installment of the carmaker’s performance-car orientated event and I had a peek at what’s in store ahead of the public days on Saturday and Saturday (26 and 27 October). 

The theme for 2019 is M Town, with cheeky ‘cops’ giving away prizes to the show-goers. 

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Image: BMW / Rob Till

M Town will house all the brand’s models including the new X3 and X4 M Competition models, and the new M Performance M340i xDrive - the flagship 3 Series - until the M3 arrives in 2021. The latter will have all-wheel drive as standard, by the way. 

I sampled the new M3’s S58 engine in the new X3 and X4 M models, and trust me when I say it feels impressive in those packages. 

The pair is powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine with 375kW and 600Nm. 0-100km/h is a claimed 4.1 seconds and top speed is 250km/h but can be unrestricted to 285km/h with the optional M Driver's Package. 

I only had a brief time with the duo on track but it’s clear they have distinctive personalities. The X3 feels a bit more lively and dynamic in comparison to the X4’s more Hulk approach of smashing through the lap. There's also a tad more body roll when cornering. 

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Image: BMW / Rob Till

BMW M CEO and President Markus Flasch says between 40-45% of M cars sold in the world are SUVs. This is also why the automaker showed media the new X5 M and X6 M Competition models at the event. These models are due in South Africa in 2020 and boast 460kW and 750Nm from a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine. 

The M340i xDrive and M135i xDrive were the only non-SUV models available to drive at the M Festival press day. 

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Image: BMW / Rob Till

The former, ushers in a new ‘entry’ level performance option below the hardcore M3. Again a 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine does duty packing 275kW and 500Nm. The M340i will reach 100km/h from standstill in a claimed 4.4 seconds.  

On track, the car felt punchy and glued to the surface with impressive high-speed cornering ability. Unfortunately, my limited laps didn’t give me enough time to form an opinion, and a more lengthy test will provide detailed insight into this model.

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Image: BMW / Rob Till

The M135i is also fitted with all-wheel drive and utilises a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 225kW and 450Nm.

To be fair, it didn't feel like there was 450Nm under my foot, but I can attest to it hauling itself off the line with little fanfare, it's like a stock trader that moonlights as a bouncer: suited up but capable of punching a hole in the wall.  

Back to what the public can look forward to, expect high-speed passenger rides in M cars around Kyalami, and a pop-up dealership with over 200 cars on display for sale. 

A particular highlight is the recently-restored 530 MLE, a car many BMW aficionados reckon is the genesis of ///M. 

Click on the link to buy tickets to the BMW M Festival here

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Image: BMW / Rob Till

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