Change of pace

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NATHAN PONCHARD

Ponch grinds gears in search of contentment

IíVE been immersed in BMW M metal of late, and not just my own deliciously decadent M4 manual long-termer.

For an upcoming web feature, Alex and I spent time with an M4 M-DCT coupe Ė black, just like mine, but with a boring black interior and, deep breath, a bloody sunroof! Ė and a stunning E46 M3 CSL that BMW Australia cotton-balled away after it finished limited press loans back in 2004.

You donít have to be a Rhodes Scholar to You donít have to be a Rhodes Scholar to work out that the CSL was incredible; even the old SMG gearbox has stood the test of time better than I thought it would. But what depressed me a little was how bored I was with the dual-clutch M4.

Brilliantly efficient as the M-DCT gearbox may be, it isnít a patch on the manual.

Smoothness of operation and virtually imperceptible gearchanges might deserve big praise in a luxury car, but not an M car.

Unless I was really pushing it, the dual-clutch M4 proved way too quiet, with none of the drama of an AMG, and little of the manualís addictive low-rpm exhaust blare. On a great road, itís the duckís guts, but I want my hyper-coupe to be shit-hot all the time. Just like a manual M4 is if you short-shift and feel the noise.

Next on my M itinerary was the M5 30 Jahre.

With 441kW and 700Nm, the anniversary M5 is about as unhinged as an M car gets, and when you start to get serious, itís ballistic.

Yet thereís something inherently detached Yet thereís something inherently detached about the M5 when youíre blatting about town, and no amount of output garnishing for the 30 Jahre makes a scrap of difference.

Not in Sydney anyway.

As soon as I slid back into my M4ís red Nappa leather seats, engaged first gear and released the clutch, I felt part of the action again. In fact, the M4 is a lot easier to drive than the M5 in the city simply because it isnít so overpowered. And in Comfort mode, the M4ís suspension damping is actually rather excellent for a sports coupe, even though a colleague swears that its ride isnít a patch on an E92ís on a really bumpy road.

That may be so, but I like the fact that the M4 feels sportier more of the time. Its multisetting dampers are far better judged than an M5ís, where the Comfort setting is too soft and pitchy over speed humps, and I canít get enough of the M4ís 1500rpm exhaust blare.

Now, if only I could score one more drive in an E39 M5 manual. That was an M car worthy of worship.

HOTTEST SEAT

Fabulous steering wheel, superb winged seats, and tactile gearshift and pedals make M4ís driving position great

Drink up, Johnny!

I CONTINUE to be amazed at how economical a high-performance car can be when driven on cruise control at our soporific highway speeds. I lent the M4 to regular contributor Rohan Olson and fellow journo Jimmy Whitbourn recently, in order for the boys to trek up to Port Macquarie and back (more old-car purchases our partners donít know about...) and thereís the number above. This monthís 10.3L/100km wasnít just freeway either; it involved my pleasant reacquaintance with nailing the throttle at low rpm.

BMW M4 COUPE

Date acquired: January 2015 Price as tested: $176,790 This month: 710km @ 10.3L/100km Overall: 1608km @ 11.4L/100km 0 0 9 7 7 4 09009 9 WEEK 8 D Pr Th Ov