The phenomenon made up by the M Performance cars and aftermarket parts is not showing any signs of slowing down. Originally launched back in back in 2007, the M Performance parts catalogue was initially limited to just a couple of models and restricted to certain markets worldwide. Seeing as the popularity of their offerings was going through the roof, the people in Munich decided to expand their offering by bringing out more parts for more models and by selling them on virtually every market they are present in these days.
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That’s how we arrive at the situation in 2018, when M Performance parts are being sold more than ever, and cover both standard BMW models as well as M Performance cars and even proper M models. So what are M Performance parts after all? They are performance enhancing products released by BMW, developed by the same engineers and using the same technology employed in the DTM, the trademark motorsport challenge BMW has been successful in for years.
That’s truly something that differentiates BMW from other manufacturers, as the parts you are buying under the M Performance logo are truly designed to enhance your car’s performance. From the aerodynamic parts made exclusively from lightweight carbon fiber to the suspension options, lightweight wheels and exhaust systems, everything works for your, tried and tested. Of course, M Performance stripes won’t be of real help but as one PR told us while we were preparing to take an M Performance kitted BMW M4 out for a spin on the track, they do add ‘at least 10 HP’ so you might want to keep that in mind.
All jokes aside, M Performance parts are also used for their aesthetics in some cases, such as when they are used as trims inside cars. That could be said about steering wheels as well, with the notable exception of the higher-spec versions, which actually have useful features included, such as shift lights and all sorts of parameters displayed on a small screen attached to the top of the wheel. As an interesting side-note, in case you didn’t know, M Performance steering wheels come with a blue stripe if they are for M cars and a red one for anything else.
Some have claimed that the performance increase M Performance parts bring to the table don’t really justify the price tags and in order to test out this claim we were invited by BMW to put some of their latest offerings to the test on the track. BMW Romania asked me to join a group of journalists and take a couple of cars out for a spin in a series of challenges meant to emphasize certain aspects about M Performance parts.
Initially we were asked to partake in an autocross, trying to be as fast as possible while avoiding the cones laid in a straight line ahead of us. According to the pilots acting as instructors for us that day, the key for a good time here was to be as smooth as possible in our transitions from one side to the other and were suggested to use Eco Pro mode to achieve this easier. For this challenge we were handed the keys from a BMW 540i and one with the full M Performance treatment applied to it as well as a BMW 440i and a similarly M Performance equipped alternative.
The difference between the cars was noticeable to say the least. Of course, the 5 Series models felt heavier on the circuit, as they actually were heavier by the literal pounds to begin with. However, the M Performance suspension showed its worth and when switching between the cars fitted with it and those without it, we did notice the less roll we had to deal with as well as the better overall composure, even when pushed hard.
The true test came afterwards though as we were tasked with taking a couple of true M cars out for a spin on the track. We were introduced to our testers for the day, from the BMW M2 to a BMW M2 fitted with the full M Performance kit and a BMW M4 which was also decked with M Performance parts. While we had no baseline reading for the hardcore M4 and we couldn’t tell just how much of a difference the add-ons made, the M2 models proved to be quite an eye-opening experience.
The BMW M2 is already being praised by the vast majority of the media as the best bang for the buck M car you can get today. Getting behind the wheel of one for a first lap showed me exactly why that’s the case. Unlike the M4, the more tame character of the M2 makes it feel a bit more comforting and less frightening to push to the limit. It’s a well balanced car which, due to its compact proportions, can handle itself brilliantly on the track, feeling like a precision knife almost all of the time. It encourages you to try and find its limits while behind the wheel, being a truly rewarding experience overall.
While driving the M2 you don’t really notice that it could be improved in certain areas unless you’re an experienced driver and know that there are vastly more poised cars out there. For a track beginner, the M2 is delivering all the adrenaline shots you may need. However, once I got inside the M Performance M2 I started noticing the flaws of the car I drove just minutes before. In almost every aspect, the M Performance model was better.
The two areas that stood out the most were the suspension and the brakes. The car leaned considerably less in the corners and felt a lot more poised, even giving me the impression it put the power down better overall. Body roll was kept in check exceptionally offering me even more confidence to push the car further towards its limits at the same time. To keep things in check, the BMW M Compound brakes with drilled and ventilated rotors allowed me to brake later on, carrying more speed through the corners. It’s as simple as that. Of course, the M Performance exhaust made itself heard as well but I didn’t really have time to focus on that as I was trying to keep up with the BMW instructor driving in front of me.
While this is a rather obvious conclusion when discussing about M Performance parts, the experience on the track, driving two cars back to back to see the exact differences between them was a true eye-opening one. Whether the price tag justifies the increase in performance is a decision every man or woman must make for themselves. Considering just how few owners actually take their M cars to the track, the M Performance parts catalogue still appeals to a small niche but sales on the rise and now it’s easy to see why.