Road test: new BMW M3 and M4 tear up Yas Marina Circuit

The German brand’s latest models needed a stiff workout to test their mettle – and they got one in Abu Dhabi

Testing a vehicle on the road is one thing, but, if it’s something on the sporty side, not being able to give it the beans because of speed limits can be frustrating.

Testing a vehicle at Yas Marina Circuit, then, essentially eradicates this issue. The gloves, as they say, are off (or on, if they’re those nicely stitched leather ones donned by the vintage-vehicle brigade as they hoot horns at many a classic car fest).

What was under the spotlight, then? That would be BMW’s new M3 and M4, those not-exactly-shy-and-retiring tearaways. Wisely, the manufacturer’s Middle East team realised letting a pack of testers loose around Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 track was probably a solid call if the assembled posse were to get a good idea of what the cars are like.

The unveiling, as is commonplace, was akin to a curtain being pulled slowly aside to reveal a great work of art on a museum tour, and while this might be over the top for, say, a new family runabout, this seemed apt for bona fide modern classics like the M3 and M4.

The sun shone down on all the shiny metal in a variety of less-than-subtle colours as the cars were revealed in Yas’s pit lane, the electric doors rising achingly slowly to show the new vehicles.

Everyone had seen pictures of the new models in advance, so there were no revelations about their appearance. Even so, there would have been few sharp intakes of breath if this hadn't been the case, as the design changes are subtle. The new models come with BMW's new fierce kidney grille, but otherwise they resemble recent M3s and M4s.

That doesn’t dampen their allure, though, rest assured.

These kind of cars flatter you as a driver. You’re unlikely to be as fast as Lewis Hamilton (if you are, you’re probably in the wrong job), but even if you don't have the nerve to brake as late as Yas’s instructors suggest, you certainly feel like you’re on the edge in these cars, albeit in a controlled manner.

You can get from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 4.2 seconds in the M3 and the M4, but that goes down to 3.9 seconds in the special Competition versions, which makes tearing up Yas’s North Circuit straight distinctly cheek-wobbling. The power comes courtesy of a three-litre turbocharged engine, that howls in a suitably exhilarating fashion when you really need it to.

It’s all very power orientated, and that’s exactly what fans of these vehicles are after. There is an M Race Track Package now available as well, which will really up the ante.

The M3 is referred to as a sedan while the M4 has coupe status, but, such distinctions aside, these are both comfortable cars to get into.

There’s no sense of being thrown about as you tear in and out of the corners, either. The seats cosset you nicely, and that gentle cuddle the safety belt gives as it sucks you gently into the seat is always comforting.

Enthusiasts, then, will not be disappointed by the new breed of M3 and M4. BMW continues to make minor adjustments that add up to an improved driving experience. This is certainly the case when you get these newbies on to a track, which is exactly what a lot of buyers will be doing.

Another lap around the circuit, you say, Mr and Mrs BMW? Well, alright then. Probably won’t need those stitched leather gloves, though, as there’s very little that could be described as old-fashioned around here.