50 years of BMW M warrants not only an M Festival but an epic road trip. Here are our highlights from a huge week.

New M2 makes dramatic debut 
A much more angular and aggressive design treatment underlines a more serious sporting brief for the new M2, the last pure-combustion offering from the M division. There’s 50:50 weight distribution, a manual gearbox option, much improved rigidity, increased track widths and 338kW from a twin-turbo straight-six. A car to please any purist who fancies a track day or three.

Drift action in an M3
A playful rear axle has been a 3-Series hallmark for many a moon. The current M3 still feels a wonderfully light-footed device on track, especially on wet tarmac set up for drift action. We got to experience some lurid drift angles on a tight, purpose-designed course but we also witnessed how precise the M3 can be when pure speed is the priority.

1500km in the new iX M60
The big iX is a paragon of comfort, quietness and space – all essential qualities for a luxury car on a long road trip. The M treatment, however, builds on a huge cruising range with jaw-dropping eDrive performance backed up by spec sheet: nearly 400kW and 1015Nm are enough to catapult a 5m-long SUV to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. Best of all, our memorable tour of Hawkes Bay and the Central Plateau proved you can go touring in a fast full-electric without being taxed by mental maths.

M plots an electric future
To date, we’ve enjoyed the M treatment in both the i4 M50 and iX M60, two very different EVs to which the M division has successfully applied a strong sporting flavour. The road ahead is not only more sustainable, it’s more performance-oriented, with the XM SUV scheduled to integrate full-fat Motorsport magic.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing
The M5 remains our favourite medium-large sports saloon thanks to bruising performance, surprising agility and restrained styling. The early variants are immensely characterful with their straight-six engines and manual gearboxes but the limited-edition M5 CS is the car we’d choose for our next South Island romp.

Important DNA from 2002 Turbo
If the new M2 is an obvious extrovert, so too was the groundbreaking 2002 Turbo which celebrates its 50th birthday in 2023. A precursor to the first 3-Series, the 2002 was blessed with a platform from which engineers extracted outstanding driving dynamics, while motorsport informed the Turbo’s boosted engine and bulging bodywork. You could say it was BMW’s first foretaste of the iconic M3.

Motorsport success from the outset
One of the best-looking and most flamboyant touring cars of all time was the 3.0 CSL with which BMW Motorsport enjoyed immediate success in Europe and North America. In fact, the CSL captured six European Championship titles and one of the works drivers to win the Nurburgring 6 Hours was Kiwi great, Chris Amon.

Art Cars from every decade
The idea of racing cars doubling as moving sculptures began as a mid-70s PR stunt from which BMW received unexpected acclaim. A series of high-profile artists lined up to accept Art Car commissions and Andy Warhol even hand-painted an M1 himself. Fellow American Jeff Koons is responsible for some of the most striking designs this century with his limited-edition M8 displayed in a glass case while in Auckland.




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