THE START OF BMW M-LITES
Hi, I’m Tanaka. It's been way too long since my last article so I thought now is a good a time than any to dish out some of that good car stuff.
For a long time, the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) had dominated the hot hatchback market with the Golf GTI/R and Audi S3/RS3. They were very popular and greatly accepted by the market too simply because they proved you did not need a V8 to have fun and spend big bucks on a Ferrari either. VW somehow managed to eek out performance from smaller engines and lighter cars which was a recipe for the ultimate pocket rocket.
In 2012 VW introduced the newer and probably the most popular GTI model ever produced – the Mk 7 GTI (image above). It was meant to carry on the success and tradition of previous generation models with better technology including an LSD to cope with the uprated power, 217bhp and 350Nm of torque all at the front wheels. Manufacturers saw the success and popularity this brought and so here enters BMW.
BMW had been known to make “performance cars” but this was limited to the full blown M cars like the M3 and M5. They did not have any direct model competitor for the GTI and so the M division decided to get to work and birthed something special - the M135i.
A rear wheel drive hot hatch had not been attempted before either and BMW correctly assumed it’d be an instant hit. With a straight six engine with 315bhp and 450Nm at the rear axle, this was meant to disrupt the market. Who would not want to drop the kids and then get to work sideways in a cloud of smoke? BMW were not satisfied by this car either until it was damn near perfect so they uprated the power to 322bhp. BMW did not stop there. They created a new engine altogether and jacked the power and torque AGAIN to 335bhp and 500Nm - this was as close to perfect a car could get.
This became a rebranded model of the same car too – to the M140i. It quickly became the king on the hatchback market destroying everything in the segment in drag races and other technical circuits.
BMW found a niche market with the M135/140i series and so they went on to exploit it. Assuming everyone wants to drive an M3/M5 but maybe wouldn’t really want to own one simply because M cars are are not so comfortable as daily cars than non M cars and most wouldn’t be able to exploit the full performance on the public road either. This gave the advent of M Lites – essentially these are not full M cars but are not slouches either and some are better options and value for money. BMW introduced these across their ranges and let’s have a look at some of them here
M140/240i 335bhp and 500Nm 0-100kph 4.8sec
M340i 347bhp and 500Nm 0-100kph 4.4sec
M550i 523bhp and 750Nm 0-100kph 3.8 sec
X5/X6 M50i 523bhp and 750Nm 0-100kph 4.3sec
These are pretty impressive cars and some are better alternatives if one does not feel like splashing down the big bucks on an M5. So as we’ve seen, it all started with one model and filtered through the fleet range as each got popular and that was how the M lites became a thing. This has become common practice with most manufacturers too with respective performance division making hot cars a normalcy and we thank BMW for starting on a trend that has given us more options on the market to satisfy our ever longing petrolhead taste buds.
Here’s to hoping that BMW keeps on improving and that everyone follows suit in a world of climate change regulations and fossil fuels being frowned upon.
Author: Tanaka Gatakata