I saw an argument play out on social media – someone posted that they were hijacked in a BMW M4.
After they posted the pictures of the hijacked vehicle it was apparent to many petrolheads that the car was not an M4 but a BMW 4 Series in M Sport trim.
The person in distress was not the only one who was confused by the whole thing. Many people came out saying that because the car had M Sport trim it was an M4.
To make sense of the confusion, one needs to differentiate between a trim and a full-on sport model, which the M4 is.
A trim level is something manufacturers use to differentiate a car model. Take the 4 Series for example – you can get it in entry-level trim, which in BMW speak is the Sport trim. You get the car in its most basic form, with small wheels, boring interior and limited tech.
The higher up the trim level you go, the more toys you get and the more sporty the interior and exterior look.
Then you get the sportier trims, for BMW this is the M Sport trim. It usually comes with trick upgrades, better suspension options, improved equipment levels and a sportier-looking exterior.
The car will also get a good amount of M badges plastered on it. In BMW, the letter M is quite special. Back in the day the only cars to get M badges on them were made by BMW Motorsport (now called BMW M), which is the manufacturer’s tuning arm. It made hardcore versions of the normal cars. Audi has RS or Audi Sport, as it now called, and Mercedes has AMG.
So BMW M will take the 4 Series and do an overhaul, which usually involves giving the car a powerful engine, changing the suspension and making it look a whole lot more menacing.
The result is a car that at its core is still a 4 Series but is different in almost every aspect.
BMW M models are expensive, usually two times the price of the basic model, so people want to get into them but they can’t afford to.
So what do manufacturers do? They give you a taste of the halo model. A car that kinda looks like the hardcore version, with the model badges everywhere usually, but is simply a phoney.
BMW isn’t the only manufacturer to do this; all the manufacturers do the same nowadays – Audi with the S line and Mercedes with the AMG line.
Things get even more complicated with the German three because they have “lite” versions of their hardcore models.
BMW has M-Performance models, Audi has S models which are the lite version of the RS cars (not to be confused with the S line, which is just a trim) and Mercedes has ... well AMGs are more complicated. The AMG 35s are lite versions of AMG 45s, while the 43 and 53s are lite version of the AMG 63 models.
The lite versions, much like the hardcore models, have powerful engines and trick suspension, but the engine upgrades and suspension upgrades are not as hardcore as the halo cars.