In the past, the launch of a new performance model was the subject of much hype. A new Porsche 911 was huge news. If a Mustang GT beat a Camaro SS around a racetrack, a huge crowd of people became upset, and another equally large cohort of fans were ecstatic. Probably because they hadn’t been struck by the victorious car. And, perhaps most significantly, nobody really cared if there was a new Toyota RAV4.
Now, though, times have changed. The new generation of 911 — one of the most iconic sports cars of all time — was overshadowed by Porsche’s $200,000 electric skateboard with a sedan body. Ferrari has quite a few new models out, but they have seen decidedly little publicity. Ferrari. And the G20 BMW 3-Series — though not a “performance car” per se — launched rather quietly, despite its historical status as the brand’s defining model.
The truth is performance coupes simply do not rock the car world like they once did. In today’s world of cars that can drive themselves for a whopping thirteen seconds at a time, fastback SUVs, and bulletproof, scalene triangular, electric pickup trucks, they struggle to bring anything new to the table. A redesign needs to do more than shave off a few pounds (or, more accurately, not gain too many more), decrease the 0-60 time by a tenth of a second, and pull 0.03 more G’s on the skidpad to command any significant publicity.
Alas, we arrive at the 2021 BMW M4.
You have probably seen the leaks and heard the rumors. You’ve also seen the picture at the top of this article. You know what it looks like. You’ve seen the atrocity. NASA has begun an investigation into what they believe are two supermassive black holes in the car’s front end. You probably don’t like it. But you’re talking about it.
The old saying, ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ applies here. Everyone is talking about this car. Acura announced a spiritual successor to the beloved TL Type S? Chevy kept the C8 Corvette’s theoretical sub-$60,000 base price for 2021? Toyota made the Supra more powerful than the car it’s based on? Who cares? M4 grille.
By making a controversial design choice, BMW has dramatically increased awareness of its product. This car is more talked about than a 986-horsepower, limited-production Ferrari. Whether you like its looks or not, the car proudly sits on a grand throne at the top of everyone’s mind. Thus, BMW’s marketing department seems — so far — to have found success: the new M4’s upcoming launch is generating a massive amount of publicity, which would otherwise be rather uncharacteristic for this type of car.
Whether this will translate into more sales remains to be seen.