REMEMBER when Ford proudly boasted that its Capri Injection would go like lightning? You wouldn’t get away with it today – but then even the sound of a revving engine, as BMW’s just discovered, will get you rapped on the knuckles.
I was astonished to learn the other day that the Advertising Standards Authority has censured Munich’s best-known carmaker for using just that in a radio ad for its M3 and M4 Competition. The gist of it was that while BMW could use lots of colourful words to describe what its latest performance saloon and its M4 coupé cousin were like, what most enthusiasts really wanted to hear was its 510bhp, twin-turbo straight six. So it duly obliged, ending the ad with a split-second snippet of it revving.
Such a hedonistic helping of high-performance misbehaviour prompted a torrent of complaints to the ASA’s gatekeepers, right? Erm, no. Some ads rack up hundreds of angry emails but the judgement against BMW’s was upheld on the basis of one complainant, who felt that the sound of a revving engine glamourised speed and performance. I’ll say that again. One. I can just picture the diesel Land Rover Discovery parked outside his or her house, presumably with a copy of the Daily Mail on the passenger seat.
The sound of the engine was recorded while the car was static and even the ASA noted that it didn’t indicate that the car was being driven at any sort of speed or that it was accelerating – and at no other point in the ad did the bloke from BMW mention anything to do with its performance, even though the M3 can get to 60mph in 3.9 seconds and crack 180mph if the optional M Pro package – which removes the electronic gizmos limiting its top speed to a mere 155mph – is ticked on the options list.
Nope, what BMW wanted to point out is that it puts a lot of effort into making the engines for its M cars sound good – so much so that it now works with professional composers to get the acoustics bang on.
BMW can now only run the ad again if the engine sound is made ‘in the context of safety’ – but I can bet that anyone who makes enough money to afford the M3 Competition’s £74,755 asking price is clever enough to a) know what a track day is, and b) realise that the Highway Code applies equally to everyone, whether they’re in a 15-year-old Focus or a McLaren Senna.
I’ve heard countless engines being revved and not once have I taken it as some subliminal suggestion that I need to top the ton on the Tarleton bypass – and frankly, if you do, you’re a moron who doesn’t deserve to be behind the wheel of a high performance motor. It’s not what you drive that counts. It’s how you drive it.
I bet the vast majority of you – whether you think BMW’s M3 is an engineering masterpiece or a £75k waste of time that’ll spend 99 per cent of its life going no faster than seventy – would agree.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly.