The BMW M3 has essentially split up into two cars and they’re both something to get excited about.
The BMW M division has been around since the early 1970s and facilitated the German automaker’s racing programs. Its hand touched cars like the legendary 3.0 CSL and soon after, the M1, but it wasn’t until the spring of 1985 that the motorsports branch began developing a car for the highly-competitive touring car series. It was called the M3, and thanks to homologation requirements, 5,000 examples of the car had to be built for consumers and thus the story began.
The quick, driver-focused E30-generation BMW M3 was an instant hit and sold 17,970 units around the globe. Its success led to a second-generation, E36 M3, followed by the highly-respected E46-generation M3 in 2000. The V-8-powered fourth-generation E9X models came in with a roar and laid the groundwork for some innovative technologies that are now featured on the new, fifth-generation BMW M3 and M4 models.
While the 3-Series and 4-Series share a great deal of parts and architecture, their names had to be different, leading to the creation of the M3 sedan and M4 coupe as separate entities for BMW. The new performance pair features exactly what makes the M-cars stand out in the automotive world – new technology, a lightweight construction, motorsports DNA, and a driver-focused dynamic.
“Four generations of the BMW M3 have blended motor sport genes and uncompromised everyday usability within an emotionally rich overall concept,” said Dr. Friedrich Nitschke, President BMW M GmbH. “The BMW M3 Sedan and BMW M4 Coupe represent an ongoing commitment to this philosophy. The engine is the heart of every M model, and the new turbocharged six-cylinder unit fitted in the two new cars combines the virtues of a high-revving naturally aspirated unit with the strengths of turbocharger technology. A committed lightweight design concept produces a weight saving of around 80 kilograms 176 lbs over the outgoing M3. The BMW M3 and BMW M4 take motor sport technology from the track to the road, and thousands of laps of the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife – the world’s most exacting race track – have readied the new models for that transition. Meticulous and passion-fuelled development work has underpinned the creation of two high-performance sports cars that set new standards in terms of overall concept, precision and agility.”
The new model is 176 lbs. lighter for the first time in a consecutive generation for an overall DIN curb weight of 3,300 lbs. The engine is all-new and reverts back to the classic inline layout. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic and other lightweight materials and alloys are used throughout. BMW’s DTM drivers, Bruno Spengler and Timo Glock played big roles in the development of the new M3 and M4 models. Everything is as it should be for the Germans.
The heart of the new BMW M3 and M4 pounds with passion and provides an overwhelmingly satisfying punch. The all-new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six that is 22 lbs. lighter, more powerful, and more efficient than the high-revving V-8 it replaces. A maximum speed of 7,600 RPM for a turbocharged engine isn’t something normally found in production vehicles, but BMW engineers have bestowed it upon the new M3 and M4 models. The result is a fat powerband with a whopping 425 horsepower between 5,500 and 7,300 RPM with a maximum 406 lb-ft. of torque coming between 1,850 to 5,500 RPM. This comes with the help of all sorts of BMW magic and technological wizardry such as dual fast-responding mono-scroll turbochargers, Double-VANOS, High-Precision Direct Petrol Injection, Valvetronic, a forged crankshaft, twin-arc wire-sprayed cylinder coating, and a closed-deck crankcase.
That power is clearly audible through the twin-pipe exhaust system with electronically-controlled flaps prior to the rear muffler that offer drivers a range of sweet and sassy inline-six notes. For the track, engineers incorporated a lightweight magnesium oil sump system and cooling system to keep components running at their optimal performance.
The power created by the BMW M3 and M4 is sent to the rear wheels through a lightweight CFRP driveshaft and Active M Differential. Customers can choose from the standard, compact six-speed manual transmission with throttle blipping feature or the third-generation seven-speed M Dual Clutch Transmission with uninterrupted gearshifts and integrated launch control. The advanced rear differential uses hollow output shafts and an electronically-controlled multi-plate limited-slip differential with a degree of lock between 0- and 100-percent maximum traction in any situation.
With two transmission options, the BMW M3 and M4 offer drivers an engaging and harmonious driving experience. The standard six-speed manual gearbox helps both the M3 and M4 sprint to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, while its dual-clutch sibling shaves that time down to a mere 3.9 seconds for both models. Top speed is electronically-limited to 155 mph per the Gentleman’s Agreement. Consumption, on the other hand, is down by almost 25-percent over its V-8-powered predecessor.
Driving dynamics have always played an important role in the creation of the M-models. It’s what has made the BMW M3 so sought-after. Here, lightweight construction was the name of the game. Lightweight aluminum alloy and CFRP are used throughout the suspension to cut weight and help to create precise handling. An electromechanical steering system with integrated Servotronic at its heart helps to adjust feel and weight for the driver using three different modes. Both the coupe and sedan wear 9J x 18 front and 10J x 18 rear forged wheels with 255- and 275 mm tires, respectively with optional 19-inch forged wheels as an option. Behind the lightweight alloys are again, lightweight BMW M compound brakes or an optional M carbon ceramic set for those that want to stop on a dime, every time.
Lightweight design and technology was the focus, for BMW. The new M3 and M4 feature a standard CFRP roof, which is a first for the sedan. It saves about 11 lbs. for the M3 and 13 lbs. for the M4, while also lowering the overall center of gravity. The front fenders and hood with power bulge both are made from aluminum instead of the traditional steel, while a CFRP strut brace sits beneath to stiffen the chassis.
The design was more of an evolution for the M3 and M4 models. Emotion, passion, and performance are three elements that are clearly visible throughout the vehicles. A long hood, short wheelbase, set-back greenhouse, and flowing lines create the impression of speed while powerful extended wheel arches and a power bulge in the hood hint at the power beneath the sheetmetal. New M-gills, integrated Air Breathers, and Air Curtains help redirect air to either cool the brakes and engine or keep the wheels free of incoming air to reduce drag. Things are a bit different at the rear where the M3 sports a Gurney spoiler while the M4 wears a CFRP spoiler to improve downforce.
Inside, the BMW M3 and M4 feature interiors that have been taken to the next-level of performance with all sorts of BMW M touches. A double-spoke leather steering wheel with M badge faces the driver as M-designed gauges display information using white graphics. Sporty single-piece seats take inspiration from racing seats and are trimmed in perforated leather along with illuminated BMW M logos for the first time. Special BMW M components are featured throughout the cabin such as the footrest, door sills, gearshifter, and more for that extra-special touch of performance. Drivers can also benefit from the free BMW M Laptimer app that records all kinds of acceleration, consumption, speed, and other performance figures to be analyzed on the owner’s smartphone.
The new BMW M3 and M4 will make their debuts at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 2014. Sales for the two models will begin in the summer of 2014 as 2015 model-year vehicles. Pricing has not been announced.
BMW M3 and M4 Specifications
Displacement: 3.0 liters
Number of Cylinders: Inline-six
Maximum Horsepower: 425 from 5,500 to 7,300 RPM
Maximum Torque: 406 lb-ft. from 1,850 to 5,500 RPM
Maximum Engine Speed: 7,600 RPM
Type: Standard six-speed manual; optional seven-speed dual-clutch
-Active M rear differential
Acceleration 0-60 mph (manual): 4.1 seconds
Acceleration 0-60 mph (M DCT): 3.9 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically-limited)
BMW M3 and M4 Gallery