The kind is dead … long live the king!
The new M3 and its coupe sibling, the M4, have just received a limited debut.
When we covered the release of the new Ford Mustang last week, I thought it would be hard for another carmaker to top, in terms of excitement and importance. But BMW is certainly doing its best. After all, the M3 doesn’t just have the reputation of being consistently the best driving sedan on the market, it also started the whole concept of the super-sedan.
The complete details aren’t out yet, but BMW will be debuting the full car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The cars themselves will go on sale as 2015 models late in the summer of 2014.
So, without further ado, let’s see what the Bavarians have for us.
Engines & Transmission
The big news will come as a relief to Bimmer purists: the M Division has gone back to an inline-six cylinder. The V8 in the last generation was astounding, but, still, an M3 without a straight-six never seemed quite right.
The brand-new 3.0-liter six cylinder in the new M3 and M4 comes with two mono-scroll fast response turbochargers, hence the inventive name ‘M TwinPower Turbo’. This engine is an awesome combination of high-end and old school; and it’s good for 425 horsepower and 406 pound feet of torque. The impressive thing is not so much the power but the range over which it is delivered. The max torque figure is achieved all the way from 1,850 rpm up to 5,500 rpm. Don’t be sad when you get up to 5,500 rpm, though, because from 5,500 and up, you get the max power figure.
All this power and torque in a package that weighs 10 kilos lighter than the previous V8 … wowza.
The wild thing about this is that BMW used that V8 for all of six years. Meanwhile, GM is still using a small-block V8 that was designed by Methuselah.
Along with new engines, comes with two new transmission options. The manual is a pretty standard six-speed. The main feature of note is the power-blipping system that matches the engine speed to the new gear as the driver selects it.
The fancier, more complicated option is a seven-speed dual clutch box. The most impressive feature of this transmission is that the power never needs to come off, even in the middle of a gear change. This explains why the DCT transmission can manage a 0-60 sprint in just 3.9 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than the manual.
BMW’s M division paid a nearly autistic amount of attention to lightening the new M3. The shiny carbon fiber roof is the most obvious signs of these efforts But the stuff that really counts is mostly invisible.
The Bimmer boys built as much of the M3 and M4 from aluminum as the money men would allow. Everything from the multi-link rear suspension, to much of the bodywork, has been forged from high-grade aluminum by, what I can only assume is, BMW’s special cadre of perfectionist dwarves.
The focus on lightness and the inline twin-turbo six mark a return to the simple, straightforward origin of the M3
When paired with the new differential, which uses multiple plates and black magic to constantly alter the slip between the two wheels, we can expect the new M3 and M4 to do even better than its predecessors.
The only potential downside in all of this is that BMW has fallen from grace and is using electric power steering. BMW claims that this adjustable system matches the feel and precision of a mechanical system. Of course Bimmer would say that. At least so far, no automaker’s electric power steering has lived up to the hype. They all feel wooden and disconnected. But if anyone is going to be able to sort this out, it is BMW’s M Division.
Styling and Design
The M3 and M4 represent stylistic evolutions from the last generation of the 3 Series. This isn’t surprising, given that BMW’s styling department tends to move slower than continental drift.
That being said, the current design is damn good. The cars are aggressive and exciting looking, but not so wild that the rich doctors and dentists who will buy the Teutonic twins will be driven away.
As you would expect, the interior is a wash of leather and high-end synthetics. The centerpieces of the interior are the contoured seats. Design to give the maximum support and comfort even when undergoing even the friskiest maneuvering.
The technology is all focused through the latest version of iDrive.
BMW says that you should get a lot of standard equipment, but this is the one place that I won’t believe it until I see it. Historically BMW gives you the seats as standards, but if you want frills like carpets, or, say, windshield wipers, you are going to shell out extra.
Even if you do have to sell a kidney to afford the sunroof and technology package, chances are you won’t regret it. BMW just doesn’t make bad cars, and, from what we now know about the M3 and M4, the latest Ms won’t be exceptions to this rule.
The focus on lightness and the inline twin-turbo six mark a return to the simple, straightforward origin of the M3.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing and hearing these Bavarian screamers in person. They may not have quite the same visual thrill or flair as an AMG Mercedes or an SRT Charger but nothing drives or feels quite like the daddy, the original, the M3.