BMW has debuted the latest-generation M3 and M4 twins to the world with the hi-po mid-sizers taking more than a few side-steps away from tradition, being offered with the option of all-wheel-drive for the first time as well as brandishing what will be sure to be divisive styling.
Described by BMW M CEO Markus Flash as looking like it was designed by a racing engineer, the new M3/M4 twins brandish a more aggressive take on the 4 Series’ controversial new vertical twin kidney grille which has reportedly received a positive response in its native Germany.
“We really took the design of the 4 Series to another level,” he said.
“We got rid of the kidney frame, we have an embossed bonnet that takes on the geometry and also the rest; the wheelarches, the skid-plates, the diffuser; it’s very much different … much more different to anything we did in the past.”
“The feedback so far is extremely positive.”
Just like the 3 and 4 Series models they are based on, the new M3/M4 have grown considerably compared to their predecessors, with the M3 measuring in at 4794mm long (+108mm), 1903mm wide (+26mm) and 1433mm tall (+8mm).
The Coupe meanwhile shares its overall length with the Sedan but measures in slightly narrower and lower at 1887mm and 1393mm respectively.
As a result of this extra size, the new M3 in basic guise has gained 83kg of unladen weight (1705kg) while the M4 has put on a not-unnoticeable 140kg (1700kg).
Due to arrive Down Under in the first quarter of 2021, BMW Australia will for the first time offer the M3/M4 in both ‘regular’ and Competition grades with the latter set to be also offered with the option of all-wheel-drive.
Powered by the next “evolution” of the S58 twin-turbo 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine as found in the X3 and X4 M Competition, the standard M3/M4 produces 353kW of power at 6250rpm – up 22kW – and 550Nm of torque between 2650-6130rpm, all of which is sent to rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.
Aimed squarely at “pure driving enthusiasts”, the manuals dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.2 seconds.
As usual, stepping up to the Competition grades adds more power and in the case of the new M3/M4, a new eight-speed ‘M Steptronic’ automatic transmission.
Tuned in this guise to develop 375kW at 6,250rpm and 650Nm from 2750-5500rpm, the Competitions shave 0.3s off the standard models’ 0-100km/h sprint time (3.9 seconds) with 0-200km/h completed in 12.5s – 1.2s faster than the standard models.
While the Competition grades will arrive with the standard M3 and M4 early next year, those interested in the all-wheel-drive variants will have to wait until later in year.
In recent history, only the top-spec Competition M models have been offered in Australia due to our almost insatiable appetite for performance vehicles.
According to BMW Australia CEO Vikram Pawah, the decision to offer both the standard M3/M4 as well as the Competition variants was made following careful analysis of the new model’s specification and customer demand.
“We look at the specs of the car normally and then choose which one to bring in,” he said.
“For the last couple of models we’ve been bringing the Competition models here, so we’ll continue following that strategy clearly, because I think people are asking for that.
“On the other end we’re also looking at the Pure strategy, so both ends of the spectrums we’re able to address; and we’ll see even more and more line-up being embraced as we go along because clearly we want to be in that top slot and in that worldwide M share.”
More than just a new look and more firepower, BMW says it developed the new M3/M4 alongside the new M4 GT3 racecar which has helped make the new twins the most dynamically capable versions yet.
Under the skin, both models ride on adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled shock absorbers and M-specific kinematics and elastokinematics for the front and rear axles.
All variants feature variable ratio M Servotronic steering and an M-specific version of the integrated braking system not only helping to boost stopping power, but also allowing the driver to customise the brake feel between two different settings.
To help drivers extract the most from their vehicles, the manual transmission is fitted with rev matching for aggressive downshifts – or as BMW calls it, ‘gear shift assistant’ – while the shift characteristics of the automatic unit can be tailored to suit the driver’s preferences, with three different settings for both manual and automatic mode on offer.
A limited-slip differential is also standard on all variants, as is an enhanced DSC system which now works in unison with an ‘integrated wheel slip limitation function’ for “increased precision” with 10 different settings.
The rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been lifted almost completely untouched from the X3/X4 M Competition and can be configured in three different ways – 4WD, 4WD Sport (more rear-bias) or 2WD.
In terms of rolling stock, all variants of both the M3 and M4 roll on forged M-light alloy wheels, measuring 19 inches in diameter at the front and 20 inches at the back.
To make the most of the dynamics in a controlled environment, the new M3/M4 have been fitted with BMW’s M Drive Professional suite containing a range of useful driver assistance and coaching features including the aforementioned DSC system, M Drift Analyser and a lap timer.
Just like Audi has done with its latest RS4 and RS5 duo, BMW has fitted its new performance mid-sizers with two steering wheel-mounted buttons providing direct access to the driver’s preferred driver set-ups which they can configure themselves and save.
Standard driver modes consist of Road, Sport and Track with the configurable modes accessed via the centre console-mounted M button.
Inside the cabin, the interior has been completely overhauled compared to the outgoing model, with the ergonomics designed specifically to keep the driver’s focus on the road.
Merino leather adorns the power-adjustable M sport seats as well as the rest of the interior while new M Carbon bucket seats can be optioned to up the sense of occasion and shed a few kilograms of excess weight.
Other standard features shared across the range include keyless entry, three-zone climate control, LED interior and ambient lighting, 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system, BMW Live Cockpit Professional and wireless smartphone integration.
More than just a power bump, the Competition variants score a raft of standard safety kit and driver assistance systems like Driving Assistant Professional with steering and lane control assistant, active cruise control, front and rear cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning, lane change warning, parking assistant plus with parking assistance, surround view and reversing assistant and head-up display with M-specific content and speed-sign recognition.
Local pricing and specification for the new M3/M4 duo will be revealed closer to their launch early next year with the subsequent convertible and Touring (wagon) versions set to be released mid-year.
Despite the recent confirmation of the Touring and success being enjoyed by the 2 Series and 8 Series Gran Coupes, Mr Flasch quelled any possibilities of an M4 Gran Coupe but was a little coyer about the almost inevitable CS or GTS variants.
“Nothing to confirm today but we have seen very, very strong success of the M2 CS that we launched this year – the car has been sold out in a couple of months,” he said.
“The success was surprising to me and it shows me that the demand in the market for the very distilled and crisp M models is still growing and therefore you can expect that we have a very close look into CS and CSL derivatives of M3 and M4.”
The 3 Series has been the dominant sales force in the $60,000-plus medium car market, notching up 2130 sales to the end of August, rivalled only by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class with 1921 sales.
The same could not be said however for the 4 Series, chalking up just 253 sales compared to the 822 enjoyed by the C-Class Coupe.