2020 BMW M3 to share controversial new M4 front grille

Next-gen M3 will make a dramatic departure from the design of the standard 3 Series

The next-generation BMW M3 – due for launch in September – has been snapped with minimal disguise, confirming at last that it will wear the same vertically oriented front grille as its M4 sibling.

The performance saloon has been spotted many times before – and we’ve driven it in prototype form – but it has always shielded its nose from view. Speaking at the unveiling of the standard 4 Series, BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec said the “polarising” design will become a “brand shaper” but implied it would not make its way to the M3. He said: “The 3 Series has a very horizontal one because it’s a more rational, serious car. A coupé like the 4 Series should express the exotic part of BMW.”

Now, though, it appears the brand will strengthen the link between the two mechanically identical performance cars with shared design elements. Apart from the front end, the M3 looks to retain the overall profile of the standard 3 Series, while gaining performance-oriented styling tweaks such as widened wheel arches, a subtle rear spoiler and four large exhaust pipes. A leaked image of the rear end previously revealed that it would also feature black plastic trim elements and a downforce-enhancing rear diffuser.

The hotly anticipated performance saloon will use an extensively updated version of BMW’s twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine, producing 353kW and 600Nm.

For the first time on an M3, four-wheel drive will become an option soon after the new car’s launch but all forms of electrification are believed to have been vetoed. However, persistent reports suggest that the 2020 M3 could be the final M model to be launched without some form of electrification; something made necessary by the increasing priority of meeting fleet-average CO2 targets.

There are no confirmed details about the new M3’s performance, but the lighter, more powerful car will eclipse the current M3 CS’s 0-100km/h time of 3.9sec. It will be sold with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional eight-speed automatic, but the auto will enable better performance figures thanks to a built-in electronic launch control system.

The M3 will also benefit from the increased rigidity offered by its part-aluminium, part-high-strength steel CLAR underpinnings. This is a key reason behind BMW already making class-leading claims about the dynamic abilities of the base 3 Series. The regular car’s wider track and uprated suspension systems should also give engineers the foundations for a more dynamically capable M3.

As well as offering greater performance potential, the stiffer chassis will reduce the amount of vibration transmitted into the car to enhance overall refinement. It should also allow engineers to adopt softer spring rates to give the M3 a more compliant ride in its most comfortable mode, without hampering the car’s overall dynamic ability.

Inside, the next M3 will follow in the M5’s footsteps by swapping its dash-top infotainment screen for one that’s more tidily integrated into the dashboard. The iDrive system is expected to retain a rotary control knob, which has been praised for its ease of use in current cars. The M3 will also gain significantly more advanced driver assist features, but former BMW sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson has hinted to Automotive Daily’s exclusive partner Autocar that most BMW models will steer clear of the full autonomous hardware suites to be used on i5 and i7 due from 2021. M models, in particular, will still possess a very driver-centric character.

The M3 continues to form the basis for the technically identical M4 coupé, while M-worked 3 Series models will lend their hardware to a two-door M440i M Performance coupé and M440d M Performance coupé. These models are also due to arrive in showrooms in 2020 and are part of a 26-model onslaught of M division-tuned cars that aims to more extensively rival the growing ranges of Mercedes-AMG and Audi Sport.

It remains uncertain whether the car will feature an active rear-wheel steering system to enhance agility and boost high-speed stability. Although it is under consideration, the business case for developing the system for the M3 only is believed to be under debate.

The car, now testing on public roads in development form and due to go on sale in 2020, would inherit its active steering technology from the 5 Series and 7 Series. If the hardware does make the cut and is fitted to the super-saloon, the M3 would be the only car in the upcoming 3 Series range to feature it.

Greg Kable

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