Controversial styling, manual availability, two power outputs, and the choice of rear- or all-wheel-drive. The new-gen M3 and M4 models have it all.
Arriving in the first quarter of next year, the new-generation M3 and M4 models from BMW bring a bold aesthetic that will certainly not be to all tastes, but will appeal to those wishing to stand out from the crowd. As first seen on the 4-Series coupe, the new hero models from the M division are dominated by the oversized kidney grilles that feed air to the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six.
The engine will be available in two states of tune; one for cars equipped with the six-speed manual transmission and one for those running the eight-speed torque converter automatic. At launch, the M3 and M4 will stick with tradition and send their outputs to the tarmac via the rear wheels, but for the first time in M3/M4 history, the option of all-wheel drive will be available on automatic-equipped cars from late 2021.
The twin-turbocharged straight six in the manual M3 and M4 models makes 353kW at 6250rpm and 550Nm from 2650-6130rpm, while the engine in the auto-equipped Competition models develops an additional 22kW (375kW at 6250rpm) and an extra 100Nm (650Nm from 2750rpm to 5500rpm). The redline is set at 7200rpm.
Codenamed the S58, the engine replaces the S55 engine used by the previous M3 and M4 engines, and by the current M2 Competition and M2 CS. The S58 is also used in the X3 M and X4 M Competition models that we sampled around 12 months ago. In the SUVs, the in-line six makes the same power (375kW at 6250rpm) but is down 50Nm on the new sports sedan and coupe (600Nm from 2600-5950rpm). The S58 also endows the new M3 and M4 Competition models with 2kW more than the mighty 5.0-litre V10 used in the E60 M5 from just 16 years ago.
Markus Flasch, CEO of the M division, explained that the S58 production engine is very closely related to the P58 race engine. “Block, rods and crankshaft are all the same,” began Flasch. “The P58 has a dry sump and an exhaust with no cats and no particulate filter, and a motorsport ECU to make the most of these changes.”
When we sampled the S58 in the X4 M Competition, we were impressed by its creamy delivery, its sharp throttle response and its ability to stretch the robust mid-range all the way to the 7200rpm redline. “There’s a reason to rev the engine,” Markus Flasch explained. “It loves to rev.”
We suspect that with a few hundred kilograms less to lug, the engine will impress even further in the M3 and M4.
Unsurprisingly, the more powerful Competition model is quicker, though perhaps not by the margin you might expect. The manual models scamper to 100km/h in a claimed 4.2 seconds (a tenth off the all-wheel-drive X4 M Competition mentioned above), while the Competition pair dips under the four-second barrier with a 3.9-second dash. The extra power and torque begin to tell from there with the manual hitting 200km/h in 13.7 seconds, 1.2 seconds off the auto.
Of the manual model, Markus Flasch confirmed that it will weigh 25kg less than the auto and he had an interesting take on its role in the range. “It’s not the entry-level model, it’s the connoisseur’s model.”
Obviously the all-wheel-drive variants will be faster again to 100km/h, though the advantage will likely lessen by the 200km/h mark.
The shifting characteristics of the auto can be adjusted via the Drivelogic button on the shift lever. This adjustment is available in automatic mode, or when the driver shifts manually via the lever or via the paddles behind the steering wheel.
As mentioned above, for the first time in M3/M4 history (that dates back to 1985 for the E30 M3), all-wheel drive will be an option on auto-equipped models from late next year. The M xDrive system will be similar to that debuted by the current-generation M5 and will feature a rear-drive bias. Like in the M5, the driver can select 4WD or 4WD Sport, the latter sends more drive to the rear wheels. For those that crave the full rear-drive experience (at least some of the time), the all-wheel-drive M3 and M4 oblige if you switch off stability control. Then you’re on your own with all torque directed to the rear wheels.
Speaking of wheels, the new M models run a 19-inch front alloy and 20-inch rear with 275/35 ZR19 front tyres and 285/30 ZR20 rears (tyres are Michelin Pilot Super Sport).
M division engineers paid particular attention to the strength of the bodyshell in order to hone the driving dynamics of the M3 and M4. There’s additional bracing in the engine bay that links the strut tower tops to each other and also to the radiator support panel. An aluminium shear panel is added to the front subframe, while the rear subframe is rigidly mounted to the body shell. Finally, there is additional bracing under the floor.
From this rigid structure hangs a strut front and multi-link rear suspension that incorporates electronically-controlled dampers (Adaptive M suspension in BMW speak).
Similar in concept to the motorsport-style traction control system debuted by Mercedes-AMG on its GT R and later on its C63 S, the new M3/M4 models feature a 10-stage stability control system dubbed M Traction Control. It’s part of a suite of systems under a track-focused system called M Drive Professional. Also under the M Drive Professional banner is M Laptimer which, naturally enough, records lap times along with other data (g-force etc) generated during track sessions. Then there’s the intriguing M Drift Analyser that, according to BMW, records and rates driving stats posted in dynamic cornering manoeuvres.
Many of the systems can be configured to your taste and saved for quick access via the M1 and M2 buttons mounted on the steering wheel.
When it comes to the aesthetic of the new M models, BMW isn’t hiding away from the look, suggesting that the “distinctive body design sends out a bolder statement than ever”. To highlight the bold look, three new and exclusive colours are available on the M3 and M4. The M4 Coupe featured here wears a non-metallic shade called Sao Paulo Yellow, while the M3 sedan is finished in Isla of Man Green. The final new colour is Toronto Red metallic. An optional M Carbon exterior pack will also be available, in addition to the standard carbonfibre roof on both models. Optional carbonfibre-backed race-style seats (pictured in the M4) will likely be a popular purchase.
Standard equipment is comprehensive and includes BMW Laserlight headlights that project a high-beam range of more than 500 metres, Driving Assistant Professional including Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Cruise Control, Cross Traffic Warning for front and rear, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning. Parking Assistant Plus with Parking Assistance, Surround View and Reversing Assistant, head-up display with M-specific content is also standard. The list continues with LED interior lighting including ambient lighting, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system, and BMW Live Cockpit Professional.
Local pricing is yet to be revealed but expect the M4 Coupe to slot in between the $151K Audi RS5 Coupe and the $171K Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe, with the M3 sedan marginally less expensive than its two-door brother. A convertible M4 variant will be added next year as well, for the first time, an M3 Touring.