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V8 tip for BMW's next M3

Not alone: The new M5 won’t be the only application for BMW’s ground-breaking new V10 architecture.

BMW bosses hint at V8 firepower for next M3, plus more work for V10

20 Oct 2004

TOP BMW executives have given the strongest indication yet that the next generation M3 sports coupe will reject the six-cylinder firepower upon which it has built its reputation.

Instead of continuing with the straight-six concept that’s given a string of M3s a careful balance between performance and handling, it appears M3 will opt for a lighter V8 version of new M5’s free-spinning V10 in an effort to maintain its edge over the latest crop of compact V8 sports sedans from arch-rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

While the current M3’s 3.2-litre inline six produces 252kW, its closest rivals now both pack V8 performance, with S4’s 4.2-litre V8 matching M3 with 253kW and the facelifted C55 AMG leapfrogging it with 270kW and a muscular 510Nm of torque from its 5.4-litre V8.

A 4.0-litre V8 version of M5’s all-new 373kW/507hp 5.0-litre V10 would, in theory, produce around 294kW or 400hp with two fewer cylinders – the same as the previous M5’s 5.0-litre V8.

14 center image Asked if V8 propulsion would undermine M3’s standing as one of the best handling sports coupes, BMW M division president Ulrich Bruhnke (left) told GoAuto: "Not if we are able to develop it without increasing weight. Compare the (M5’s) old V8 with the V10 – 25 per cent more performance with two more cylinders and (it weighs) only 1kg more." M5 project manager Siegfried Friedman, when asked if the V10 was a modular design that could also be produced as a V8, said: "It depends on what you call modular. We can certainly apply the same design principles to a V8, such as the bedplate crankcase design. We could apply it a V12, for that matter.

"The competition would have a hard time keeping up with a V8 M3." M5 chief engineer Helmut Himmel confirmed a V8 version of the M5 V10 would be lighter than M3’s current six-pack at the global M5 launch, but wasn’t giving away any secrets about the next M3.

"BMW is stuck with the inline six, it has a great history with the inline engines. We’ll have to wait and see. You will have to draw your own conclusions," he said.

One way or another, it’s clear the new M5 won’t be the only application for BMW’s ground-breaking new V10 architecture.

Asked whether the V10 was the logical choice for a possible M6, Mr Friedman said: "At the moment it fits very well into 5 Series and it could be possible (to fit in 6 Series) and soon it will be possible to talk about other cars. One car at a time." Mr Bruhnke said: "With such a big investment, we wouldn’t do it only for one car".

More M models to come

THE future of BMW’s M division lies in producing the most profitable and appropriate performance cars, says M Gmbh president Ulrich Bruhnke – rather than following the AMG tradition of delivering a sports range-topper for every Mercedes-Benz model.

Mr Bruhnke was AMG boss for three years before taking the top job at M Gmbh in October 2003, as well as a Mercedes-Benz development stalwart for 24 years. As such, he offers an unrivalled insight into two of the world’s most successful automotive performance houses.

"M stands for a high-revving engine, SMG, light weight and rear-wheel drive, and our mission is to produce the most typical M cars possible. AMG has another mission – to offer a performance flagship in every model series," he told GoAuto in Paris.

"High revs is the definition of M – anything else would not fit the M character. Using an automatic transmission means you cannot go beyond 7000rpm. We are more focussed on the manual transmission and SMG, which can handle more than 8000rpm, is lighter and has reduced fuel consumption," he said.

M must be careful not to dilute the brand or risk profitability by producing too many M variants

Mr Bruhnke said the high-performance, lightweight M3 CSL was a pinnacle example of M division’s philosophy, and that while there would never be M versions of the 7 Series, X3 or X5, M would not stop at simply producing M3 and M5.

"They didn’t hire me to do a better M5. M3 and M5 are only the first definition. We are thinking now which others we can do – and they’re not so far away. M must think about growth and the need to build the brand." But he said M must be careful not to dilute the brand or risk profitability by producing too many M variants. With some 20,000 M5s and 80,000 M3s built, M production leads that of AMG, which has built 80,000 vehicles in 36 years – and 62,000 produced in the past three years alone.

Mr Bruhnke wouldn’t be drawn on whether it was too late in the Z4’s life cycle to produce an M version, but remains enthusiastic about the prospects of more M models, starting with a new M Roadster.

"We should have given the answer by now," he said. "Z3 was the founder of this segment. It (M Roadster) was a great car – in general, this is a typical M segment." On an M version of 1 Series, he said: "I ask the same question. Is there room for growth? 1 Series M makes sense but it has to be profitable. About 45 per cent of M sales come from the US, but no decision has been made about 1 Series (sales) there, which would limit our volumes by almost half." When it comes to producing a unique model, like the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercar, Mr Bruhnke remains cautious: "When early in the job I was presented with a model of a super sports car ... But first we must be successful with M5, have profitable growth and then if this is successful we’ll discuss if this is a dream or reality. But we must be able to dream."

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