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Driven: BMW’s M3 and M4 heroes prepare for battle

Lean machines: The new BMW M3 and M4 have lost weight, but gained power and torque.

BMW’s next-gen sporty siblings the M3 and M4 land in August ready to fight rivals


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3 Jul 2014

BMW has launched the fifth-generation version of its iconic M3, and its new M4 coupe twin, offering more equipment and improved performance over the outgoing model.

The four-door M3 sedan is priced at $156,900, minus on-road costs, while the two-door M4 Coupe is $166,900. This is $11,900 more than the launch price of the last generation M3 sedan and a $4000 increase on the cost of the previous coupe.

While it may appear to be a significant increase, BMW Australia product communications manager Scott Croaker said the standard features of the M3 and M4 alone represent more than $8500 worth of extra value.

“If we were to spec the previous M3 sedan equivalent to the new one it would be over $165,000, plus on roads,” Mr Croaker said.

“Again it’s the same story for the M4 Coupe in terms of standard specifications and key features – it’s very highly specified. In comparison to the M3 Coupe predecessor you’re getting an additional $10,000 of additional value.

“So that would be a $175,000-plus car if we specified the previous model to the M4’s spec. This is based on the most recent pricing of the M3 Coupe.”

The level of standard specification in the new M3 sedan is extensive and includes a number of new features on top of what was offered in the previous model, such as BMW’s Active Protection safety package, 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive M suspension, seven-speed dual clutch transmission and a carbon-fibre roofThe ConnectedDrive media system, reversing and surround view cameras, electric sun blinds for the back window and mechanical for the side windows in the rear, leather upholstery dash and door trims and DAB+ digital radio are also standard.

The M4 gets all of these extra features over the previous model, although the carbon-fibre roof was standard in the previous M3 Coupe.

As a reminder, the M3 Coupe has been removed from the 3 Series line-up and replaced by the M4 at the top of the 4 Series.

Other standard features on both the M3 and M4 include adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, six airbags, front and rear parking sensors, satellite navigation system with 20GB hard-drive, 8.8-inch display screen, 16-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, electric and heated front seats, carbon-fibre interior trim and an M-Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters.

As well as increasing the specification levels, BMW has improved performance and dynamics when compared with the previous generation version.

Introducing the press to the M3 and M4 at the local launch this week, BMW M Division head of sales operations management Jorg Bartels, was keen to emphasise the importance of the M-badged performance twins as the company’s iconic road and track heroes.

“M is the best of both worlds,” he said. “It’s high-performance sportscars that really sets standards. It’s far more than horsepower, big engines, nice sound and acceleration in a straight line and in this aspect the car has not changed from the beginning it has just improved. But the concept of the M3 has not changed over the years.

“The current generation M3 and M4 is simply the sum of all previous M3s. The past 28 years is in this car. It’s really fine-tuning, it’s a long love story and the M4 is continuing it.

With each successive generation of M3, from the first four-cylinder E30 in 1986, the cars have become more powerful and sophisticated and more capable on the road and track.

While the latest generation’s turbocharged inline six cylinder engine is smaller in capacity than the previous model’s naturally aspirated V8, the output has increased.

The new M3 and M4’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre six produces 317kW, up 8kW compared to the 309kW of the 4.0-litre V8 in the previous generation, while torque is up 150Nm to 550Nm.

BMW said there is a 100 per cent increase in torque and power at 1850rpms over the old car and 38 percent more at 5500rpm, which makes for more torque and power when it is needed, rather than at the extreme end of the scale.

Straight line performance has improved, with both the M4 and M3 racing to from a standing start to 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds, 0.6 second faster than the previous M3.

The M twins are matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which helps return a combined average fuel consumption of 8.3 litres per 100km. A six-speed manual is available as a no-cost option.

Mr Bartels said he was keen to reassure fans that moving from a V8 to an inline six is positive step for the car.

“Don’t be worried that if we change technologies we are going backwards or making it less sophisticated or doing it to save a lot of money, the M is always the M and it is always the very top model of BMW,” he said.

“The heart of every M is the engine. It’s a high-revving in-line six cylinder.

We say it’s the best of both worlds – it's the best from the naturally aspirated and the best from the turbo world.”

The M3 and M4 have been fitted with lightweight materials and components, with an increased use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic and aluminum to cut the fat and improve performance.

Some of the weight-saving measures include the use of alloy wheels, a carbon-fibre drive shaft (the first on a production car), the carbon-fibre roof which saves 6kg in the sedan and 5kg in the coupe, the lightweight construction of the chassis and suspension, the crank shaft which is 2kg lighter and even stronger, lighter pistons, and lightweight turbochargers.

All up 60kg has been lost for a weight of 1520kg for the sedan and 1497kg for the coupe. To underline what that means in terms of performance, the old M3 coupe had a power-to-weight ratio of 196kW/tonne, while the M4 has 211kW/tonne.

The styling of the M3 and M4 is more extroverted than previous generations, with its sharp lines and muscular build, but Mr Bartels is quick to point out that the motto for BMW M cars is function over form.

“There are certain design items that make an M visible on first sight, but for us it’s important that the design items are there because of technical need,” Mr Bartels said.

“We don’t put rear spoilers on cars because a spoiler makes a car look sporty.

Some BMW M cars come with spoilers, some without and the reason is simple – each time a car needs a spoiler we put one on and if it’s not needed we don’t put it on.

“If you drive 250km/h and you go for maximum braking and the back is lifting up, then the feeling tells you a spoiler is necessary.”

The function over form theory is evident in the ‘power dome’ on the bonnet, which accommodates the chargecooler on top of the engine. The kidney grille has thinner bars to aid engine air flow, the gills in the guards allow the wheel housings to cool and the wing mirror are designed to stop wind noise at high speed.

It extends to the cabin, with front sports seat that have electrically adjustable bolsters to hug the occupants, holding them firmly through corners, and the M leather steering wheel with a magnesium frame is smaller for a more sporty feel.

There is also a full leather stitched dash – on the M3 and M4 for the first time – and a new instrument display.

Earlier this week BMW's chief rival, Mercedes-Benz, cut the price of it C63 AMG 507 Edition Coupe to $159,507 plus on-road costs, but BMW is holding firm on its price and its belief in the M3 and M4.

“This is really our segment and the competitors try to overtake us but they can’t manage it – the fight is getting harder, but again we’ve kept the distance with this new generation M4,” Mr Bartels said.

“So M3 and M4 it’s the ultimate driving machine of BMW. Harmony on the road and the racetrack it sets the benchmark.”BMW M3 and M4 pricing*
*Excludes on-road costs.

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