OUT OF OFFICE | BMW
By Carl Wepener
The New BMW M3 Sedan and New BMW M4 Coupé
Being invited to launches by especially the well-known manufacturers in the premium, luxury sport segment brings you face to face with the most innovative engine technology, and, lately, also with lightweight design. Add to this a racing background and you have a blend for perfect harmony that delivers outstanding precision, performance and agility in one package.
The launch of the new BMW M3 Sedan and the new BMW M4 Coupé sees BMW M GmbH revealing a new interpretation of the high-performance luxury sports car – and carrying the BMW M philosophy over into the fifth generation of the M3.
The new, six-cylinder, in-line, high-revving engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology for the new BMW M3 Sedan and the new BMW M4 Coupé produces a maximum output of 317 kW, with a light
body and outstanding suspension developed with technical input from professional racing drivers and BMW works driver Bruno Spengler. This makes for an exceptional product that underlines the standout performance capability of both the M3 Sedan and the M4 Coupé.
What makes these cars even closer to being unique is the extensive range of standard equipment, as well as a host of options that enhances dynamics and comfort. Sometimes, one encounters a great sports car, only to find that quite a lot of the ‘creature comforts’ are not available at all or are only available as an option. Although both the M3 and M4 come loaded with standard equipment, there is a list just as long of additional options for the connoisseur.
What also causes these two models to be so remarkable is that they are both road- and race-ready off the showroom floor. Proud owners can now easily join the BMW-group track days to race their cars, and then drive home in comfort afterwards.
One need not talk about build quality, or the dynamics of the interior or the great performance capabilities of the engine, for these are a given. One also need not talk about how great cruisers these vehicles are, or the ease of dealing with everyday traffic or their comfort while driving, as these are yet another given.
What I am going to talk about, however, is my experience on the Kyalami racetrack, first while being driven around the track by one of BMW’s brilliant racing drivers, Bruno Spengler, and, afterwards, experiencing the models for myself in different settings.
One of the primary objectives with the development of the BMW M3 Sedan and the BMW M4 Coupé was to ensure that the new cars offered impressive racetrack capability; hence the presence of a track-specification cooling system, which ensures that optimum temperature balance for the engine, turbochargers and transmission is maintained at all times.
To accentuate the racing character of the two models in terms of both their technical composition and the fine-tuning of the cars, the engineers worked closely with BMW Motorsport’s professional racing drivers during the development phase. For example, DTM drivers Bruno Spengler and Timo Glock took part in the extensive testing and setup work carried out at the Nürburgring (Nordschleife) circuit.
The engine’s power is aggressively transferred to the road via a standard, six-speed manual gearbox with robust double-plate clutch. The gearbox blips the throttle on downshifts. This engagement-speed control function improves the smoothness of the transmission and helps to enhance stability.
The optional, seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission Drivelogic with Launch Control which we had in the cars once again sets the benchmark in terms of power and racetrack capability, without compromising on everyday usability.
The integrated Launch Control function ensures optimum sprinting performance off the line, producing acceleration figures that are out of range with the manual gearbox. This was made even more evident by Spengler catapulting away and never touching the brakes until we hit the hairpin bends. He drifted the car through corners and still it felt as if we were on rails. Coming past the pits we reached speeds touching on 200kph, but he simply entered these turns as on a Sunday afternoon drive. I must confess that, even with the Ferraris, I did not go as fast as this around Kyalami.
I personally experienced how the Stability Clutch Control opens the clutch when the car is understeering to bring it back into line, but with Spengler this never happened. Although there are different Drivelogic modes that can be selected by the driver to give the BMW M3 and BMW M4 more comfortable, more economy-focused or even sportier characteristics, Spengler had set the car up for ultimate track and racing performance. These modes accentuated the big differences regarding the drive quality and performance of each as we drove around Kyalami. While DSC intervenes as required to counteract understeer and oversteer, M Dynamic Mode allows greater wheel slip and therefore easy drifting. Owners with a taste for sporty and dynamic driving will appreciate this breadth to their cars’ handling, although DSC will still step in if the car ventures over the limits – unless it is switched off as with Spengler. Whichever setting drivers choose, they remain responsible for the car’s stability.
The steering of the BMW M3 Sedan and BMW M4 Coupé also offers the driver three settings as standard, which can be selected at the touch of a button. COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ modes allow the level of steering assistance to be adapted to suit the situation and the driver’s personal tastes.
The optional Adaptive M suspension likewise comes with COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ modes, enabling the driver to choose from a more comfortable damper setting for urban driving, a stiffer setup for dynamic driving on country roads, and a third option that minimises body movements and maximises dynamic performance for use on the track.
The new turbocharged engine combines the best of both worlds. Reaching a maximum of 7 600 rpm, it is unusually high-revving for a turbocharged engine, resulting in linear power delivery over a wide engine speed range and an engine note of character. Furthermore, M TwinPower Turbo technology ensures that peak torque is on top over a broad rpm range.
The new engine delivers 317kW between 5 500 and 7 300rpm. Peak torque has been increased to 550 Newton metres and is maintained over a very wide rev band (1 850–5 500 rpm). The standard sprint from zero to 100km/h takes the new BMW M3 Sedan and the new BMW M4 Coupé 4.1 seconds. Top speed is 250km/h (electronically limited), or 280km/h if the optional M Driver’s Package is specified.
Both models also feature a CFRP propeller shaft. The high rigidity and low weight of the CFRP tube mean that the propeller shaft can be produced as a single-piece component without a centre bearing.
As is the norm, the design of the interior is flawless and typical BMW. Ergonomics is excellent and adds to the ambience, which is exclusive and functional in equal measure. For example, the M Sport leather, multifunction, flat-bottomed steering wheel is fitted as standard, as are bucket-style M sports seats and the BMW Individual roof liner in Anthracite.
Drivers of the BMW M3 and BMW M4 can look forward to piloting their cars from behind a double-spoke M leather steering wheel. The M logo, chrome trim and colour contrast stitching are central elements of the cabin’s racing ambience. Both models come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission is available as an option.
Keen track drivers will be pleased to hear that BMW M GmbH has developed a free BMW M Laptimer app that allows owners to analyse their personal driving style. Once their smartphone is hooked up to the BMW – via USB cable or the car’s snap-in adapter – they can operate the BMW M Laptimer app easily using the iDrive Controller. The app then gets to work without delay, recording the car’s speed, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, engine revs, the gear engaged (if the M DCT or automatic gearbox is specified), steering angle, accelerator position and fuel consumption. This means that, when the data is subsequently analysed via graphic displays on the drive’s smartphone, the driver’s reactions can also be assessed. Another feature allows two recordings on the same track to be compared corner by corner. The readings used here can be either the driver’s own or data shared via email.