Somewhere under all that camouflage and fake body paneling is probably the next-generation BMW M3. These spy shots from GTSpirit.com could show an early prototype of the G80 BMW M3 rumored to be due in 2020. The basic BMW 3 Series sedan—factory designation G20—should arrive this year, possibly as soon as the 2018 Geneva Auto Show in March.
The flared fenders, trunk lip spoiler, and quad tailpipes lead us to believe the car in these photos could be an M3 undergoing testing in Munich. If this were closer to the next M3’s launch date, we would be disappointed that the roof is not carbon fiber, but BMW has announced that it won’t be using as much carbon fiber as we thought.
Another thing missing on this prototype is a door in the left front fender for the electric charger, which means that so far, there is no obvious indication that BMW has chosen the G80 M3 to be the first plug-in hybrid M car. There have been rumors however that the M3 might utilize a 48-volt mild hybrid system and perhaps a more obtrusive start-stop feature to help bring down emissions and fuel usage. We had hoped that the generally smaller sales numbers of M cars would immunize them against extreme emissions and fuel-mileage measures, but with the European Union’s 2021 mandates looming and billion-Euro fines possible for companies that miss the target, BMW may feel the need to include M cars in its more extreme emission-reduction measures. Having said that, at least this early prototype is missing the charger door in the usual position, holding out a glimmer of hope that the M3 might remain unelectrified at least until its seventh generation.
If we squint our eyes, we can get a feeling for the next M3’s design, although the dozens of sheet metal screws tell us that much of the car is covered with plastic panels intended to foil design spies.
Other than a possible hybrid version, which when we think about it might be a good thing adding more instant torque, don’t expect any earth-shattering changes to the G80’s drive train. We have seen nothing that leads us to believe the engine won’t be an inline six cylinder, probably three-liter turbocharged mill developing horsepower in the high 400s, with special editions like a CS or CSL getting above 500 horsepower.
All that power might tempt BMW engineers to include a rear-wheel-biased version of the M xDrive all-wheel drive system similar to the one that debuted on the newest M5. The specially tuned M xDrive has not seemed to hurt the M5’s performance, so it might be hard for BMW to leave it off the next M3.—Scott Blazey
[Photos courtesy of GTSpirit.com.]