The next-generation M3 and M4 are slated to be unveiled in September. We’ve been waiting a long time to see how the next iteration of BMW’s mainstay M models will look, sound, and perform, and the time is nearly upon us. Consistent with the development path of any other BMW model destined for series production, the M3 and M4 are currently being subjected to track testing, with the focus on dialing in the suspensions of both vehicles.
The importance of the upcoming M3 and M4 should not be understated. These are the models that seduce drivers with their looks, sounds, capability, and performance, which leads them to give something like a 2 Series or 3 Series a try before potentially working their way up to an M car. BMW’s line of M Performance sub-models like the M340i and M550i have blurred the line between M car and conventional BMW, but there is still no replicating the experience of owning and driving something like an M3, from any era.
Now, with over a generation of mass-produced turbocharging experience in the books, BMW is moving on to the adapting M xDrive to the M3 and M4. Already available on the M5, M8, and their respective competition models, Dirk Häcker, head of Development M Automobiles and BMW Individual, says M xDrive will be coming to the new M3 and M4 lineup—but not right away. That’s the opposite of how the entry-level 2 Series Gran Coupé was launched, which is initially available in the U.S. exclusively with xDrive, as opposed to front-drive.
Owing to the fact that we’ve been looking forward to the M3 and M4 for some time now, the automotive community has a pretty good idea of what to expect. BMW hasn’t spilled the beans yet, but are fairly certain that the power plant for the forthcoming M3 and M4 will be the S58, which is currently used in the X3 and X4 M models. This engine, based on the B58 turbocharged six-cylinder, is the natural successor of the N55-based S55, which is what powers current M cars like the M2 Competition and M2 CS. BMW says the S58 will be used in the upcoming M4 GT3, which is just one of the direct links to motorsport exhibited by the new M3 and M4.
As we’ve mentioned on this site before, the next-gen M3 and M4 lineups will introduce a new dichotomy in the world of M cars, broadening things beyond the base, Competition, CS, and top-end trim levels. BMW has finally confirmed that the new M3 and M4 will be available in two different forms. The first—which we expect to be quite popular among enthusiasts—is a slightly detuned 480-horsepower variant that uses a six-speed manual and rear-drive. If you’re more concerned with all-out performance capability, the M3 and M4 Competition can be had with 510 horsepower, and an eight-speed M Steptronic automatic transmission.
That’s right, M DCT is going away in favor of a models-specific version of the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic. If you’ve been paying attention long enough, this isn’t exactly a surprise. The first M models to come standard with M xDrive (albeit not the version which allows rear-drive) were the first-generation X5 and X6 M, which debuted back in 2010. That was back when BMW was still using a six-speed automatic, but when the F90 M5 arrived on the scene with M xDrive and it’s own version of the ZF eight-speed, we knew the days of the dual-clutch were numbered. Again, as mentioned above, the Competition models will eventually be available with M xDrive, but not right away.
Markus Flasch, the BMW board member responsible for overseeing BMW M, says the new M3 and M4 are, “significantly superior” to their predecessors in terms of performance. We knew BMW wouldn’t let us down in terms of capability, but what are they actually going to look like? At this point, everyone has seen the all-new 4 Series coupe, which is going into series production as this article is being written. Many have also seen the leaked images of the M4’s front end—which used the same large and vertically-oriented kidney grille design.
At this point, the M3 and M4 remain shrouded in camouflage which is specifically designed to trick the human eye. We won’t be certain about what they look like until the world premiere this fall, but we’re cautiously optimistic given what looks to be hidden behind the vinyl. If the M3 sticks to the G20 3 Series playbook for its front end, we won’t have much to fear, but the M4 remains a bit more of a mystery, and the above photo of the new model beside its predecessor has us wondering which direction BMW will go. One silver lining is the news that yet another state (Ohio this time) has joined the growing number which do not require a front license plate, something that will be a welcome development for anyone considering a new 4 Series (or M4).
There’s a lot to look forward to in relation to the new M3 and M4, with performance and styling just a few of the elements that will define the cars. We can’t wait to see what BMW has up its sleeve for a new generation of M, with a turbocharged six-cylinder powering both axles.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]