BMW HAS TAKEN the wraps off the new M3, easily its most popular performance car, ahead of the model’s public debut at the Detroit motor show in January.
The car maker’s recent introduction of the 4-series coupé means that the new model is available as both an M3 four-door saloon and M4 two-door coupé. Otherwise, the two cars are essentially identical beneath the skin, and will be priced closely when they go on sale on 21 June: £56,175 for the M3, and £56,635 for the M4.
The new car, the fifth generation to wear the hallowed M (for Motorsport) badge, features a turbocharged engine, the first time BMW has used the technology in an M3. Previous models were powered by naturally aspirated engines designed and engineered by BMW’s M division, growing from four cylinders to a straight-six and, most recently, a high-revving V8.
Performance levels for the new saloon and coupé are identical. BMW claims they can accelerate from 0-to 62mph in 4.3sec, on their way to an electronically limited 155mph. Fuel consumption has improved considerably over the previous 4-litre, V8-powered M3. Whereas that car returned 25.2mpg on the combined cycle, the new models achieve 32.1mpg.
This improvement has been made possible by downsizing the car’s engine. BMW’s dynamic duo will be powered by a new, twin-turbocharged, 3-litre, six-cylinder powerplant producing 425bhp. The change in approach is required to meet new, tougher CO2 emissions levels. However, BMW is also keen to stress the additional torque the turbos provide low in an engine’s rev range; in the M3/M4’s case, 406 Ib ft torque from 1,850rpm to 5,500rpm. In contrast, the outgoing V8 delivered 295 Ib ft at 3,900rpm.
Enthusiasts may mourn the need to rev the motor hard to get the best from it, much like a racing car’s engine, but it will ensure that more performance is available, for more of the time, compared with past M3 models.
Further innovations include a new six-speed manual transmission that will produce the perfect heel-and-toe downchange, by blipping the throttle automatically as the driver changes down through the gears (a trick established by the Nissan 370Z). A seven-speed dual clutch transmission will be an option. Both the steering and suspension systems have three operating modes: Comfort, Sport and Sport+. BMW claims the new model is 80kg than the old car, partly thanks to the use of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic for the body panels and driveshaft, and forged aluminium for the suspension components.
BMW M3 and M4
Price: £56,175 (M3); £56,635 (M4).
Engine: 2979cc, 6-cylinder, twin-turbo petrol
Power: 425bhp @ 5500-7300rpm
Torque: 406 Ib ft @ 1850-5500rpm
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 4.3sec
Top speed: 155mph
Road tax band: J (£475 first year, £260 thereafter)
On sale: June 21, 2014
The power of 3: discover the three most sought-after BMW M3 models
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BMW M3 Sport Evolution (E30)
Launched: Late 1989
M Power: 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder, 239bhp
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.3sec; top speed 153mph
The Sport Evolution was the final incarnation of the first-generation M3, with an engine enlarged from 2.3 to 2.5 litres. It was built so that BMW could satisfy Touring Car motorsport regulations, where ferocious battles with Ford and Mercedes would play out in front of sell-out crowds at circuits such as Brands Hatch and the Nürburgring. Only 600 were made which, when combined with the model’s age, makes this a rare version, highly sought after by collectors across the world.
“The Sport Evolution is unique,” says Helen Ingram of Munich Legends, a BMW specialist. “It is the one car that attracts international demand, with buyers approaching us from Hong Kong, North America and Singapore, as well as Germany and the UK.”
Prices for the best have trebled over the past six years, bearing out Driving.co.uk’s investigation into classic cars that give a better return on investment than property. For example, a 1990 Sport Evolution (imported from Verona in 1998) with under 30,000 miles and three owners, is for sale with Munich Legends for £85,000. “We sold another two years ago for £82,000, so the demand for original, unblemished examples is proven,” says Ingram.
BMW M3 CSL
M-Power: 3.2-litre, straight-six, 355bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 4.9sec; top speed 155mph
Back in the day, an M3 CSL could do battle with rival high-performance cars such as the Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale and Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and emerge from the scrap having made the most lasting impression. Once heard, the high-pitched wail of its highly tuned, 3.2-litre, straight-six engine is not easily forgotten.
BMW built just 1,383 CSL models, ensuring the model’s future rarity. However, some collectors say its lack of motorsport pedigree – the CSL was not homologated for racing – counts against it. The key technical differences over a standard M3 coupé were its carbon airbox, larger inlet manifolds and a different camshaft for the 6-cylinder Motorsport engine. It also had a carbon-fibre roof and a plastic bootlid, aluminium doors, lighter wheels with semi-slick Michelin tyres and an automated manual SMG six-speed gearbox (which didn’t attract a great deal of praise). The interior featured racing seats and a suede-covered steering wheel. The CSL felt and sounded like it meant business, and on the road and at the race track, it really was.
Prices for the best examples have held steady for the past few years but are now beginning to climb. When new, the CSL cost around £58,000. Today, a good example will cost you over £50,000. Find one with under 20,000 miles on the clock and it is likely to be more expensive than it was when new in 2003.
BMW M3 GTS
M-Power: 4.4-litre V8, 444bhp
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.4sec; top speed 190mph
Only 135 examples of the M3 GTS were built and of these, just 15 were earmarked for the UK, but nevertheless, it’s one of the few M3 specials whose second-hand value has fallen off a cliff. Part of the blame lies in its being hand-built, a factor which pushed the model’s new price to £115,215. This was over £60,000 more than a standard M3 coupé, yet the car’s 444bhp engine was only 30bhp more powerful than the standard M3’s, while its stripped-out interior – it had a roll cage but no rear seats – put off a lot of buyers.
But perhaps the GTS’s biggest weakness, for a car costing so much money, was that it had no lineage, unlike its major rival the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which had evolved over four generations.
Carl Hartley, of Tom Hartley, a dealer in luxury vehicles and sports cars, recalls trying to sell those early GTSs: “We had real trouble selling a GTS when it was brand new. The demand wasn’t there; prices dropped to around £75,000 after just six months, which was what the market felt it was worth. My advice to buyers is that, depending on the car’s mileage and condition, they should be paying between £70,000 and £80,000. Any more, and it’s over the odds.”
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