BMW M3 Coupe
Rebirth Of An Icon
It's a happy 21st birthday for the M3. Always a precociously gifted child, everybody's favorite Mnchener has matured into a force of nature, a being of incredible talent and power. BMW claims its Formula One technology has infused the new (E92) car's V8 with some racing DNA. It doesn't spin to 19,000 rpm, but does redline at 8400 rpm, just 100 rpm past the point where peak power of 420 hp is achieved. This gives a good idea of how the M3 should be driven.
Coming from a four-liter engine, that's a specific output of 105 hp per liter, impressive for natural aspiration. With peak torque of 295 lb-ft at 3900 rpm (85 percent of which is available at 6500 rpm), the car races from zero to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155 mph. Power surges through a six-speed manual gearbox and variable M differential, which sends up to 100 percent of available urge to the wheel with most grip. However, such heady levels of performance still result in an eight percent improvement in economy over the outgoing car.
How is that possible? Among other things, lightweight technology. The previous-generation M3 CSL showed how carbon fiber could be used by BMW in limited-volume production cars. The new M3 is the first full production car in its class to feature a carbon fiber-reinforced roof panel, saving 11 pounds over a conventional roof, but also lowering the center of gravity and thereby contributing to the M3's hallmark driving dynamics.
The new V8 weighs a mere 2445 pounds, 33 pounds less than the six-cylinder engine it replaces. The crankshaft in the new engine is made from one complete forging and weighs only 44 pounds, while front axle components are constructed entirely from aluminum. Even the five-link rear axle, normally constructed from high-strength steel, has aluminum components. Control arms and dampers alone are 5.5 pounds lighter than conventional parts.
An MDrive button centralizes many personalized functions. Settings for the optional Electronic Damper Control (Normal, Comfort and Sport), three DSC+ traction control settings and three specific engine control maps, plus the response rate of the power steering can be controlled with one button on the steering wheel, transforming the car from daily driver to track day warrior.
The car shares design cues and components with the 'standard' 3 Series Coupe, yet only the doors, trunk lid, windows and front/rear lamps are carried over. The M3 is distinguished by a powerdome and two air intakes in the aluminum hood. The nose design is primarily created by the induction system's need for significant volumes of air. As a result, three large ducts in the front lower valance keep the engine breathing.
Standard wheels are 18-inch double-spoke light-alloys, with optional 19-inchers. Even the door mirrors enhance the aerodynamics and provide a degree of downforce. From the rear, an aerodynamically efficient diffuser emphasizes the M's trademark twin double exhaust pipes protruding from beneath the valance, and the trunk lid features a discreet lip spoiler.
The new M3 goes on sale in September 2007, with prices being announced nearer the time.