BMW M3 and M4 briefing notes

P90149690I’ve been sat on the plane reading the press pack for the BMW M3 and M4 launch, and anticipation is now absolutely above-the-clouds high.

These two cars have the potential to be brilliant. Here are a few reasons why I reckon they’re so exciting.

The cars are 80kg lighter (and the M4 Coupe is sub-1.5 tonnes)

Weight saving has been meticulous. CFRP roofs are obvious but the detail extends to aluminium suspension, forged wheels, forged crank, carbon figure propshaft, hollow Active M Differential output shafts, even a delectable carbon fibre strut brace.

It means the M4 Coupe weighs in at 1,497kg. Pretty impressive for a 431hp family four-seater. Oh, and the M3 weighs 1,520kg: those rear doors thus effectively cost you just 23kg.

The magic number is 1,850rpm

Peak torque of 406lb ft (a ridiculous 40% up on the peaky M3 V8) starts at just 1,850rpm. Then carries on flat until 5,500rpm. Then, peak power of 431hp takes over, and that is flat until 7,300rpm. It means that so long as you have more than 1,850rpm showing, you’ll have either max torque or max power at your disposal. This is remarkable.

It revs high for a turbo… but not as high as before

The M3 V8 revved to 8,250rpm. This revs to 7,600rpm – still incredibly high for a turbo car but it means the red paint on the tacho stops shy of 8. Will this actually matter? Is the lack of ultimate high-rev drama actually a non-worry?

UK cars have Adaptive M suspension as standard

Best make sure I focus on the Adaptive M cars, as the UK is, unlike other markets, getting this as standard. Sensible decision, BMW GB.

BMW M3 2014

BMW knows its owners love trackdays

BMW M has designed a free BMW M Laptimer app: plug your smartphone in and it’s accessible via iDrive. The app records speed, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, engine recs, steering angle, acceleration position and (amusingly, given race track pump prices) fuel consumption.

This data is all recorded to the smartphone – including, also amusingly, driver reaction times. Two recordings (one by you and one by a race ace, perhaps?) can be compared and all readings can be outputted and emailed.

Today is our own M3 and M4 trackday: if we get any data, I’ll be sure to share it with you.

It’s almost not worth bothering to drive the M3

I jest, of course, but the M3 is a far less important car in the UK than the M4: in the first full year of sales, BMW expects to sell 1,000 M4 Coupe and just 180 M3 saloon.

Historical data bears this out: in 2011, BMW sold just 85 M3 saloon, but 789 M3 Coupe and a further 255 M3 Convertible. It stopped bothering to sell the M3 saloon at all after that.


Gold brake calipers equals… expensive

Standard cars get four-piston BMW M Compound brakes which themselves are “far lighter” than normal brakes, says BMW. But M Carbon ceramic brakes are also available, for even less weight and even more resistance to fade.

No prices are given for M Carbon but they’re expected to be into the thousands. They are marked out by gold calipers. What, is it real gold, etc.

Why go for manual?

The new manual gearbox is 12kg lighter than before and has throttle blipping so everyone can feel like Senna without actually having to know how to heel and toe. It accelerates to 62mph from rest in 4.3 seconds, which is fast. But the M DCT’s time of 4.1 seconds is faster.

M DCT also has an extra gear, and has launch control, and has seamless shifts, and is generally far between equipped to deal with this much power. BMW itself says the Launch Control delivers “acceleration figures that would simply be unattainable with the manual gearbox”.

Good in theory: I’ll see if practice bears it out. You do have manual cars there, don’t you BMW?

BMW looks to the Porsche 911 GT3

One more surprise with the M DCT: it has Stability Clutch Control. Like the Porsche 911 GT3, it opens the clutch when the car’s understeering to help bring it back in line. How does this actually work? Look forward to finding out (for once, steaming far too hot into a corner will count as productive work).


The race drivers like it

Ex-F1 ace Timo Glock and 2012 DTM champion Bruno Spengler have been among the BMW testers thrashing it around the Nurburgring for lap after lap. Naturally, Spengler is effusive in his press kit quotes (he’s hardly going to say he wishes it were an E46 CSL now, is he…).

One thing is interesting though: he specifically talks about the rear axle. It has a “very progressive locking action due to the electronically controlled LSD, and generates huge amount of grip.

“The electronic control system is configured so that when you lift off the gas going into corners, the differential opens up and the lock-up effect is reduced to zero, resulting in very eager turn-in.

“When you accelerate out of the corner again, the lock-up engages progressively all the way up to 100 per cent full lock for optimal traction.”

This is a bit like an engineering debrief rather than marketing speak. It also speaks of a very well sorted car that celebrates and embraces its rear-drive setup just like a really good race car does. All focus on the track to see if these really are Spengler’s words or a marketing interpretation of them…