Fuel Saving For BMW M3 Performance Flagship Eases Doubts About Future – Forbes
After all, governments in Europe and the U.S. are imposing ever-tougher fuel consumption laws in the name of saving the planet, while the performance offered by cars like these, loosely based on the standard 3-series sedan and 4-series coupe, are simply not compatible with driving on regular roads.
But companies like BMW are spending prodigious sums of money to improve fuel consumption now on machines like these by taking out weight and using the latest technology to turbo-charge smaller engines to produce more power than older bigger ones using much less fuel. Electrification beckons in the future. The new engines for the M3 sedan and M4 coupe improve available power by about 40 per cent, and cut fuel consumption by around 25 per cent at the same time. Average fuel consumption measured by European rules is claimed to be just over 28 miles per U.S. gallon.
European and U.S. laws have been designed to force vehicle manufacturers to produce lower fuel consumption across the average of their whole fleet of vehicles. That allows BMW and its ilk to make a small amount of high performance cars without impinging too much on the overall average, and given that the starting price of a BMW M3 sedan in the U.S. when the new ones go on sale at the end of the month is $62,925 before taxes, that will limit sales anyway to the mainly race-track addicted, enthusiast car buyer.
And most of these cars are bound for the U.S., with just over 60 per cent of the world’s M3 sedan sales expected to head that way, and 40 per cent of the M4 coupes.
At the launch near Innsbruck, Austria, BMW said it expects to embrace plug-in hybrid technology for cars in its “M” high-performance brand at some point, but had no concrete plans currently.
“These cars are still small beans in volume terms, and there definitely will be space for them in the market, but they will be conceived in a different way, eventually with a hybrid component. People still want emotional, high-performance cars,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart estimates peak engine production for M3 and M4s at under 16,000 a year.
“With the BMW M3 and M4 there’s been a big change in philosophy, with huge gains in efficiency with about 25 per cent improvement in fuel consumption over the old models. The old M3 was notorious for its hunger for fuel,” Urquhart said.
The previous generation M3 sedans and coupes used big V8 engines, but this one has a six-cylinder 3-liter motor using two turbo chargers that raise power to 425 hp and improves the sprint from a standing start to 60 mph to 3.9 seconds from 4.6 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155 mph until you get to the race-track, where you can switch on “launch-control to maximise acceleration from a standing start. There’s a seven speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual. Using much lightweight material like carbon fiber and aluminum has taken out almost 180 pounds of weight.
Jonathon Poskitt, analyst with LMC Automotive, said these fast derivatives will help BMW maintain its overall sporty image.
“The flagship models of the three/four series lines will continue to reinforce the image that BMW portrays as a maker of sporty, driver-focussed vehicles. While only relatively few buy the M3/M4, those vehicles remaining in the three/four series product line-up send positive messages that filter through to the rest of range. The equivalent Audi Audi and Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz derivatives will probably be the main focus of these BMWs, but the price-point does mean that they could draw in other customers looking potentially at larger premiums,” Poskitt said.
Competitors include the 6.2 liter V8 Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe and the 4.2 liter V8 Audi RS5 Coupe. Non-German pretenders include the Jaguar F-type. Fiat Chrysler’s Maserati might come up with a performance version of its new Ghibli, and Toyota’s Lexus could join the party.
And it’s U.S. enthusiasts that will determine the success of the M3/M4, IHS Auto’s Urquhart said.
“There’s a huge (comparative) volume in the U.S. where there’s a hard core of enthusiasts who love the brand and are very passionate about it; there’s still a manual (gearbox) version for the U.S. These new models are a very different character to the old ones and it remains to be seen if they will excite customers as much as the previous generation did,” Urquhart said.