BMW M3 Bares Teeth to Would-Be Kings of Sports-Car Jungle – Bloomberg
Sleek, lithe and predatory, the M3
sedan and coupe have always been the lions in Bayerische Motoren
Werke AG (BMW)’s stable. The coupe was first released in the
mid-1980s, proving that a BMW 3 Series could be incredibly fast
and roar-worthy. The M3 easily claimed its place as king of the
Lately, though, the most potent car in the 3 Series line
has seemed rather complacent. The previous generation,
discontinued as of the 2014 model, got bigger, heavier and less
concerned with agility. Using a big V-8 engine, it relied
instead on raw, takedown power.
Still, the M3’s fearless reputation was enough to bring in
many buyers who didn’t really care how well it handled as long
it impressed their peers. Why bother to run after the impala if
they simply lay down at your feet?
Which brings us to the brand-new, fifth generation of both
the sedan and coupe. (The two-door is now called the M4, in
keeping with Munich-based BMW’s latest naming convention.)
The question is whether the M3 and M4 deserve their
bragging rights. After all these years, do the denizens of the
asphalt jungle still have something to fear?
One thing is for sure: The cars continue to command a
premium. The M3 sedan starts at $62,000, an $18,500 bump over
the next most powerful 3 Series, the 335i. To put that in
perspective, the 335i is neither cheap ($43,500) nor wimpy, with
300 horsepower and acceleration from zero to 60 miles (97
kilometers) per hour in 5.1 seconds.
The 2015-model M3 has 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of
torque and gets to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. The M4 coupe has the
same engine and mechanicals, and costs even more at $64,200.
The two cars do look slightly different. The sedan is
bulkier and slightly taller. The coupe presents itself as a tad
more youthful and even more sport-focused. Nonetheless, they are
both full of swagger, with gaping air intakes in the lower
grilles and ready-to-pounce stances. Even the uninitiated will
know that they are not “normal” BMWs.
One of the wonders of the regular 3 Series is that it’s a
nice car to drive every day, one you’re happy to commute in,
both comfortable and confident. But when you need to shoot into
a narrow gap or choose to celebrate a wondrous curve in the
road, you can always drop onto the accelerator and the car will
prove itself a joy, time after time.
The M3 (and now M4) try to maintain that adaptability, but
the emphasis is purposely shifted from comfort toward sport. To
do that, BMW’s M tuning division gives the 3 Series extra teeth,
altering suspensions and engines, lending bigger brakes and
better aerodynamics, basically turning the car from an omnivore
into a pure meat eater.
The latest engine is totally different in character from
the previous V-8, which used no supercharging or turbocharging.
The new motor is a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter, inline six.
It’s simply ferocious, with a fiery blast of power coming on
from the moment you ask for it, building toward 406 pound-feet
of torque from very low engine speeds. It maintains that grunt
from 1,850 revolutions per minute up to 5,500 rpm. The sucker
The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, a fact
that makes purists happy, though it will automatically perform
throttle blips to downshifts. It also saves some 90 pounds (41
kilograms) of weight over the automated transmission. Yet the
majority of buyers will go for the seven-speed automated manual,
which changes the gears for you. No shame in that, because it’s
a fabulous gearbox.
For all the cars’ purported ferocity, leave the electronic
Dynamic Stability Control in its conservative normal mode and
the M3 and M4 will putt around town with tails dragging along
the ground, their might thoroughly repressed. It isn’t much fun,
but you don’t want either car wilding out when you’re running
errands — 425 horsepower is a lot to contend with when you’re
holding a latte in one hand.
(Be warned: The suspension is punishing in every mode.
Those of us living in pothole-plagued areas will take a
Switch to M Dynamic Mode and the car turns on, figuratively
speaking. It’s then, suddenly, that reasonably skilled drivers
can look like stunt drivers in the “Do not attempt:
professional driver on a closed course” commercials. You can go
sideways, tires smoking, and easily recover.
The cars drive in a brawny way, exercising all that muscle
in loud, thrilling fashions. This is not a car you drive with
your fingertips; rather you find yourself manhandling the wheel,
overwhelming the corners and punishing the straightaways. It’s
loud and there’s often screeching of tires and brakes and it’s
hugely rewarding fun. It can almost seem like they’re engineered
to do visually thrilling tricks. (I do recommend trying that
kind of driving only on a racetrack, like I did.)
Many of the M3’s competitors have also become more
luxurious and easier to drive around town (the Porsche 911, the
Chevrolet Corvette). Each has its own character, and the
decision to buy depends on both the driver’s personality and the
price point. (A 2LT Corvette with the performance package starts
at $62,205, while the least expensive 911 begins at $84,300.)
In many of the important ways, the latest M3 and now the M4
feel more potent and concentrated than the previous generation.
No question, it’s still a meat eater.
The 2015 BMW M3 and M4 at a Glance
Engine: Twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six with 425
horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed double-clutch
Speed: 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds (with automatic).
Gas mileage per gallon: 17 city, 24 highway (with
Best feature: Their dual nature, both tame and terrible.
Worst feature: The suspension can be overly harsh on pitted
(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Bloomberg News. The
opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this review:
Jason H. Harper at Jason@JasonHharper.com or follow on Twitter
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