MUNICH - As promised, BMW has whipped the covers off its new M3 and M4 performance cars and not only are they set to stand apart from their rivals with dramatic new styling, but they’re also set to be the only cars in their segment to offer the option of a manual transmission.
However, South Africans looking for a more puristic driving experience won’t get to join in the fun as the six-speed manual gearbox is only offered in the ‘regular’ M3 and M4 models, and these won’t be offered locally. As has become the norm with M cars in South Africa, only the competition versions will be offered, and you can expect them to arrive during the first half of 2021.
While all versions of the new BMW M3 and M4 are powered by a new-generation three-litre straight-six turbo petrol engine, as before the standard and Competition models have different power outputs, although both have considerably more urge.
The M3 and M4 Competition model are now good for 375kW at 6250rpm and 650Nm between 2750 and 5500 revs, which is 44kW and 100Nm more than before and that, says BMW, is enough to get you from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds. An eight-speed M Steptronic transmission is part of the deal here.
The regular M3 and M4 derivatives with manual transmission have listed outputs of 353kW at 6250rpm and 550Nm between 2650 and 6130, and drivers who’ve honed their snap-changing skills will get their cars from 0-100km/h in as little as 4.2 seconds, according to claims.
All M3 and M4 models retain their predecessors’ rear-wheel drive layout, but the Competition models will be available with all-wheel drive from mid-2021. Working in tandem with the Active M Differential, the all-paw system will have a rear-biased set-up and drivers will be able to choose from three modes: 4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD for pure rear‑wheel drive and deactivated stability control.
While the drive configurations will differ, all M3 and M4 models will ship with M-specific suspension with adaptive damping, and M Servotronic steering with variable ratio. M Compound brakes will be standard, but buyers will be able to opt for M Carbon ceramic anchors if desired.
Drivers will also have a bit more control over the traction control system this time, with the DSC system now offering ten selectable modes as well as integrated wheel slip limitation.
As for the rims, the Competition derivatives come with a 19-inch-front, 20-inch-rear combination, while the regular cars have an 18” 19” combo.
Of course, when it comes to visual differentiation there’s a lot more than just wheels to set them apart from the normal 3 Series and 4 Series models, particularly in the case of the M3, which inherits the large vertical grille format from the latest 4 Series. These models do however wear an M-specific version of that grille, featuring horizontal slats, and the M models are also distinguished by sculpted wheel arches with M gills, side sill extensions, front and rear apron extensions and a rear spoiler.
Step inside and you’ll find newly developed M sports seats, upholstered in Merino leather, but BMW is also offering M Carbon bucket seats with a structure-based design as an optional extra. The cockpit area includes M-specific displays and controls, while the M-specific set-up button provides direct access to the settings for the car’s dynamic systems.
Making its debut in the new M3 and M4 is a system called M Drive Professional, which was created specifically for circuit driving. It includes an M Drift Analyser, which rates your cornering antics, as well as an M laptimer.
The rest of the electronic arsenal is largely as per the latest 3 Series and 4 Series models, with BMW’s 7.0 operating system serving as the central information hub. BMW’s fully digital Live Cockpit Professional package is standard, along with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The company has also expanded the range of standard driver assistance systems, which among others includes front collision and lane departure warning systems as well as park distance control. Optional gizmos include the Driving Assistant Professional with steering and lane Control Assistant, Active Navigation, Emergency Lane Assistant and Head-Up Display with M-specific displays.