2015 BMW M4 & M3. Click image to enlarge
Preview and photos by Lesley Wimbush, additional photos by Jeff Wilson
DETROIT, Michigan – It was standing room only at BMW’s Detroit Auto Show press event as the Bavarian motor company unveiled a trio of performance cars.
In keeping with BMW’s new nomenclature, specifying odd numbers for sedans and even for coupes, the venerable M3 sedan was joined onstage by the M4 sedan and the new 2 Series coupe, which replaces the outgoing 1 Series.
The 2 Series harkens back to the 2002, the lightweight sporty coupe that brought BMW to North American driving enthusiasts in the 1960s.
Slightly bigger than the outgoing 1 Series, the 2 Series coupe is available as a 228i, with 240 hp, 2.0L turbo-charged four, or M235i with 322 hp six-cylinder.
Long the benchmark against which most performance cars are inevitably compared, it’s absolutely crucial that when re-inventing a car like the M3, it’s done right. Doubly so for the M4, when it comes riding in on the coattails of such an iconic sports car, great caution must be taken not to sully its legacy.
As did the 3 Series before it, the mighty M3 splits into coupe and sedan, and gains a brother in the 2015 M4 Coupe. Eye-catching in baby blue and pale gold respectively, the cars are essentially identical beneath their slightly different sheet metal. As with most M-designated models, the M3 and M4 boast bulging hoods, aggressive lower air dams, rear diffuser and front fender vents.
Aside from their dynamic visual appeal, the car’s more aggressive surfaces have been strategically designed to improve aerodynamics and increase cooling function.
Lightweight materials help to reduce the overall curb weight of each vehicle by 80 kg (175 lb).
BMW has spent considerable time and resources developing its own source of CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic), used extensively in their electric car lineup. It’s now beginning to appear throughout their product line, and for the first time the M3/M4 boasts a five-kilos lighter CFRP roof.
All of these weight-saving measures combine to help the M3 and M4 sprint from 0–100 km/h in 4.1 seconds for the manual and 3.9 seconds for the automatic – which comes standard with launch control.
2015 BMW M4. Click image to enlarge
The “powerdome” hood creates more room for the 3.0L, turbocharged six-cylinder mill, which produces 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Not only is this a power increase of 25 more hp and 111 lb-ft over the previous V8, the inline-six is 10 kg (22 lb) lighter.
While exact numbers are not yet available, BMW claims a 25-percent greater fuel efficiency for the new M3/M4 over its predecessor.
Power is delivered to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual gearbox with rev-matching downshifts or seven-speed dual clutch automatic. Between the rear axles is a new “Active M” multi-plate limited-slip rear differential whose electronically controlled engagement is achieved in milliseconds.
BMW’s M Dynamic Mode system returns, giving the driver control over the various levels of stability and traction – including the ability to shut off the systems entirely.
Steering is the based on the electronic setup found in the regular 3 and 4 Series models, but offers Comfort, Sport and Sport+ Modes.
Underpinnings consist of the familiar strut setup in front with a multi-link rear out back, with an available “Adaptive M” which allows the driver to choose between soft or firm damper settings.
Available some time this summer, the M3 sedan’s MSRP will start at $74,000 the M4 Coupe at $75,000.