Concept Car 2007: the new M3 says hello.
Seven years after sales started, the M3 had by no means become an old car, but in the fast-moving sports scene it was already getting on in years. BMW showed the way forward at the 77th Geneva Motor Show. The concept study presented to the public for the first time in spring 2007 gave an impression of what a future BMW M3 might look like on the road. The basic design of the BMW M3 Concept Car followed traditional lines and was based on the current BMW 3 Series Coupé. However, only a few components were transferred directly from the series model. They included the head- lamps and taillights, and the two doors and the boot lid, as the only bodywork elements. The engine compartment lid made of aluminum again had the strikingly large power dome. Like the air vents positioned alongside, it provided an indication of the high potential to be expected from an engine under the bonnet of a BMW M3. Moreover, it heralded a premiere. The M3 Concept Car was powered by an eight-cylinder engine rather than a six-cylinder. Right from the start, it was an open secret that an engine of this nature was also planned for the subsequent series car.
Premiere of the fourth generation in the BMW M3: eight-cylinder engine with 420 hp.
The fourth generation of the BMW M3 actually gave its debut a few months later and included everything promised by the concept car. Apart from a few components, the fast coupé was a completely redesigned vehicle. A newly designed eight-cylinder V-engine formed the impressive power unit to guarantee outstanding performance and uniquely dynamic sportiness. The new engine mobilized an output of 309 kW/420 hp from a displacement of 3,999 cubic centimeters and a maximum torque of 400 newton meters. Accordingly, the new BMW M3 was able to demonstrate breathtaking vehicle performance. It accelerated from a standing start to 100 km/ in just 4.8 seconds and achieved a top speed of 250 km/h – limited by the engine electronics.
The eight-cylinder engine owed its most striking feature to generation of the power-to-displacement ratio typical of the BMW M. The V8 only reached maximum revs at 8,400 rpm, and anyone using the accelerator pedal was able to experience the joy of the imposing thrust. By contrast, fuel consumption of the new high-performance V8 was almost modest with an average of 12.4 litres for each 100 kilometres.
The favorable value was largely due to intelligent energy management. Brake Energy Regeneration further increased the efficiency of the power unit. Generation of electricity for the onboard network focused on the cruise and braking phases, while during the traction phases, the dynamo was generally uncoupled. Aside from particularly efficient power generation, this procedure also resulted in more tractive force being available for acceleration.
Lightweight chassis provides optimum implementation of superior engine performance.
The chassis of the new BMW M3 was created on the basis of the wheel suspension of the BMW 3 Series Coupé, although virtually all the components were completely redesigned. Apart from harmonizing with the significantly higher tractive forces, the overall objective was to significantly reduce weight. The front axle was designed as double-strut and virtually all its components were manufactured from aluminum. The five-link rear suspension also had a lightweight construction and was completely redesigned apart from one link. A weight-saving of some 2.5 kilograms was achieved here. Engineers at BMW M GmbH even succeeded in saving more weight in the high-performance braking system with compound discs. The new rear axle differential of the BMW M3 was equipped with the variable M differential lock, which could provide up to 100 percent locking power and therefore ensured optimum traction even in particularly demanding driving situations. The lightweight chassis was supplemented by the Servotronic steering, a high-performance braking system with all-round vented discs and electronically managed Dynamic Stability Control (DCS). The new BMW M3 also had an option of selecting the Electronic Damper Control (EDC).
Electronics permit harmonization to individual driving style.
While the newly developed chassis of the BMW M3 provided ambitious drivers with an outstanding platform, the particularly sporty driver could use the electronic controls to match the coupé even more precisely to individual driving style. For example, the Dynamic Stability Control could be switched off immediately. The iDrive control concept could also be used to preselect the level of the Servotronic steering support. The optional Electronic Damper Control allowed the damper force to be adjusted and optimized when cornering, and during braking and acceleration, further enhancing the dynamic response. It had three programs that could be preselected at the touch of a button. Three injection control maps were available for engine management and they significantly modified the response of the eight-cylinder.
Exclusive in the vehicle segment: carbon-fibre roof.
The roof was the epitome of the advanced technology designed into the new BMW M3. This component of the bodywork was made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CRP). The interesting aspect was that the fibre structure of the lightweight material remained visible – only a clear varnish coated the high-tech surface. Apart from the exclusive visual appearance, the main attribute of the CRP roof provided a definite technical advantage. It weighed significantly less than a steel roof. This not only reduced the total weight of the vehicle, but the weight-saving at the highest point of the bodywork also significantly reduced the vehicle’s centre of gravity and hence optimized performance when cornering fast.
Debut firework: saloon and convertible followed just months later.
Within a period of eight months, BMW let off a veritable M3 firework. In autumn 2007, the five-seater saloon lined up on the starting grid along- side the four-seater coupé. Just in time for the open-air season in 2008, the M3 Convertible came along. This was only one year after the concept car had celebrated its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show. The con- sequence was that BMW M GmbH achieved its second best result in the 30 years of the company’s history in the business year 2008. The BMW M3 in particular provided the driving force for this positive development. In the first full year of production, almost 18,000 units of the BMW M3 had been sold worldwide. A vast array of awards and test wins provided customers with confirmation that they had bought the right car. Like its predecessor with six cylinders, the V8 installed in the M3 gained the prestigious accolade of “International Engine of the Year” a number of times, and it was repeatedly voted the “Sportiest Saloon of the Year”.
Available from 2008: M DCG with Drivelogic
BMW M GmbH presented the world’s first double clutch gearbox designed for high-speed power units with the M Double Clutch Gearbox with Drive- logic in 2008. It enabled gear shifts to be made without interruption of power and traction, and seven gears offered optimum gear increments for particularly dynamic acceleration. The new M Double Clutch Gearbox with Drivelogic was the fourth, consistently enhanced generation of the auto- mated manual gearbox in M-specific configuration. It was supplied with the models BMW M3 Coupé, BMW M3 Saloon and BMW M3 Convertible.
Comeback in triumph: the M3 is back on the race track.
In the meantime, the new M3 is also taking off in motor sport. BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: „Sportiness is undoubtedly in the genes of the series model of the BMW M3. That’s what motivated us to develop a racing version of this car.” As a near-series M3 GT4, it assists private drivers in winning races, and as the M3 GT2 with the resilience for covering long distances it is used to compete as a works car. In May 2010, the new 500 hp long-distance athlete won the 24 Hour Marathon at the Nürburgring at its first attempt. M GmbH launched the M3 GTS at virtually the same time. The coupé is directed towards club sport and is powered by the V8 engine with increased displacement and enhanced power. It also has specific tuning of the 7-gear M DCG Drivelogic and modified chassis technology combined with strategic optimizations in aerodynamics and light- weight design. The eight-cylinder engine of the M3 GTS expanded to 4,361 cubic centimeters develops 331 kW/450 hp, and thanks to a weight-to-power ratio of only 3.4 kilograms for every 1 hp, it powers the coupé effortlessly. The BMW M3 GTS has a gearbox and chassis configuration optimized for the race track and accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds. The 1,000 meter sprint is achieved from a standing start in just 22.5 seconds while the top speed is 305 km/h.
The data have changed. But the M3 idea remains the same after 25 years.
You can find more photos of the M3 on our Flickr page dedicated to the car.