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New BMW M3 and M4 look the part — and talk the torque

BMW’s latest performance heroes look as angry in the metal as they are under the bonnet.The German maker has styled its new M3 sedan and M4 coupe to stand out more than ever from the regular 3 Series model when they land here early next year.Nowhere is that more obvious than the pair’s unique, in-your-face…

BMW’s latest performance heroes look as angry in the metal as they are under the bonnet.

The German maker has styled its new M3 sedan and M4 coupe to stand out more than ever from the regular 3 Series model when they land here early next year.

Nowhere is that more obvious than the pair’s unique, in-your-face grilles, which dominate a front end that is more sculpted and angular, with bigger air intakes and bonnet scoops reflecting their sharp performance focus.

Its flanks feature a pair of black “shark gills”, while the rear sports a spoiler, two pairs of tailpipes and a diffuser.

The good news for purists is that BMW will continue to offer a six-speed manual version of the M3 and M4. The bad news is it will have less power and torque than the automatic versions.

A revised twin-turbo six-cylinder will deliver 353kW of power in the manual — up from 317kW in the previous version — while torque remains unchanged at 550Nm.

If you want more power and a self-shifting transmission, then you’ll have to stump up the cash for a “Competition” model that produces 375kW of power and 650Nm of torque. In the previous generation, a Competition model cost about $5000 more.

After a brief flirtation with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, BMW has returned to a conventional eight-speed transmission for the M models.

BMW chief executive Markus Flasch says the company no longer sees a benefit in dual-clutch autos, which are favoured by rivals including Porsche, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

“There were not many reasons to stay with the dual-clutch. There are more advantages than disadvantages with the eight-speed,” he said.

Later next year, BMW will launch an all-wheel-drive version of the Competition model, a first for the brand. There will also be a wagon version of the M.

The 0-100km/h time for the M3 and M4 manual has been trimmed by a tenth to 4.1 seconds, while Competition models now complete the 0-100km/h sprint in just 3.9 seconds.

The revised engine in the Competition has a slightly narrower torque band than its predecessor, while peak torque and power arrive higher in the rev range and the redline comes 400rpm earlier.

Flasch says the changes to the engine are designed to make it feel like a “larger naturally aspirated engine”.

He says that unlike most turbos, which traditionally deliver their grunt low in the rev range, the engine has been designed to give owners “a reason to rev”.

“It brings character to the engine,” he says.

BMW says a bespoke cooling system, designed with input from its GT motorsport program, will help sustain performance levels during track days. Aside from the central radiator there are two high-temperature radiators in the wheel arches. In the Competition models, these are supplemented by additional engine and transmission oil coolers. An innovative oil sump design pumps extra oil into the system when needed, ensuring a reliable supply even under the extreme g-forces experienced on a racetrack.

The M cars are likely to be the most customisable in the brand’s history.

Drivers will be able to adjust the suspension, steering and brake pedal feel, as well as choosing from three distinct transmission shift patterns in both manual and automatic models. Two different settings can be stored and called up by M buttons on the steering wheel.

The xDrive all-wheel-drive set up has a rear-wheel drive bias, although an active differential allows the driver to divert even more torque to the rear wheels in sport mode. The brave can switch off the car’s electronic stability control and it becomes 100 per cent rear-wheel drive with no electronic intervention for an “uncorrupted, no holds barred driving experience”. A drift mode is available for controlled environments.

Inside, both models are well equipped, with all the active safety and connectivity of the top-spec 3 Series. There’s still plenty of scope for personalisation, including carbon bucket seats and exterior styling packages.

BMW hasn’t revealed how much the new models will cost, but current owners looking to upgrade should brace themselves for a price rise.

BMW chief executive Vikram Pawah said sales of M-badged cars in Australia had increased by 6 per cent this year despite the impact of COVID19 and the protracted lockdown in Victoria.

One in five BMWs sold in Australia wear M badges, he says.

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