BMW turns M4 into a 500bhp piledriver. Munich squares up to rivals with jacked-up straight-six powerplant in next-generation M3 and M4 models.
The next-generation BMW M3 and M4 due in 2020 will receive a significantly upgraded six-cylinder engine capable of more than 500bhp in its top form.
The flagship model to use this new engine will be a new M4 Gran Coupé (imagined by Drive-My above), the first time the four-door coupé has featured a full-fat M variant. It will be joined once again by two-door coupé and cabriolet variants, beside the M3 saloon. The 3.0-litre powerplant, which carries the internal codename S58, is a development of the firm’s standard B58 unit, as used in the existing 440i and other BMW models.
But as M division officials have revealed to Drive-My, “it is for all intents and purposes an all-new drivetrain with significant changes to the base engine that allow it to rev beyond 7000rpm and deliver a much higher specific output” than today’s S55 engine.
As well as being earmarked for the next M4 Coupé and the first-ever M4 Gran Coupé, the new twin-turbocharged straight six is also planned to propel a new M4 Convertible, the upcoming sixth-generation M3 and, in a lesser-powered form, the second-generation M2. It will be launched in the new X3M and X4M.
An increase in power provides the new S58 engine with a higher specific output in Competition guise than the old S55 with water injection, a set-up used by the 493bhp M4 GTS.
That unit provides the outgoing M4 Coupé with 425bhp in standard guise and 444bhp in Competition form. BMW’s M division engineers have managed to raise power by more than 11% in the standard M4 and 13% in the M4 Coupé Competition, with claimed outputs of 473bhp and 502bhp respectively. These figures appear set to place the new model in direct competition with the 444bhp Audi RS5 and 503bhp Mercedes-Benz C63S Coupé.
Torque is also increased by 37lb ft, with the new S58 engine delivering 442lb ft on a band of revs between 2600rpm and 5600rpm. Despite the increase in performance, the S58 engine has been developed to meet strict new emission regulations to potentially provide the standard M4 with a CO2 figure of less than 200g/km, thanks in part to the adoption of twin Otto particulate filters.
Key among the changes over the S55 engine is the adoption of a longer stroke, at 90mm. The bore measurement remains 84mm, but BMW M claims the altered internal measurements help to boost torque potential.
Also included are two mono-scroll turbochargers in place of the single twin-scroll unit used on the B58 engine, as well as BMW M’s latest Valvetronic variable valve timing and ‘Double Vanos’ variable camshaft profile. The compression ratio has also been reduced, from 10.2:1 for the S55 to 9.3:1.
Although the new engine goes without water injection, officials say it may appear on a further-developed version of the S58 unit likely to appear in a successor to today’s 453bhp M4 CS.
Secrecy surrounds the rest of the M4’s mechanical makeup. However, insiders suggest it is in line to abandon tradition by adopting an eight-speed torque converter-equipped automatic transmission and a similar xDrive four-wheel-drive system to the latest M5 (with an M-Dynamic mode apportioning power to the rear wheels) in at least one version. It is also suggested a cheaper and lower-powered entry-level model could potentially be offered, with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive.
The new twin-turbocharged straight six is also being earmarked for the first-ever M4 Gran Coupé
IS THIS ONE POWER PLAY TOO MANY?
With looming emissions legislation and the blanketing of speed cameras on our roads, who would have thought the old German horsepower war would still be going on in 2019?
The M3 and M4’s 500bhp plus figure shouldn’t be too surprising, given Mercedes-AMG has been selling the C63 with 503bhp for a few years now. But this is no longer a race between BMW, Audi and Mercedes, thanks to Alfa Romeo bursting onto the scene with the wonderful 503bhp Giulia Quadrifoglio.
But, yet again, I find myself questioning where it will all end. Many will call me a cynic, but I feel like we are already in a situation where super-saloons are becoming less fun because they’re too powerful.
For me, nothing beats the thrill of nailing a corner apex, running up to the redline and rattling through the gears on the straight. The current M3 is already at the point where you can do that for a precious few seconds before flirting with a court appearance. With more than 500bhp and the stability of four-wheel drive, the business of spirited driving could become sanitised. Perhaps, then, a base model, with not much more power than today’s M3 and M4, rear-wheel drive and the involvement of a manual gearbox could be the sweetest spot in the range.