Next M3 to go 4WD BMW’s 2020 M3 will break with tradition by being four-wheel drive. But rear-drive isn’t completely off the table… Words by Stuart Gallagher.
There could be a rear-drive, manual-gearbox light at the end of the tunnel BMW’S new M3 is scheduled to debut later this year at the Frankfurt motor show, but this hasn’t prevented Carsten Pries, BMW M’s head of product planning from confirming the power train that will be used to power the M division’s rival to AMG’s C63, Audi’s RS4 and Alfa’s Giulia Quadrifoglio.
THERE COULD BE A REAR-DRIVE, MANUALGEARBOX LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Debuting in the new BMW X3 M and BMW X4 M SUVs is an all-new 3-litre, twin-turbocharged straight-six mated to an eight-speed double-clutch gearbox and the company’s latest xDrive all-wheel-drive system. And once the X-cars appear on the roads later this year, BMW M will turn its attention to readying the next-gen M3 with the same power train. Yes, this does mean the next M3 will be four-wheel drive. Sorry about that.
The new straight-six will, like its rival AMG V8, be offered in two states of tune: in this case 480 and 510bhp, the latter badged Competition. Both will make 600Nm of torque, and it’s likely that, as with the BMW X3/4 M, only Competition models will make it to the UK. And if the thought of a four-wheel-drive M3 brings a tear to your eye, try not to be too dishear tened, because while the X3/4 M are fitted with an adapted M5 xDrive system but without that car’s rear-drive-only mode, the M3 will get the wizar-dry that allows you to send ever y last bit of bhp and Nm to only the rear wheels.
Also carried over to the new M3 will be the latest evolution of the M5’s electronic steering that will be developed to suit the M3’s lower weight (expect it to tip the scales at around 1600kg). There will also be a more dynamic approach to its chassis set-up, achieved by fitting the latest active damper system from the M5, optimised to benefit from the M3’s new bespoke front and rear subframes. The car will also have a stiffer front strut brace and additional engine bay bracing, a principle that will also debut on the new X3/4 M models, as will all of the aforementioned hardware. The new M3’s standard brakes will have four-piston calipers up front with a 395mm disc, although unlike the two new M SUVs, you can also get the saloon with BMW M’s latest generation of carbon-ceramic brakes. Expect 19 and 20-inch wheel options (the X3 and X4 Ms will have 20s and 21s), and Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 S tyre as the standard offering. The switch to xDrive and an automatic gearbox as standard for the most iconic M model isn’t great news for those of us who enjoy the art of driving as much as we do chasing tenths of a second around a lap.
We understand the rationale and how such technology extends the brand appeal to those who might otherwise head to their nearest Audi dealer, and yes, with 500-plus bhp and nearly 603Nm, there are limits to what a single-driven axle can manage, although AMG doesn’t feel it’s much of an issue… But, while the German power race remains all-consuming, these are the cards we are dealt. Then again, the current M5 hasn’t turned out all bad…
There could, however, be a rear-drive, manual-gearbox light at the end of the tunnel. In the past, M’s CS models have been the most powerful, quick and focused offerings, but there is a suggestion that a new M3 CS could focus less on performance and more on a purer driving experience. This would be achieved by offering a rear-drive, manual model, whose turbocharged six would produce less torque (and subsequently power, too) to preserve the gearbox’s internals, but would also shun some of the complex – and heavy – technology that burdens modern performance cars. It sounds like an M3 evo would build. Hopefully BMW will, too.