August 1985. This was the day BMW announced the most powerful 3-Series they have ever built. And in its 25 years of history, the M3 has seen four different generations and evolved from a 2.3 liter inline-four cylinder engine with 200 HP to an impressive V8 hitting 420 HP. It may not be the best sports car out there, but it is surely one that combines most of the virtues required from a sports car: an extraordinary look, great performance, the best class handling, and a luxurious interior.
In 2013, the sports car’s history will move on to its next chapter as BMW will be set to reveal the new generation M3, featuring a twin-turbo 3.0 liter straight-six engine for the first time. This engine will be bumping up the M3’s horsepower to 450.
UPDATE 07/08/2011: The British magazine AutoExpress has revealed new details about the upcoming generation BMW M3 set to be released in 2014. It seems that the new BMW M3 will be powered by a fresh 3.3-liter six-cylinder engine equipped with three turbos – one powered by electricity, rather than the exhaust gases. Output will be around 450 HP (up from the current output of 420 HP). The body will feature a mix of steel and ultra-light carbon fiber-reinforced plastic.
UPDATE 08/16/2011: Three turbos? Not so, says Autocar, whose sources are telling them that the future M3 will feature a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine that is currently under development. This source describes the new engine "as being heavily differentiated from the company’s existing twin-turbocharged ‘N54’ and twin-scroll turbocharged ‘N55’ 3.0-liter engines." Apparently, the new engine will come with a management system, induction system, cylinder head, pistons, and connecting rods. We were kind of pumped about the three turbos so we’ll just have to wait and see what develops.
UPDATE 11/03/2011: BMW has filed a new patent for an electric-powered turbocharger, bringing back the old rumors about a new 3.3-liter six-cylinder engine equipped with three turbos. Hit the jump for details on this new technology! (F30Post)
UPDATE 05/22/2012: President of BMW North America, Mr. Ludwig Willisch has finally confirmed that the next M3 will feature an inline 6 layout - the same layout that will be used for the M4.
Willisch also said that, at some point, BMW was indeed considering a V6 engine for the next M3, but in the end, this choice was dropped. What he didn’t specify was whether or not the new inline-6 engine will get bi-turbo or tri-turbo. Regardless of the technology, the future M3 will deliver at least 450 HP.
Ludwig Willisch also confirmed that the next M3 will be lighter, faster, more powerful, and more efficient than the current M3. It will be offered with an optional or standard manual transmission.
Hit the jump to read more about the future BMW M3.
Exterior and Interior
The next generation BMW 3-Series comes with big changes. For the first time, customers will receive a hatchback model inspired by the 5-Series GT. There will be a new design and new engines under the hood.
The same changes will also be applied to the M3 version. The only problem with that is the M version will come as a hatchback since the sedan model will be dropped.
As for its exterior design, the future M3 will combine design elements from the recently launched Z4, 5-Series, and 7-Series. It will be slightly larger in size, but with shorter front and back overhangs.
As for the engine, the current V8 will be dropped. Instead BMW will opt for a twin-turbo 3.0 liter straight-six engine. But relax, this engine will deliver more performance and better fuel economy than the engine it replaces. With a total output of 450 HP, this new engine will sprint the M3 from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, while top speed is still electronically limited to 155 mph.
Customers will have to choose between a six-speed manual or a twin-clutch paddleshift gearbox.
According to M3Post, BMW has four different engines under consideration for the next generation M3. The first is an S65 V8 Biturbo that will most likely be used for the Z4 M and X3 M. There is also a modified N54 engine that seems to be the natural choice for the next M3, a modified S63 engine for use in the next M5, and a V6 engine based on the S63. These engines are already being tested in four separate E9x M3 prototypes, but according to numerous rumors, a 6-cylinder engine is the most likely choice.
BimmerPost captures the BMW M3 in action, revealing the amazing sound of the engine
Electric TurboCharger Technology
Alas, the tri-turbo engine returns with a new patent filed by BMW for electric-powered turbocharger technology.
This new electric turbocharger seems to have addressed the age-old concerns engineers have had about turbochargers and the size of their turbines (apparently size does matter). You see, small turbines spool up quickly and provide boost via a compressor, but end up running out of steam at higher RPMs. Big turbines do just the opposite; they provide more power at high RPMs, but take too long to spool up, this creating turbo lag. BMW’s new technology doesn’t take on the traditional mechanical turbo layout because the turbine and the compressor aren’t fixed on the same axle. Thanks to two clutches, both the turbine and the compressor can be uncoupled from the turbine axle. When these two clutches are opened, the electric motor can operate without any load.
When the driver hits the acceleration pedal the clutch will close and the electric motor will connect to the compressor and give it enough air to make for a fast engine response. When the turbine has reached a certain speed, the clutch closes and both the turbine and the electric engine are used to run the compressor.
When maximum boost is attained, the electric motor acts as an alternator by generating more power for the battery. This, in turn, eliminates the need for a wastegate because the electric motor limits the amount of boost created.
When Can I Buy One?
The next generation BMW 3-Series will be revealed in 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show. The M3 is expected a year later with sales to begin in 2014.
The competition in the sports coupe market is getting stronger by the day, so the future M3 Coupe will have to keep up with models like the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and the Audi RS5. And let’s not forget that Mercedes is also preparing a C-Class Coupe that will most likely also have an AMG version.
When it comes to the CTS-V coupe, one would think that a German model like the M3 would have nothing to fear. Well, not exactly. The American sports coupe is more powerful with its V8 producing 556 HP and a sprint from 0 to 60 mph made in 3.9 seconds. The only advantage the M3 has is that it’s cheaper by about $5000, but is that enough?
As for the Audi RS5, here the M3 surely has some tight competition. Both models deliver 450 HP, but the RS5 has the advantage of having a turbocharged V8 engine, and a V8 engine seems more likely to impress a sports car fan. Not to mention the fact that the RS5 is a relatively new model, and people always look for something new.