2007 Fourth Generation BMW M3 Coupe

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2007 Fourth Generation BMW M3 Coupe

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2007 Fourth Generation BMW M3 Coupe

2007 BMW M3

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BMW M3 was to drive, there was no way a mere upgrade would do for the fourth-gen model—not with heavy-hitting competition such as the Mercedes-Benz CLK63 Black Series and the Audi

As electrifying as the third-generation BMW M3 was to drive, there was no way a mere upgrade would do for the fourth-gen model—not with heavy-hitting competition such as the Mercedes-Benz CLK63 Black Series and the Audi RS5 ready to join the party. Although BMW's M division hasn't deviated from the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive format that has underpinned every model, the new BMW M3 appears to have evolved into something more grown-up. It's still astonishingly quick from point to point and no doubt utterly decisive in its actions but perhaps a little more grand tourer and practicality than the out-and-out racer this time.

The story of the new BMW M3 begins in 2002 with the M division's decision to proceed with a 4.0-liter V8 engine in place of the outgoing model's sublime 3.2-liter inline-six. “It wasn't so much us thinking the new car needed a larger powerplant than news that the competition was preparing BMW cars in excess of 400 hp,” says the company's development boss, Gerhard Richter, adding, “To stay in the game, we simply needed a bigger engine with greater power.”

With work on the BMW M5's 5.0-liter V10 already well advanced at the time, it comes as no surprise to find the two engines share the 90-degree cylinder-bank angle and a lot of other common elements, including bore and stroke measurements, four-valve-per-cylinder layout and 12.0:1 compression ratio.

With double Vanos variable valve timing, individual throttle butterflies for each cylinder and highly sophisticated electronics capable of doling out a staggering 200 million operations per second, the new BMW V8 is a classic piece of M division engineering—intended to be equally fit for the racetrack or the open road.

Thanks to the aluminum block, magnesium cam covers and aluminum-silicon alloy for the crankcase, the V8 weighs just 445 pounds—about 30 pounds less than the inline-six it replaces. With 420 hp at 8300 rpm, the new V8 delivers 77 hp more than its predecessor, while torque is up 26 lb-ft to 295 lb-ft at 3900 rpm.

The BMW M3 is also a techno-marvel. BMW's recently unveiled brake energy regeneration system stores power generated on a trailing throttle and under braking, using it to top up the battery when required rather than drawing precious power from the engine to spin the alternator. The new engine's ability to rev to a stratospheric 8400 rpm is the real defining element, however. “It is what sets our cars apart,” says Richter.

Having experienced the raucous bark of the new V8 up close, we can confidently say it should possess the characteristic sharp throttle response and rev-driven attitude of the six-cylinder engine it replaces, combined with the added low-end punch and high-end heroics that come with the extra two cylinders and increased capacity.

The new BMW M3 car gets a six-speed manual gearbox with a revised 3.82:1 final drive, dumping power through a hydraulic differential providing 100 percent lockup to the rear wheels. The result, according to Richter, is a car that has lost none of its renowned traction qualities yet can be pushed into lurid powerslides despite the addition of nearly every driving aid in BMW's new catalog—ABS, ASC, CBC and DSC for those keeping tabs. A double-clutch gearbox might be closer to introduction than first thought, since there will be no sequential-manual gearbox option.

M division design boss Ulf Weidhase modified the exterior to appear even tauter and more athletic than the standard car. Cues include a deep front spoiler carrying a trio of large ducts to feed air into the engine bay, a distinctive hood power dome, signature chrome gills behind the front wheel arches, widened fenders, an extended rear valance, four chromed tailpipes and 18-inch forged alloy wheels. The lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced roof helps lower the center of gravity.

The production coupe shown here is the first of four M3 variants. A convertible, sedan and wagon also are in the works, the convertible fitted with a folding aluminum hard top.

BMW claims 0 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds, 0.4 second quicker than the previous model. But don't make the mistake of dwelling too much on the M3's straight-line performance—handling and agility have always separated the BMW M3 from its rivals. The latest model uses a combination of MacPherson struts up front and multlinks at the rear; however, the wheelbase is dramatically longer and wider, and the suspension geometry has been radically altered. Buyers will also be able to specify electronically controlled dampers providing three levels of firmness: normal, comfort and sport. They are chosen via the new BMW MDrive button that also is used to alter engine mapping and steering response. Ventilated disc brakes measuring 14.1 inches up front and 13.8 inches at the rear complete the package.

The only question remaining is whether the sum of the new BMW M3's spectacularly sophisticated new parts can match its predecessors from the past 21 years. We hope looks—and hardware—aren't deceiving.



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