BMW tells TG about upcoming M4
Turbocharged lightweight technology for M3 Coupe successor, coming your way 2014
You know the type. The type that stands in the corner, speaking in muffled tones and rattling off BMW 3 series chassis codes, while voicing the benefits of ‘Avus' suspension over standard. This type is officially Hard To Please. BMW knows it.
"I think a lot of purists look at the M3 all the way back to the E30, so there's obviously a challenge there for people to accept it," says Matt Collins, product manager for BMW's small to medium cars. We're sitting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and he's talking about the new 4 series Coupe (pictured above), and thus, the next M-powered 4 series Coupe. The M4.
That's because when BMW announced that it killed the ‘3 series Coupe' badge, people quickly cottoned on to the fact that actually, there will never again be another BMW M3 Coupe. We even showed you pictures of the very last one being built.
"If you look at the way the M brand has evolved over the years," says Matt, "there are a lot of things that people have had to get used to, for example, going from naturally aspirated to turbocharged engines." He's referring to the M5 and M6, of course. "I think the essence of what M stands for - high performance motoring - will always be there, even if the individual components change."
From a brand perspective, it's quite a big change to kill off the M3 Coupe name, but then BMW is very aware that the new M4 carries with it huge responsibility, and is taking the upcoming M car very seriously indeed. "It's not something we're in a rush to market just to get it out," he tells me, "because it's got to be as good as it can possibly be."
What it will ‘be' is of great interest - and potentially, a solid chunk of Good News for the driving gloves brigade."What we'd like is more focus on lightweight engineering," he says. "The philosophy will be around delivering performance through improved used of materials - lightweight alloys, lots of carbon fibre etc - rather than simply trying to make the engine more powerful to move the same kind of car, or scaling it back too far so that it loses its M3 roots.
"We really want to focus on lightweight engineering. Plus we've got the technology in our ‘i' cars - carbon fibre, reinforced plastic and so forth - so that's where we're really looking to position it. Slightly more lightweight. I wouldn't say ‘racer', but more of a dynamic focus."
You can't help but get excited by this, not least because when the E92 M3 Coupe came out, it wasn't exactly a Slim Fast graduate. That said, he couldn't comment on the specific engine configuration, but confirmed the induction. "I can say it will be a turbocharged engine. From an emissions perspective, but also because our turbocharging technology is sufficiently strong, that you can still deliver a very good, high performing engine and the kind of driving dynamics that people are used to."
He points to the latest versions of the M5 and M6, both sporting a monster 560bhp 4.4-litre twin turbo V8. "How did people accept those cars? Maybe there was some initial apprehension, but the owners of new M5s and M6s told us they appreciated the increase in power (of a turbo engine) and the higher levels of torque at lower rev ranges."
Our money's on a straight-six, to keep in line with this pared-back approach; an approach that could yield a hardened CSL version. He smiles when I ask the inevitable. "There are no plans at the moment to build a lightweight CSL version of the M4, but there weren't any plans to do the last generation CSL either. We have to see what the customers think, and if there's potential for an even more lightweight version, we'll do it.
"But I think we're really focusing on making this car as light as we can. We're not going to go halfway house with the ‘real' car, because we'd like to get it as low as possible in the first place. The proper car will showcase a real reduction in weight."
That said, there could still be an M3 saloon, so the name won't die out completely. But BMW isn't worried by the competition - step forward Mercdes C63 AMG and Audi RS5 - at all. "We think the M3 is the benchmark car; it's the iconic car, and it's the one that really defines the segment. Obviously, we look at the competition and we want to make sure we're as good as we can possibly be, but when developing this M4, it's certainly not a case of ‘this is the target'. It's about making what we think is the best car in the segment even better. It's not a competitor-focused development."
So when will you get to see this icon reborn? "Obviously you've seen the spy shots on the Internet, they're running around Munich," Matt says, "but I don't know exactly where they are in terms of chassis and tuning." Traditionally, the M-powered 3 series Coupe has always appeared about a year and half after the standard car, and Matt confirms that "yes, you can use that as a good basis".
We'll have more on the new M4 as soon as we find out, but Matt assures me that, "when the car does arrive, rest assured it will be everything you expect from a BMW M car". Excited by the prospect of a lightweight, turbocharged 4 series road-racer? We are, even if it does share its name with a dull motorway...