07 April 2007

BMW M3 revealed

At last: official shots of BMW's super coupe

BMW M3

It's finally here. After a seriously protracted gestation - and with BMW still smarting after losing its crown to Audi's RS4 - the M3 has arrived.

And it looks good. BMW has succeeded in melding the lines of the 3-Series with the styling cues we expect from the M-division - side gills, fat front fender and that beautiful bonnet bulge.

But the big news is what's hiding under that bonnet bulge - a 420bhp V8. BMW has finally ditched its tried-and-tested V6 and upgraded to a 4.0-litre eight-cylinder engine.

That's a big move. Purists worried that the extra coupe of cylinders would make the M3 front-heavy, but the V8 is actually 15kg lighter than the outgoing six-cylinder engine.

It's one hell of an engine, too. The crankcase is made from an aluminium-silicon alloy that does away with the need for cylinder liners by allowing the pistons to run directly into the cylinder bores. 

The V8 also gets BMW's variable double-VANOS camshaft control, which keeps valve timing quick and improves engine output and torque.

Each cylinder gets an individual throttle butterfly, too, giving a more immediate reaction at low revs.

Technical, yes, but what it means is that the M3 can serve up 85 per cent of its peak torque - 295lb ft of the stuff - across the entire rev band.

The M3 should have the real-world performance to go with the stats, too. With the exception of the doors, bootlid and lights, all the rest of the M3's body components have been developed bespoke. 

Most importantly, that includes the carbon-fibre roof promised in the concept. Not only does it look cool, it'll keep the M3's centre of gravity low.

So will the M3 live up to our expectations? And more important, will it topple the benchmark RS4? We'll find out when we drive it this summer.

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