We recently spoke to the responsible adult at BMW UK about what sort of car the new M4 is, and how they'll sell it. Summary: light, high-tech, turbo, sportier than ever.
New BMW M2, M3 and M4: more details
TG catches up with the boss of BMW's M Division to talk about the upcoming turbocharged stars...
For some more substance we then went to BMW M's managing director Dr Friedrich Nitschke. Google him and it suggests you're looking for Friedrich Nieztsche, the philosopher who came up with the idea of the will to power. But no, we mean the cheery engineer who's in charge of the actuality of power.
How much power in the M4? Sadly he didn't say. But he said a whole lot else. First, on the matter of the engine. "Turbo engines greatly cut fuel consumption and add torque and you can't do that with naturally aspirated engines. But the M philosophy is to combine the best high-rev features with the torque of a turbo. The M5 goes to 7400rpm. I'm convinced that most race cars will have turbos. And the new M3 will have one of the best engines we have ever done."
I mention to him that the M3 always has fewer cylinders than the M5. And that you can't have a seven-cylinder engine. He nods and laughs. Six it is then. It's based on the regular BMW 3.0-litre block, but massively modified for M use with all-new heads. I reckon we're talking about 450-ish bhp, to keep a gap below the M5. Besides it doesn't need a whole lot more horses than the old one because it'll have more torque, and especially because the car is lighter.
"We will use lightweight parts in the places where it matters, at the ends of the car and high up, and in high-rpm parts of the powertrain. A carbonfibre roof of course, and aluminum and magnesium and carbonfibre in the crash zones. An aluminum hood, and a new carbonfibre trunk lid." So you can make the bootlid a different shape from standard, as with the E30? "Yes."
OK, so is it lighter than the new 435i?
"Yes." That's a cut of not far off 100kg. Which is why it won't need a huge power increase.
Now then, what about the 4WD that AMG is increasingly using and Audi always has? "It's not necessary on M cars. On the new M3 it would add 80kg and the steering would not be pure any more. It's not worth it. The car has 50:50 weight distribution and new traction management and a new differential, a development of the principle of the M5's, with torque vectoring, so it has excellent traction."
That's twice he's said M3. All the talk so far has been about the M4 coupe. "Well the M3 is the icon, everybody is waiting for the fifth generation and I will bring one for absolutely certain, a saloon. Yes the coupe and convertible will be called M4. I think both M3 and M4 will be at the Detroit Show." That's January, folks. Likely they'll release technical details beforehand.
One useful statistic. By the time they have modified the body, changed suspension, installed an M engine and cooling and exhaust and transmission and diff and then the seats and other interior parts... "Overall, 60 to 80 percent of the parts on an M-car are different from the regular model."
Then he drops another bombshell. "I absolutely want to develop a successor model to the 1-series M Coupe. I have all the components I need - the powertrain, chassis. In the near future you will know. We can't call it the M1, because that number is for the special mid-engined car, but there is M2 isn't there?" There certainly is M2, especially as the new-gen two-door version of the 1-series will be called 2-series.
The powertrain and chassis he refers to are overwhelmingly likely to be the straight-six and gearbox and chassis from the 1-series M Coupe, which had a criminally short production run. That'd position it about 100bhp under the new M3 and M4.
He also says a four-cylinder M car is doable, though it won't come in the near future. We know BMW is doing a front-wheel drive chassis, for the next generation of Minis and rivals to the Mercedes A, B and CLA classes. I mention the A45 AMG. "What do you think of that car?" he asks. I say I don't like the low-rev turbo lag or the surprising understeer or the slow-responding paddleshift. He says he had the same troubles when he tried it. I say he ought to be able to do better. He smiles again.