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BMW : The BMW M3

Third Generation Model Elevates The Standard To New Levels

photos: Automotive Intelligence

The new M3 coupe, due in showrooms in late fall, is one of the most highly anticipated BMW models ever. Following the success of the previous two generations of M3 - production 3 Series models, developed to ultra-high performance standards by BMW M, the Munich-based subsidiary of BMW - the new M3 will elevate the performance capability even further.

BMW M3

Based on the newest generation BMW 3 Series coupe, known internally as E46, the M3 begins with a more rigid body structure than even it's highly competent predecessor - a car which in race trim, won the Sports Car GT racing championship 3 years in a row.

 

A new 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission, will deliver an estimated 330-horsepower, up from 240 in the previous M3. Torque will increase as well, to an estimated 255 lb.-ft. This will allow the M3 to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in approximately five seconds.

Other technical highlights include double VANOS - infinitely-variable timing control on both intake and exhaust camshafts, individual throttle butterflies for each cylinder with drive-by-wire throttle control and M Dynamic Driving Control, which allows the driver to select a "sport mode" for the throttle, providing quicker response to throttle inputs.

As is the philosophy with all BMW M cars, any increase in engine performance is matched by increased capability in handling and braking. The M3 sits on 18-inch M-style alloy wheels (8.0-inch wide front and 9.0-inch wide rear), with appropriately sized high-performance tires (225/45 ZR - 18 front and 255/40 ZR -18 rear). A wider rear track than the normal 3 Series coupe, plus the use of aluminum for the front suspension control arms and the rear trailing link assembly both contribute to better handling. The M Dynamic Driving Control, also affects the power assist of the rack and pinion steering. When the "sport mode" is selected, the power assist is reduced, providing a firmer road feel. Braking continues to be a competitive strength of the M3, thanks to generously-proportioned four-wheel antilock disc brakes - 12.8-inches in front and 12.9-inches in the rear.

BMW M3

While the M3 conceals much of its performance capability by avoiding superfluous body add-ons, there are nonetheless, many distinctive M touches to set it apart from the standard 3 Series coupe. In addition to the 18-inch M-style wheels poised below larger wheel arches, there are the trademark four polished stainless-steel exhausts, vent "gills" in the front fenders and a power dome on the aluminum hood. The special front bumper covering incorporating a deep spoiler with large air intakes and the rear bumper covering incorporating an integrated air diffuser are also M exclusives.

Finally, electrically-folding M exterior mirrors, exclusive rocker panel moldings and clear turn signal and side marker lenses help distinguish the M3 from standard 3 Series coupes.

Inside, the M3 gets similar touches which identify it as a member of the M family. Included are exclusive M sport seats with optional electrically-adjustable seat back width, providing a more snug fit in sporty driving situations, M3 lettering on door sills, an M multi-function sports steering wheel and M gauges, including a variable redline tachometer, first introduced on the M5.

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Photos: BMW AG

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