Seat Time: 2015 BMW M3, M4

July 7th, 2014 at 5:32pm

BMW M3, M4

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: BMW
Make: BMW
Model: M3, M4
Type: 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan
Competitors: Cadillac CTS-V, Audi RS5, Mercedes C63 AMG
Price: M3: $62,295; M4: $65125
Made in: Regensburg, Germany
Drivetrain: 3.0 L in-line 6: 425 hp, 406 lb-ft; 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT
EPA Ratings: 17 city/26 highway/20 combined w/6-speed manual
17 city/24 highway/19 combined w/7-speed DCT

Final Impression:

BMW M3 SedanWhen BMW set out to develop the new M3 sedan and M4 coupe they took them to the historic Nordschleife track in Nurburgring. When they decided to let a group of American auto journalists wring the cars out they took them to the historic Road America track. Good thing they did, because these are definitely track cars. Oh sure, you can drive these Ms out on the open road. But you can’t appreciate what makes them so special unless you’re on the track.

Here’s one small example why. These Ms have 7 different heat exhangers to keep everything cool no matter how hard you hit the hammer. The engine coolant, the engine oil, the transmission oil, the inlet air, and even the turbo bearings all get their own cooling systems. Here’s another example. You can’t get 20 inch tires and wheels on these Ms. They come standard with 18s and 19s are optional, all with the idea to keep unsprung weight down for higher cornering speeds. You want 20s? Go take your bling fetish somewhere else.


All the trade-offs on these cars were made with one directive: make them faster! That started with ditching the V-8 and going with a twin turbo six. Look, V-8s are storied engines but these sixes sound just as good and with the turbos they deliver 40% more torque. They also deliver up to 25% lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, a critical consideration for every car maker these days.

Just as importantly these cars are nearly 180 pounds lighter. There’s the requisite aluminum pieces in the suspension, hood and fenders. There’s some magnesium, of course. And the axle shafts were hollowed out for good measure. But the big story is with carbon fiber. The roof, inner trunk lid, strut caps and even the driveshaft are made of this space age plastic.The lighter roof lowers the center of gravity while the lighter driveshaft reduces rotating mass and man does that make a difference when you’re trying to hustle these cars around.

Put it all together and the M boys achieved their goal. These cars are wickedly fast. BMW claims they are 15 seconds faster around the Nordschleife! A few tenths faster would have been perfectly acceptable, a few seconds would have been downright admirable, but 15 seconds? That puts these cars in a whole other class.

And did I mention the brakes? The optional ceramic brakes, that is. I’ve been in cars that accelerate faster and cars that corner harder, but I’ve never experienced brakes that can haul a car down faster than anything like these. In fact, I never did find the braking limits with these cars at Road America. As deep as I dared go into any corner, there was always room to go deeper. I suspect the ceramic brakes played an outsized role in achieving the new Nordschleife time.

One more thing before I go. These Ms have electric power steering, something that most enthusiasts view witih utter disdain. Well, hold your nose and go try it out anyway. I think you’ll be surprised. As Albert Bierman, the vice president of Engineering for the M said, “This has to be the car with the best electric power steering that money can buy.” And it is.

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