Why we're ex­cited about the new M3


Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ANDY EN­RIGHT

WE USED TO know what to ex­pect from a BMW M car. Ra­zor-sharp re­sponses, an ex­otic hand-crafted powerplant and a level of han­dling ge­nius be­yond any of its im­me­di­ate rivals. And then we didn’t. It’s not easy to pin­point quite where the di­lu­tion in th­ese brand val­ues be­gan, when we started to get over­weight and un­der­baked M Cars, but it’s clear that the M di­vi­sion is de­liv­er­ing once again. The BMW M2 was a stun­ning re­turn to form and the next-gen­er­a­tion M3 and M4 twins could well put Garch­ing back on the top step of the podium. What we know so far is in­deed tan­ta­lis­ing.

Frank van Meel, the ex-qu­at­tro boss who in­tro­duced all-wheel drive to M cars, is gone, re­placed by Markus Flasch, the youngest per­son to head the di­vi­sion. You’d like Flasch. The 38-yearold Aus­trian might have in­herited cars like the new X3 M, X4 M and up­com­ing M3/M4 from van Meel, but he’s de­ter­mined to put his stamp on the next round of mod­els. That in­cludes the wel­come re­turn of an iconic badge.

“We will see more limited editions, spe­cial ones like the CS and you can also imag­ine a CSL,” said Flasch. “We won’t see the GTS sub-brand in fu­ture; there won’t be a GTS and a CSL,” he clar­i­fied. “CSL stands for light weight, race­track abil­ity and the purest M char­ac­ter that you can achieve in a car that’s still got li­cence plates on it.”

It’s likely that the Aus­tralian M3/M4 line-up will ini­tially adopt three tiers: Pure, Com­pe­ti­tion and CS, kicking off with a rear-wheel-drive Pure model with a man­ual gear­box. Flasch stresses that devel­op­ment of th­ese vari­ants will be de­pen­dent on in­di­vid­ual mar­kets’ de­mand. “As you can imag­ine for M3 we were able to take over the en­tire driv­e­train con­cept that we of­fer in the M5, and we were able to do a rear­wheel-drive ver­sion as well, plus man­ual trans­mis­sion,” he said.

Ex­pect power out­puts to open at around 338kw for the Pure and 353kw for the all-wheel-drive Com­pe­ti­tion, while weight will drop by around 70kg for the rear-drive chas­sis. The M4 will be the likely re­cip­i­ent of the CSL badge in 2021, and there will also be an M4 con­vert­ible, ditch­ing a fold­ing hard-top for a lighter and simpler soft-top. There’s also likely to be dif­fer­ent frontal air dam treat­ments for the tiered M mod­els.

“We can do what­ever the mar­kets glob­ally de­mand,” Flasch said when pressed on de­tails. While he con­firmed that the 3.0-litre twin-tur­bocharged S58 straight-six would form the ba­sis of the next M3/M4, be­yond that he wouldn’t be drawn. Asked whether there would be sep­a­rate rear-drive and all-wheel-drive mod­els, Flasch chuck­led and said, “I can’t con­firm it. But I’ve driven the cars.”

Con­trary to cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions, the M3/M4 won’t be un­veiled this year. “We’ve got enough mod­els com­ing up this year for M,” Flasch said, namecheck­ing the X3 M, X4 M, M8 Coupe, Con­vert­ible and Gran Coupe as well as the X5 and X6 M, and rul­ing out any chance of the M3/M4 ap­pear­ing at the Frank­furt Show.

The tra­jec­tory of the cur­rent crop of M cars com­bined with the sen­si­tiv­ity to mar­ket de­mands only bodes well for the next M3 and M4. The Garch­ing re­nais­sance looks to be gath­er­ing pace.

“CSL stands for light weight, race­track abil­ity and the purest M char­ac­ter that you can achieve in a car that’s still got li­cence plates on it” Markus Flasch, chief of BMW’S M Di­vi­sion

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