The current-generation BMW 3 Series (F30) and the M Division spawn it birthed (F80 M3) are still very relevant machines, top of their respective class. But to some who take note of vehicle life cycles, it’s also no secret that both these cars are headed out the door to make room for an all-new model.
That, however, isn’t due to happen until late 2018, when BMW is slated to reveal the next 3er, and it should be well into 2019 before that car reaches showrooms in volume. With that schedule, the M3 is even further out, extending into the year 2020 given that history has shown us the M Division generally taking a year between the launch of a base car to reveal their honed performance version.
Historical patterns are the common denominator in CAR Magazine’s recent report in which it seems little birdies have tipped off that the next-generation M3 will follow a path quite parallel to the recently revealed M5. With this newest batch of vehicles, at least when pertaining to their core bestsellers, BMW is taking an evolutionary approach.
For the same reason that the G30 5 Series doesn’t depart significantly from the exterior or interior cues of the F10 that preceded it, likewise expect the next 3 Series to not stray too far from the current F30. And now that we know what BMW M have concocted with their latest M5 due out next year, it comes as less of a shocker that a similar treatment is being applied to its (future) smaller sibling.
Unpack the details of the UK publication’s findings and it's clear that the major changes to the M3 formula can be split into two main camps: 'new M5-inspired' and 'M4 GTS-inspired'. Starting with the former, the M5’s semi-controversial all-wheel drive system will purportedly be offered in the upcoming M3 as well.
Purists may wince a little at the notion of AWD permeating what has always been a comfortably rear-drive-only sanctuary in the pursuit of numbers - i.e. lap times and quicker acceleration off the line. That said, this feature will apparently be optional on the future M3, unlike its standard inclusion on the M5. That the system, called M xDrive, can completely decouple power delivery to the front wheels at the push of a button should provide some relief as well.
In terms of powertrain, the S55 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline-6 will remain largely unchanged save for strengthened internals. It will be able to extract a significant amount more power and torque thanks to electrically-assisted turbochargers and a water injection system taken from the track-focused M4 GTS. For the unfamiliar, this uses a water cooling system to keep the thermals within a safe and manageable threshold during sustained periods of high boost. Expect a hike to within earshot of the 368kW and 600Nm that the aforesaid M4 GTS is capable of.
Also following the new M5 is the continued trend to a fuller embrace of the torque converter automatic for high performance applications. Specifically, an 8-speed ZF 8HP will replace the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch the F80 uses currently. While it is a marginally heavier transmission, its quick shifts, high behavioural malleability via software, and better overall reliability wins the day.
Like the G30 5 Series, the next 3 Series will benefit from BMW’s all-new CLAR architecture, inherently arriving with improved torsional rigidity and reduced weight. The latter especially will play into one of the primary goals of the next M3, which would nicely offset the added mass introduced by the all-wheel system, high-voltage internal electrical grid, and water injection.
Other notable changes are shared with the more mass market 3 Series, such as the expected wider track and and longer wheelbase. However, and this is interesting, due to the enhanced structural integrity and lighter weight, this extra overhead might mean that this is the occasion where BMW will finally debut an M3 Touring.