Let’s address the elephant in the room right now, so we can get it out of the way — the new grille design of the BMW M3. Ever since BMW showed off the Concept 4 in Geneva, fans have been whining about the new grille design for both of its newest M cars. Mostly for good reason, too. The new design is shocking to say the least. However, it’s likely to be an overlooked design element once fans drive the new M3 because its beauty lies under the skin.
Not Just a Fast 3 Series
Despite the new G20 3 Series chassis being massively improved over the previous generation F30 chassis, the M Division wasn’t content to leave it be for M3-duty. So it’s been comprehensively upgraded to M Division standards, thanks to new aluminum subframes, massive amounts of chassis stiffening and bracing at both the front and rear, newly design aluminum front wishbones and M3-specific multi-link rear suspension setup, to name a few.
The M3 also gets a wider wheel track than the standard 3 Series, increased camber and improved steering kinematics and elasto-kinematics. The latter of which has been retuned for not only sharper steering response but better feel through the steering wheel itself. It’s even been tuned so that when equipped with M xDrive all-wheel drive, the M3’s steering is unperturbed by the front wheels getting power.
Yes, the new BMW M3 gets variable-ratio steering, which has long drawn the ire of F80 M3 enthusiasts, but it should be well-sorted this time around. Reason being is that the actual speed of the steering rack ratio is lock-dependent. So the teeth on the steering rack are positioned more closely together as the steering angle increases.
This now only allows for increased steering speed when the wheels are already sharply turned, thus allowing the driver to do less hand work on the wheel, but it also makes for a more progressive variable rack. So the rate of change in the steering ratio is consistent and predictable, making for more enjoyable steering.
Borrowed from the M8, the new BMW M3 gets drive-by-wire braking with two different modes for brake feel. So you can drive around with Comfort brakes around town, which provide a more relaxed, more natural brake feel, or you can put them in Sport mode for a sharper brake pedal response.
They’re also quite big stoppers, for the M3. It gets 380 mm rotors up front and 370 mm ones out back, to go along with six-piston calipers calipers up front and single-pistons calipers out back. If you upgrade to the carbon ceramic brakes, you get 400 mm and 380 mm rotors, front and back, along with gold-painted calipers.
Let’s Talk Speed
Under the unusually-shaped hood, the BMW M3 packs a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline-six (S58) that will come in two different power levels, depending on the flavor of M3 you choose. In the standard BMW M3, the blown-six will make 480 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque (550 Nm).
In its standard-guise, the M3 will only come with a manual transmission, which is a fascinating turn of events in this modern era of automatic-everything. The standard M3 will also only send power to the rear wheels, without the option of M xDrive all-wheel drive.
If you want the eight-speed automatic transmission option, you have to step up to Competition spec, which also brings 510 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque (650 Nm). While the Competition can only be had with an automatic, it has the option of having either rear-wheel drive or M xDrive.
It’s effectively the same engine that powers the X3 M and X4 M, which is great news. The S58 engine in those cars is brilliant, so it should be brilliant here too. It gets a forged lightweight crankshaft, a closed-deck crankcase design and a 3D-printed cylinder head core. All of this allows it to not only be incredibly strong and durable but it also lets the engine rev high and rev hard without issue.
To help the engine breath better, as well as sing better, the BMW M3 gets a model-specific exhaust. So it should sound even better than it does in the X3 M. Inside the cabin, the speaker-induced exhaust noise can be adjusted, based on driver preference.
The Manual is Here to Stay
Often times in modern sports cars, you can feel when automakers stick pedestrian manuals in their higher-performance cars just to appease fans. Those manuals typically don’t feel great in expensive sports cars. However, BMW hasn’t done that with the M3. Instead, it’s been given a newly-designed manual with a revised clutch bell housing and gearbox construction that drops about 25 kilos (55 lbs) versus the previous model’s manual.
It also gets auto rev-matching like previous M cars but the kicker here is that it can be turned off independently of traction and stability control. In previous M cars, you had to defeat traction and stability control completely to turn off the rev-match function. Now, though, it can be switched off while keeping the safety systems on, allowing driving enthusiasts to blip their own downshifts without further risking a crash.
BMW M has given this new M3 the most advanced traction and stability control system ever fitted to an M car. The new M3 gets an advanced DSC with ABS, CBC and ADB-X. Enough acronyms for you? The CBC is “Cornering Brake Control”, which uses the brakes as a sort of torque-vectoring system, commonly seen on many other cars. ADB-X is “Automatic Differential Brake”, which uses the rear diff to help reduce understeer.
The M3 also gets a new M Traction Control, which allows the driver to dial in specific levels of slip allowed by the car’s brain. Essentially, it uses all of those aforementioned systems to fine-tune the amount of slide it will allow before intervening and saving your life.
So you can specifically select the level of hoon you’d like to be. Being the Germans that they are, BMW has given the M3 ten different levels of this new traction control and they’re selected in an iDrive menu.
Big Grilles = Big Airflow
Comically, the BMW M3 press release states that the new car gets “extremely large air intakes” to insure that cool air is always provided. The G80 M3 gets a bespoke cooling system, to help keep that might inline-six cool. There’s a low-temperature cooling system and a high-temp system.
An electronic cooling pump helps to provide the low-temp radiator optimize flow, while the high-temp system gets a mechanical coolant pump, the high-temp radiator and two remote radiators in the front side air intakes.
Wanna Talk Styling?
Let’s forget for a moment that the new BMW M3 has such a divisive grille design. The rest of it looks superb. It’s aggressive, thanks to its wider wheel track and flared wheel arches, and it just looks like a proper BMW M3. I love the way the Air Breather has been integrated into the wider front wheel arch, as it accentuates how much wider its front wheels are. The rear lip spoiler looks good and the carbon roof makes it seem exotic.
There are also some excellent color choices for the new M3, which should excite every BMW enthusiast. BMW M has a long history of delivering truly great colors and that hasn’t changed with this new M3. While its standard colors are, well, pretty standard; with Alpine White non-metallic, Sapphire Black metallic, Skyscraper Grey metallic, Brooklyn Grey metallic and Portimao Blue metallic, leading the way, there are more exotic options.
Isle of Man Green is the stunning launch color for the M3 and the color you see in these photos. However, there’s also a Toronto Red Metallic and, the one I’m personally most interested in, a non-metallic Sao Paolo Yellow. If you go the BMW Exclusive route, there are also several frozen color options.
On the inside, the interior looks like an M Division-version of the 3 Series because, well, it is. All of your current BMW M design elements are here, including the typical M steering wheel, shift lever and carbon fiber bits. However, the new seats look very good, with a nice blend of perforated leather an Alcantara.
The color combo seen here is called Kyalami Orange/Black and it looks great, especially in combination with the green exterior color. There’s also a very cool Yas Marina Blue/Black interior option with yellow accents that’s very interesting and the Competition-spec, seen on the BMW M4, has even crazier looking seats with cool carbon fiber paddle shifters.
Before today, almost all of the talk surrounding the BMW M3 was about the new grille design. There’s just no getting around the fact that its new design is controversial, like it or not. However, now that the M3 has finally been revealed, it seems mightily impressive and incredibly promising as a driver’s M3.
As we’ve stated before, if the new BMW M3 is an outstanding driver’s car, no one is going to care about its grille any longer. From the looks of it now, it seems like that could be a reality.