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With the artificial restrictions being placed on auto manufacturers we may be witnessing the peak of horsepower in cars in the next few years. But I wouldn't cry too much because the answer to performance cars of the future could be in losing weight.
If you had the choice, would you choose an M3 with the current 414hp rating but be 300lbs lighter, or a different M3 with 450hp and the current 3700lb weight? The thrust to weight would be exactly the same at 8.2lph. I think just about everyone here would take the lighter car with less horsepower.
As we transition from the age of horsepower to the age of light weight material, I'll make a prediction that a new number will begin to dominate the discussion. Pounds per horsepower
With BMW investing in lightweight carbon construction techniques (see article "BMW creating new highs for carbon fiber"
) I believe they have taken a critical leap forward in future performance. The beautiful thing is that since it will become part of the core construction of vehicles, all will benefit. We could be only a generation away from a 500lb lighter 3 series.
The strategy is a good one. The Corvette with antiquated engine technology gets very good mileage based on its light weight and tall final gear. Rumor is the next Corvette will debut direct injection (as well as other tech) in a smaller engine gaining higher efficiency and retaining high horsepower. But that is mostly possible because of the light weight of car. Imagine shaving 400-500lbs off of a vette with its current horsepower. It would gain in mileage and performance.
With this large investment by BMW into light weight construction, BMW will likely be the leader in its segment for both performance and efficiency with smaller engines and minimal horsepower increases.
As M3 fans, this news makes one wonder if it's timing with the soon to be released 3 series at the Frankfurt auto show is a coincidence or a teaser. Could the next 3 series be significantly lighter than the current version? At the very least I think we can count on a lighter M3. It's likely that much more than the roof and interior trim will be carbon fibre.