Finally M3 to debut in Geneva
"The BMW M3 has been on car nuts’ short wish list since the first-generation M3 debuted in 1988. Over the course of three generations, the M3 grew from that four-cylinder glorified go-kart into a stunningly capable GT car. But the formula remained constant: Combine the relatively small, compact 3-series body with a race-derived engine and maintain class-leading handling. The fourth-generation M3, shown here undisguised in advance of its debut in Geneva next month, doesn’t stray from the proven formula. Unlike the second- and third-generation M3s, which had inline-sixes, the 2008 M3 will have a high-revving, naturally aspirated V-8. The 4.0-liter engine is based on the 5.0-liter V-10 from the current M5, but minus two cylinders (and the corresponding liter of displacement). With direct injection and variable valve timing, we expect it to produce approximately 410 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The all-aluminum engine will weigh about the same as the outgoing M3’s aluminum-and-iron inline-six, so the 2008 M3 won’t weigh much more than the outgoing car—about 3500 pounds. To the relief of enthusiasts everywhere, a conventional six-speed manual transmission will be standard. A seven-speed sequential manual likely will be offered later for video-game junkies and other masochists. The M3’s V-8 will produce about as much torque as the turbocharged inline-six in the 335i, but it will be fully a third more powerful. We’ve posted 4.8-to-4.9-second 0-to-60-mph times in the 335i, and we expect the M3 to do that sprint in less than 4.5 seconds. Top speed, as with most performance BMWs, will be limited to 155 mph.
The car debuting at the Geneva auto show is a so-called concept, but the only thing conceptual about it is likely to be the color. The aggressive front and rear styling, the centrally mounted quad exhausts, the 19-inch wheels, the power-domed hood, the flared fenders (vented in front), and the oval mirrors will carry over unchanged to the production 2008 M3. The coupe seen here will be the first M3 to appear in showrooms this fall, and we expect a price of about $55,000. Later, look for a convertible with a carbon-fiber retractable hardtop, a sedan, a wagon, and a lightweight coupe. The latter two likely won’t be sold in the U.S., but we haven’t given up hope yet. Whatever the body style, we’re dying to get our hands on one."