Double VANOS variable valve timing also for the exhaust camshaft.
Improvements continued to be made to power, torque, idling and level ofpollutant emissions in the new M3 by installation of an adjustable inlet camshaft. Synchronous control of the exhaust camshaft was also added. This permitted internal exhaust gas recirculation, which significantly reduced nitrogen oxides. However, the variable system also increased the torque in the lower and middle range of engine speeds, generated lower levels of uncombusted gases during idling as a result of less overlap, and thereby assisted in further reducing consumption. The overall effect was that the new M3 consumed 8.7 litres of super in the Euromix formula despite added power. Naturally, the most impressive features were provided by the performance stats of the new M3. The sports car sprinted to 100 km/h in just 5.5 seconds. The explosive performance curve was combined with a high level of elasticity. The sports car needed just 5.7 seconds for acceleration at speed from 80 km/h to 120 km/h in fourth gear. Six-speed gearbox with overdrive.
The engine in the new M3 was not the only area to have a thorough overhaul. The engineers at M GmbH also carried out some intensive work on the power transmission and chassis. For example, they implemented the desire of many M3 customers for an additional drive level with a new six-speed gearbox. The sixth gear exerted an overdrive effect. This reduced revolutions at high speeds, which mainly served to minimise driving noise at very high speeds and cut down fuel consumption.
The chassis sector was – and indeed remains – one of the key domains of each M3. Engineers were mainly working on chassis tuning here. Dampers and spring rates were completely revamped without reducing ride comfort. The servo-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was retained in principle, although the steering effect was transmitted rather more directly and conveyed rather more road contact to the driver than previously.
Unique: M compound braking.
The new front axle brake provided a very special highlight that was only otherwise available in this form with the M5: compound braking. The advantage of this system was in the compound design of the aluminium disc brake chamber and the grey cast-iron friction ring. The friction ring was attached to the chamber on a floating mount so that it could expand when braking without becoming distorted. This system provided excellent heat dissipation even at very high temperatures and this additionally exerted a positive effect on the service life.
World first 1997: the first Sequential M Gearbox.
Although this had meanwhile become a pure road sports car, it was deriving continual benefit from developments in racing. In 1997, M GmbH
was the first automobile manufacturer in the world to market the M3 with the Sequential M Gearbox (SMG) at a premium price. This gearbox offered seamless gear change with the clutch being operated fully automatically. The model for this was the successful BMW 320i touring car. The driver simply pulled back briefly on the selector lever to go up the gears and pushed it forward for downshift. This system delivered extremely short shift times while at the same time preventing the driver from selecting the wrong gear.
The new gearbox combined the easy operation of an automatic with the opportunity for sporty manual gear change and demonstrated a broad array of advantages on the road. On the one hand, the clutch pedal was eliminated, while in contrast to a conventional automatic there was no hydraulic converter with its losses, weights and inertias resulting from the operating principle. Compared with a conventional manual gearshift, there were neither losses in performance values nor efficiency compromises on the basis of the converter slip. Most importantly, the joy of changing gear experienced a tangible enhancement because the Sequential M Gearbox enabled lightning manual gear changes up and down even when the accelerator pedal was floored. The driver no longer had to concentrate on changing gear – high-performance cars in particular demand precise gear changes – and could instead exploit the reserves of the M3 and concentrate entirely
No wrong gears and no skidding when taking your foot off the accelerator.
The Sequential M Gearbox also proved to have many benefits for operational safety. Generally speaking, the driver could no longer select
the wrong gear because the system only accepted commands that could be implemented without incurring any danger. The limit to the engine drag torque was defined automatically so that in critical driving situations, for example going down the gears on icy roads, the car didn’t go into an uncontrolled skid.
Aside from all the improvements to enhance sporty driving, the SMG also offered further comfort. The automatic clutch made driving in stop-and-go traffic effortless. A second shift level allowed driving in the Economy (“E”) level in the same way as an automatic. If peak performance was required, the driver simply had to floor the accelerator and the SMG shifts through to sixth gear. Over-revving the engine during gearshift only took approximately 250 milliseconds. In order to avoid this, the engine control system intervened by adjusting the ignition timing or suppressing one cylinder.
Success story: every second M3 with SMG gearbox.
The gearbox took the M3 into new territory in the sport-car sector – and was a runaway success story. A boom followed on from initial scepticism – when production was brought to a close, almost every second M3 in this generation was fitted with an SMG gearbox. The exceptional sports car had become a sales hit. This car rolled off the production line in Regensburg precisely 71,242 times. From 1992 until 1999, it was the silent star in the firmament of the extensive BMW range to be manufactured there – as a coupé, convertible and saloon. The concept was so impressive that two more derivatives joined the M3 in the final two years of production. The M Roadster and the M Coupé had the same engine with identical output, but were otherwise essentially based on the open and closed Z3.
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The third M3: high performance and precision in exciting design.
The community of aficionados of the M3 didn’t have to wait long. The next M3 gave lots of scope for discussion when it was unveiled as a show car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1999. Six months later, it celebrated a world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show.
The third M3 was very powerful, wide and yet elegant. Thanks to a special front apron with integrated fog lamps and large cooling air intakes, it presented a significantly different profile to all other models in the BMW 3 Series. The engine compartment lid made of aluminium was curved in the centre, forming a power dome to create space for the M3 engine.
The side profile of the M3 body including the wheel arches had undergone an increase in width of 20 millimetres, with air intakes and M3 badge in the front side panels. This beefy appearance was a visible consequence of aerodynamic optimization and an attribute creating a profile distinct from that of the 3 Series coupé. It was accompanied by appropriately beefy wide wheels in the format 225/45 ZR 18 at the front and 255/40 ZR 18 at the rear.
The impressive visual appearance of the M high-performance athlete was underscored by aspherical M outside mirrors, side sill trims and an aerodynamically optimised rear apron with rear spoiler lip. Any driver who was still unaware of which car had overtaken them was left in no doubt when they saw the four tailpipes of the twin-chamber exhaust system that it was a member of the M family of automobiles.
Sports seats developed in-house with outstanding ergonomic characteristics provided an impressive combination of lateral support and unrestricted capability for travelling long distances. Apart from the diverse electrical adjustment options at all levels, adjustment of the reclining width was also supplied as a special.
New six-cylinder with more power and torque.
People had expected no less. The heart of the new M3 was again an inline six-cylinder engine – the classic BMW power unit. Like its predecessor, this completely new engine offered lots of torque, even more power and all this for relatively low petrol consumption and low exhaust values.
The M3 engine generated the impressive power of 343 hp (252 kW) from displacement of precisely 3246 cubic centimetres at an engine speed of 7900 rpm. The maximum torque achieved 365 newton metres at 4900 rpm. This yields a specific power of 105 hp for every litre, a value that has only been achieved by a few high-performance sports cars in the world not fitted with a turbocharger.
The highlights of the engine included a friction optimised cylinder head with cam follower valve timing. The double VANOS variable timing familiar from the other M models was further optimised. Electronic throttle valve control was responsible for actuating the six individual throttle valves. It communicated directly with the MSS 54 engine control unit specially developed for the M3. This multiprocessor system has two 32 bit microcontrollers and two timing coprocessors and computing power of 25 million calculations per second.
However, the main goal of developing the new M3 engine was not geared simply to the generation of torque at all costs. The primary objective was to generate thrust as an indication of optimum handling of the available potential power. Thrust is mainly based on the exceptionally high torque of this engine combined with a relatively short final drive ratio. The available power could be converted into acceleration much more efficiently than in engines rotating at a lower speed. And this held over the entire range of speeds. In addition, the radial force-controlled oil siphoning guaranteed reliable lubrication and cooling for the engine in journeys with hairpin bends and manoeuvres involving heavy braking.
A few more statistics provide in indication of the athletic performance. The M3 accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 5.2 seconds. It took this car just 5.4 seconds to accelerate from 80 to 120 km/h in fourth gear. A special switch, the M Driving Dynamic Control, also allows drivers to select between sporty and high-comfort engine response.
World first for the M3: variable M differential lock.
This sophisticated but powerful performance curve can be effortlessly transferred to the road with the six-speed manual gearshift. The variable M differential lock being used for the first time in the M3 provided efficient support.
Differential locks can distribute different levels of tractive force individually to the rear drive wheels, depending on which wheel currently has the best traction. The special feature of the variable M differential lock was that it recorded the different rotational speeds rather than the different torque of the left-hand and right-hand rear wheels as in conventional systems. The difference in rotational speeds was compensated by the limited-slip system containing viscose oil so that adequate forward thrust was provided. This system provided a locking effect from 0 to 100 percent. This offered the M3 driver tangible benefits when starting off from difficult situations, and on sporty driving
round hairpin bends.
The M sports chassis of the M3 was put to the test many times in international motor sport and underwent further development. The chassis ensured outstanding roadholding and this automobile was also defending the endorsement of “Best Handling Car”. The engineers at BMW M implemented a lot of ideas to ensure that the car was capable of rising to the challenge of all types of handling limits: a high level of stiffness and minimising of the unsprung suspension components combined with a directness in performance unrivalled in this class. Lots of power also demanded excellent braking force. That’s why the M3 was given a robust high-performance braking system with floating compound brakes and perforated brake discs.
A revelation: the M3 Convertible.
The new M3 Coupé had hardly been launched successfully when a second attractive version was making waves: the new M3 Convertible, an open-top sports four-seater in the premium class was launched on the marketplace in spring of 2001. Although this car was identical with the M3 Coupé down to the A-pillar, it exuded a high level of independence. The distinctive belt line and the character of a convertible made the car appear even wider and more powerful, the overall impression conveyed by the M3 Convertible was more muscular, flatter and broader.
Naturally, all the typical M characteristics were integrated within the M3 Convertible, such as a powerful 343 PS/252 kW high-revving naturally aspirated engine, a perfectly tuned M chassis, the variable M differential lock, M high-performance brakes and the independent M design elements with the familiar qualities of the 3 Series Convertible. Other features included sports seats with power adjustment and integrated seat-belt system, as well as a variable folding-top compartment and a high level of safety achieved through maximally rigid body stiffness and a standard rollover protection system.
The interior atmosphere was even more luxurious than the previous model – already a major success in a small niche market. And the M3 Convertible with its top speed of 250 km/h had awesome power. It took just 5.5 seconds for it to sprint from a standing start to 100 km/h, and required only 5.9 seconds to accelerate from 80 to 120 km/h in fourth gear. Average consumption was just 12.1 litres for every 100 kilometres.
US racer M3 GTR: the most powerful M3 ever.
Meanwhile, quite a different M3 was creating a sensation in the USA. In 2001, the first starting flag came down for the new BMW M3 GTR with a 450 hp V8 engine. The most powerful M3 ever was now setting benchmarks in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with its four-litre engine and with four cars competing in the series. The BMW Motorsport Team entered two cars under the management of Charly Lamm, while the American BMW Team PTG run by Tom Milner – who is of German extraction – entered another two cars. The coupé achieved seven wins in ten races with six pole positions. BMW works driver Jörg Müller won the Drivers’ Championship in the GT Class, BMW Motorsport took victory in the team placings, and BMW won the Manufacturers’ Championship in the company’s most important foreign market.
Starting in February 2002, the road sports car – derated from 330 kW/450hp to 258 kW/350 hp – could also be purchased at a price of some 250,000 euros. The engineering of the civilian version was closely based on the racing version. A V8 high-performance engine with dry sump engineering provided the power unit under the engine compartment lid with additional cooling slits. A six-speed manual gearbox was also onboard, together with a double-disc clutch like the clutch used in the racing car. The body was also similar to the racing version. The roof, rear wing, and front and rear aprons were made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic to save weight.
Second generation of the Sequential M Gearbox: paddles on the steering wheel.
The advanced development of the M3 idea was by no means at an end. The next highlight followed within a few months, just as dynamically as the cars themselves. The Sequential M Gearbox (SMG) that had achieved the perfection level of the second generation in the M3. Paddles on the steering wheel activated the SMG to change gear at lightning speed. And the driver could keep the accelerator pedal floored. The latest engine electronics interrupted the power of the engine for milliseconds, the control unit changed gear and opened and closed the clutch through an automated hydraulic system. This second generation of the SMG gearbox also provided an impressive performance with even shorter power interruptions – now the time for the fastest gearshifts was just 80 milliseconds. Virtually, nobody can change gear that quickly using a manual gearshift. Drivelogic also provided M3 drivers with the option of manual dynamic gearshift in
six different programs to match their driving style in the sequential gearbox – from well-balanced dynamic shift to definitively sporty. Moreover, the S6 driving program could be selected if the DSC System (Dynamic Stability Control) supplied as standard in the M3 was switched off. The SMG then changed gear with gearshift times of a sporty thoroughbred similar to a racing car.
M3 CSL: the 110 percent car.
In 2003, BMW launched the series version of a concept car on the market which had already created a sensation at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2001: the BMW M3 CSL. The initials stood for Coupé, Sport and Lightweight. A tradition that went back to the 1930s at BMW, when the legendary BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé came into being. The focus for the design of this vehicle was not a radical slimming regime consisting of removing individual components, but intelligent weight reduction by using the most suitable materials at the right point. The experts managed to slim down the BMW M3 by more than 110 kilograms so that the CSL version weighed in at just 1,385 kilograms. The engine was also revised and generated 256 kW/360 hp in this version. This resulted in a power-to-weight ratio of only 3.85 kilogram to every 1 hp – a truly sensation value that gave the BMW M3 CSL even more agility than the standard BMW M3. The classic sprint from a standing start to 100 km/h was achieved in just 4.9 seconds. Acceleration from zero to 200 km/h only took 16.8 seconds. The top speed was limited electronically to 250 km/h.
M Track Mode.
The M Track Mode was a special treat for ambitious drivers with motorsport aspirations. This function of Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) was
specially tailored to driving on race tracks and had to be deliberately activated by the driver pressing a button on the steering wheel. The system only intervened when the car was being driven to the very limit. In this way, the M Track Mode allowed ambitious lay drivers to take corners safely at the physical limits.
Innovative materials at the right point.
The intelligent lightweight construction of the M3 CSL exerted a particularly significant effect with the roof manufactured in carbon-fibre
reinforced plastic (CRP) to create a striking visual profile. This large component was manufactured by specialists at the BMW plant in Landshut. Not only was it around six kilograms lighter than a conventional roof. Its exposed position also reduced the centre of gravity of the car. The BMW M engineers put virtually every component in the M3 through a weight test and integrated each component using the most suitable materials geared to saving weight. Even glass-fibre reinforced plastics from aerospacewere used for the M3 CSL, for example the thermoplastic composite for the structure of the through-loading compartment and the rear bumper mount. Or the honeycomb sandwich panel for the under-boot floor – like the M3, the M3 CSL has an engine compartment lid made of aluminium while the rear window is made of thin glass.
2004 and 2005: the M3 GTR dominates on the Nürburgring.
Eleven years after the first BMW M3 GTR drove to victory in Europe, the new-generation M3 GTR lined up on the starting grid in 2009. Two each of these racing cars fitted with eight-cylinder engines lined up on the starting grid for the 24 Hour Race in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, and on the Nurbürgring. The result was a class victory in Belgium and twin one two victories at the legendary racing track in
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Concept Car 2007: the new M3 says hello.
Seven years after sales started, the M3 had by no means become an old car, but in the fast-moving sports scene it was already getting on in years. BMW showed the way forward at the 77th Geneva Motor Show. The concept study presented to the public for the first time in spring 2007 gave an impression of what a future BMW M3 might look like on the road. The basic design of the BMW M3 Concept Car followed traditional lines and was based on the current BMW 3 Series Coupé. However, only a few components were transferred directly from the series model. They included the headlamps and taillights, and the two doors and the boot lid, as the only bodywork elements. The engine compartment lid made of aluminium again had the strikingly large power dome. Like the air vents positioned alongside, it provided an indication of the high potential to be expected from an engine under the bonnet of a BMW M3. Moreover, it heralded a premiere. The M3 Concept Car was powered by an eight-cylinder engine rather than a six-cylinder. Right from the start, it was an open secret that an engine
of this nature was also planned for the subsequent series car.
Premiere of the fourth generation in the BMW M3: eight-cylinder engine with 420 hp.
The fourth generation of the BMW M3 actually gave its debut a few months later and included everything promised by the concept car. Apart from a few components, the fast coupé was a completely redesigned vehicle. A newly designed eight-cylinder V-engine formed the impressive power unit to guarantee outstanding performance and uniquely dynamic sportiness. The new engine mobilised an output of 309 kW/420 hp from a displacement of 3,999 cubic centimetres and a maximum torque of 400 newton metres. Accordingly, the new BMW M3 was able to demonstrate breathtaking vehicle performance. It accelerated from a standing start to 100 km/ in just 4.8 seconds and achieved a top speed of 250 km/h – limited by the engine electronics.
The eight-cylinder engine owed its most striking feature to generation of the power-to-displacement ratio typical of the BMW M. The V8 only reached maximum revs at 8,400 rpm, and anyone using the accelerator pedal was able to experience the joy of the imposing thrust. By contrast, fuel consumption of the new high-performance V8 was almost modest with an average of 12.4 litres for each 100 kilometres.
The favourable value was largely due to intelligent energy management. Brake Energy Regeneration further increased the efficiency of the power unit. Generation of electricity for the onboard network focused on the cruise and braking phases, while during the traction phases, the dynamo was generally uncoupled. Aside from particularly efficient power generation, this procedure also resulted in more tractive force being available for acceleration.
Lightweight chassis provides optimum implementation of superior engine performance.
The chassis of the new BMW M3 was created on the basis of the wheel suspension of the BMW 3 Series Coupé, although virtually all the components were completely redesigned. Apart from harmonising with the significantly higher tractive forces, the overall objective was to significantly reduce weight. The front axle was designed as double-strut and virtually all its components were manufactured from aluminium. The five-link rear suspension also had a lightweight construction and was completely redesigned apart from one link. A weight-saving of some 2.5 kilograms was achieved here. Engineers at BMW M GmbH even succeeded in saving more weight in the high-performance braking system with compound discs. The new rear axle differential of the BMW M3 was equipped with the variable M differential lock, which could provide up to 100 percent locking power and therefore ensured optimum traction even in particularly demanding driving situations. The lightweight chassis was supplemented by the Servotronic steering, a high-performance braking system with all-round vented discs
and electronically managed Dynamic Stability Control (DCS). The new BMW M3 also had an option of selecting the Electronic Damper Control (EDC).
Electronics permit harmonisation to individual driving style.
While the newly developed chassis of the BMW M3 provided ambitious drivers with an outstanding platform, the particularly sporty driver could use the electronic controls to match the coupé even more precisely to individual driving style. For example, the Dynamic Stability Control could be switched off immediately. The iDrive control concept could also be used to preselect the level of the Servotronic steering support. The optional Electronic Damper Control allowed the damper force to be adjusted and optimised when cornering, and during braking and acceleration, further enhancing the dynamic response. It had three programs that could be preselected at the touch of a button. Three injection control maps were available for engine management and they significantly modified the response of the eight-cylinder.
Exclusive in the vehicle segment: carbon-fibre roof.
The roof was the epitome of the advanced technology designed into the new BMW M3. This component of the bodywork was made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CRP). The interesting aspect was that the fibre structure of the lightweight material remained visible – only a clear varnish coated the high-tech surface. Apart from the exclusive visual appearance, the main attribute of the CRP roof provided a definite technical advantage. It weighed significantly less than a steel roof. This not only reduced the total weight of the vehicle, but the weight-saving at the highest point of the bodywork also significantly reduced the vehicle’s centre of gravity and hence optimised performance when cornering fast.
Debut firework: saloon and convertible followed just months later.
Within a period of eight months, BMW let off a veritable M3 firework. In autumn 2007, the five-seater saloon lined up on the starting grid alongside the four-seater coupé. Just in time for the open-air season in 2008, the M3 Convertible came along. This was only one year after the concept car had celebrated its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show. The consequence was that BMW M GmbH achieved its second best result in the 30 years of the company’s history in the business year 2008. The BMW M3 in particular provided the driving force for this positive development. In the first full year of production, almost 18,000 units of the BMW M3 had been sold worldwide. A vast array of awards and test wins provided customers with confirmation that they had bought the right car. Like its predecessor with six cylinders, the V8 installed in the M3 gained the prestigious accolade of “International Engine of the Year” a number of times, and it was repeatedly voted the “Sportiest Saloon of the Year”.
Available from 2008: M DCG with Drivelogic
BMW M GmbH presented the world’s first double clutch gearbox designed for high-speed power units with the M Double Clutch Gearbox with Drivelogic in 2008. It enabled gear shifts to be made without interruption of power and traction, and seven gears offered optimum gear increments for particularly dynamic acceleration. The new M Double Clutch Gearbox with Drivelogic was the fourth, consistently enhanced generation of the automated manual gearbox in M-specific configuration. It was supplied with the models BMW M3 Coupé, BMW M3 Saloon and BMW M3 Convertible.
Comeback in triumph: the M3 is back on the race track.
In the meantime, the new M3 is also taking off in motor sport. BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: „Sportiness is undoubtedly in the genes of the series model of the BMW M3. That’s what motivated us to develop a racing version of this car.” As a near-series M3 GT4, it assists private drivers in winning races, and as the M3 GT2 with the resilience for covering long distances it is used to compete as a works car. In May 2010, the new 500 hp long-distance athlete won the 24 Hour Marathon at the Nürburgring at its first attempt. M GmbH launched the M3 GTS at virtually the same time. The coupé is directed towards club sport and is powered by the V8 engine with increased displacement and enhanced power. It also has specific tuning of the 7-gear M DCG Drivelogic and modified chassis technology combined with strategic optimisations in aerodynamics and lightweight design. The eight-cylinder engine of the M3 GTS expanded to 4,361 cubic centimetres develops 331 kW/450 hp, and thanks to a weight-to-power ratio of only 3.4 kilograms for every 1 hp, it powers the coupé effortlessly. The BMW M3 GTS has a gearbox and chassis configuration optimised for the race track and accelerates from a standing start to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds. The 1,000 metre sprint is achieved from a standing start in just 22.5 seconds while the top speed is 305 km/h.
The data have changed. But the M3 idea remains the same after 25 years.
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