|07-20-2007, 09:34 AM||#1|
Three new reviews
From Eau Rouge
The best-balanced, most track-happy M3 yet
July 12, 2007
MARBELLA, SPAIN -- Like the seafood paella taken on the Mediterranean beach patio much later in the same day, the fourth-incarnation BMW M3 perfectly fits its setting, with scorching laps of a private race track in the midday sun high above the Costa Del Sol.
Each was more piquant than anticipated. Stronger spices heated the paella than typically come from the kitchens of Toronto's Spanish restaurants, and the M3's V-8 revved as freely as many a race engine on its way to a peak output of 414 horsepower at a joyous 8,300 rpm. BMW boasts that this V-8 betters the earlier inline-six-cylinder engines made famous by the company's M-sport division with 17 per cent more power, while weighing 7 per cent less and improving fuel consumption by 8 per cent. All to the good.
As Gerhard Richter, vice-president of of BMW's M division, noted wryly in conversation, "Ours is not a big block V-8, you know," acknowledging that an American-style eight-cylinder would have been out of character in the M3.
This 3,999-cc V-8 is designed for top-end performance: even its peak torque of 295 lb-ft is attained at 3,900 rpm, considerably higher than in a typical V-8 (although 251 lb-ft are on tap as early as 2,000 rpm and 85 per cent of max torque is generated over a range of 6,500 rpm).
Worry no more, M-buffs who obsess over new models of your favoured cars growing ever larger and more luxurious to the detriment of sharpness and communicative handling. A first impression from this global press preview is that beyond being the most powerful, the 2008 M3 is the best-balanced, most rewarding, most track-happy M3 since the 1986 original.
And, it was nearly as exhilarating on the corkscrew mountain roads to and from Race Resort Ascari, the 5.4-km, 26-corner circuit with a luxury hotel and a 400-car garage carved into a valley twixt mountains as the realization of a rich man's dream.
Although disproportionate numbers of M3s participate in BMW Car Club of Canada advanced driving courses at Mosport, others choose these cars for cross-country touring glorying in their sure-footed agility: for them, the roads in the environs of the Moorish fort of Ronda nearing Ascari were so astonishing as to be worth travel to Spain.
Not obviously flashy, as per M-car tradition, these M3s nevertheless are instantly distinguishable from the current 3-Series coupes both visually and aurally. Most obviously, the carbon fibre roof stands out because it's clear-coated rather than painted body colour in order to showcase the material manufactured in the same facility as components of the BMW Sauber Formula One cars.
To the ear, the hyperbuzz of the engines at high rpm (or drone, or bellow, depending on throttle pressure electronically commanding individual butterflies fuelling each cylinder) sounds like no inline-six ever did.
That the carbon fibre roof weighs five kilograms less than the steel roof , lowering the car's centre of gravity, is one of many measures enumerated by M-division engineers as pivotal in achieving this M3's agility.
It's heavier than its 2001-2006 predecessors, to be sure, as a consequence of the current 3-Series coupe being larger and carrying more safety equipment.
But the aluminum engine hood as well as the carbon fibre roof lowers the centre of gravity, and weight paring at the ends of the car pay dividends of their own. "The thermoplastic front bumper core weighs three kilograms less, the rear bumper four, and these weight savings have a tremendous effect," said chassis specialist Klaus Schmidt. "If you turn the barbells (110 kg) in our exhibit back and forth, you feel the inertia of the extra weight of the regular bumpers. The whole point is to concentrate weight in the centre of the car."
Nearly all suspension components - double-arm strut in front and five-arm in the rear - are newly designed with the goal of improving road-holding while reducing weight.
One driveline innovation that's worth some additional weight, however, is the variably-locking differential that apportions power between the rear wheels. Up to 100 per cent of engine power is delivered to the wheel with the most grip, "enhancing the positive qualities of rear-wheel-drive to a new, unprecedented standard," BMW claims, with the benefits apparent on mountain passes, off-camber turns at Ascari or, it's expected, in Canadian winter driving.
Despite all of the above, BMW acknowledges many buyers are prepared to sacrifice some performance in order to make themselves comfortable. Thus, those who insist on their cars having sunroofs will be accommodated with M3's manufactured with steel roofs, not carbon fibre. In fact, BMW is guessing 70 per cent of production will be traditional tin tops, although it'll certainly be the 30 per cent with the F1 construction that will establish the image of the new model.
The power-assisted steering, dubbed Servotronic, has a normal mode with boosted assistance for easy riders, and a sports mode with more direct feedback for more involved driving. Optionally, Electronic Damper Control adjusts ride/handling among normal, comfort and sport with dramatic results.
The iDrive control can be used to adjust not only the steering and shock absorbers, but three different modes of engine management. Yet another option provides an MDrive button on the delightfully meaty steering wheel that, with one touch, delivers the driver's preference of all of the above.
Clearly, a multitude of details differentiate an M3 from a 3-Series coupe. The outgoing six-cylinder M3 commanded $74,400, whereas the current 335i coupe sells for $51,600. Pricing on the new M3 - expected to go on sale in the first half of 2008 - is yet to be determined, but optioned as were the cars at the international journalists' preview, they probably can be expected to fall in the $85,000 range. Or more, given that Audi's rival RS4 starts at $92,000.
No word yet on the estimated arrival of convertible and four-door models, but in previous generations, these followed the coupe.
Similarly, BMW's sequential M gearbox is said to be under consideration, but, for the foreseeable future, every M3 is fitted with the six-speed manual - a perfect partner for the engine that's relegating inline-sixes to M3 history.
2008 BMW M3 COUPE
TYPE: Two-door coupe
BASE PRICE: Not available
ENGINE: 4.0-litre V-8
414 hp/295 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
European standard, 12.4 L/100 km
In test driving, track and road, 17.8 L/100 km
ALTERNATIVES: Audi RS4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class AMG, Jaguar S-Type R, Cadillac CTS-V
Steering immediacy, feel
iDrive control complexity overriding buttons
Shedding the pounds makes the M3 a missile
CanWest News Service
Friday, July 13, 2007
One of the key engineering feats defining the new BMW M3 is mass control. To get the car to dance like a prima ballerina when being flogged to within a millimetre of its considerable limit, it was subjected to a ruthless diet. The resulting weight savings are found in every area -- 80% of the 2008 M3's components are all new, meaning only 20% came from the current coupe (rear-quarter windows among other things).
For starters, the M3's totally new V8 engine is actually 15 kilograms lighter than the in-line six it replaces. This means the car retains its perfect 50/50 weight distribution despite the two extra cylinders. There are some pretty exotic materials in its makeup, but using hollow camshafts and the like works wonders. The other upside is the car consumes 8% less gasoline than its predecessor while upping the output to 414 galloping stallions, a 17% gain.
To handle the power, the six-speed manual transmission uses a twin-disc clutch. This doubles the grip surface's area, so BMW's engineers were not forced to use something out of a Mack truck. It is a clever solution as the clutch retains its longevity and feel without having to use both feet to depress the pedal.
The roof panel is made from an ultralight, four-layer, carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic. This change shaves five kilograms from the highest point of the car, which lowers the centre of gravity and improves road manners. For those less serious about performance, there will be a sunroof option -- it dumps the carbon-fibre roof and uses a conventional steel panel, which negates this gain.
Again, to aid handling, the M3 uses glass-fibre front and rear bumper supports. This removes two kilograms and 3.4 kg from the front and rear extremities of the car (in North America, the total mass saving is actually about 10.5 kg because of our tougher bumper standards). Removing this mass means there's less weight hanging beyond the confines of the wheelbase, which helps to reduce the yaw factor (the tendency for the car to pivot about its vertical centre when pushed). This, in turn, makes the car more predictable at the limit. Even the rear seatback is lighter by seven kilograms.
The suspension is also considerably lighter. Up front, an aluminum sub-frame supports aluminum struts and control arms (deduct 2.5 kg). In the rear, the aluminum shocks and control arms dump a further five kilograms. There are also hollow driveshafts and sway bars.
Even the monster brakes help, as they reduce both weight and unsprung mass. The two-piece rotors use aluminum hubs and cross-drilled cast-iron rotors. As well as being lighter, the design reduces the risk of warping the rotors when used repeatedly -- the design allows the rotor to expand and contract independently of the hub. This design also prolongs the wheel bearing's life, as less heat is transferred from the brakes to the already hot-running bearing.
The upshot of this weight reduction is a car that is just 100 kg heavier (at 1,665 kg) than the previous M3, which was appreciably smaller. It also delivers a car with extraordinary handling and performance -- a low centre of gravity and having to motivate less than four kilograms of car per horsepower makes a world of difference.
To demonstrate just how well it comes together, BMW subjected its newest missile to one of the most rigorous tests ever encountered on a press launch. The norm for this type of event is to have one set of cars for the road drive and another set for the track portion. Not so at the M3's launch. The morning entailed a 130-kilometre drive to the Ascari race resort in southern Spain. The M3s were then run absolutely balls to the wall for 20 laps around the 26-turn, 5.4-km track in 40C temperatures. The track itself is also quite a challenge-- 2.3 km of each lap is curve (lots of heavy braking), the rest is long, hard and fast straights where the engine is pushed to its limit.
Outwardly, the only visible difference the M3 displayed between the morning drive and the track session was the engine's oil temperature--on the road, it hovered around 95C; on the track, it rose to about 115C. There was also no brake fade or chatter and, in spite of the thrashing, surprisingly little tire wear (although the Michelin Pilots were rather hot and sticky after the track part).
Finally, after flogging the M3 around the track for 108 very hard kilometres, I drove it another 125 km through twisty mountain roads back to home base--and the drive was anything but pedestrian.
Over the years, the M3 has built itself quite a reputation, as each generation has been fast and furious with tenacious handling. The fear, at least among we gear heads, is that each successive generation might bring a slightly softer car, one where more emphasis is placed on opulence than go. The fourth-generation M3 proves it is possible to combine passenger pampering with outright performance, and without sacrificing either. Here's hoping the inevitable M3 sedan and Cabriolet follow the coupe's hard-and-fast lead.
The beast within is unleashed
With PAUL GOVER
July 20, 2007 12:00am
THERE is always something special about a BMW M3. It has been an extreme excitement machine for every one of its 20 years, thanks to roots sunk deep into BMW's motorsport division. The M machine is fast, focussed and fun. But there is something extra special about the M3 in 2007 - a V8 engine.
Dropping the four-litre V8 into the nose of the very latest M3 has made it a marvel, not just thanks to a powerplant with 309kW and a redline set at 8400 revs, but also because the rest of the car has been lifted to the same level. It is a lion of a car, with the capacity to maraud and maul, to rip the heart out of its rivals, yet also purr like a giant kitty. The choice is entirely up to the driver. And that is the real marvel of the new M3. It is so strong and so sharp, yet also tame and regal and refined. It seems like a contradiction, even in a world where Porsche and Ferrari and even Audi do supercars without real vices, but BMW has done a brilliant job on a car that is still the pinnacle for the brand.
You can see it in the aggressive bodywork and carbon fibre roof, feel it in the leather trim and the plastic mudguards, and hear it in an exhaust note, both restrained and threatening, coming from the M car's four signature pipes.
But you really feel it when you drop the hammer and the M3 V8 erupts and the car pounces and bounds towards the horizon.
The new M3 is not going to be cheap. BMW Australia says somewhere in the $160,000- $165,000 range, which is a hefty $20,000 increase. And it won't be easy to get one as sporty drivers rush to showrooms in the early months after deliveries begin in October.
I also think BMW should have brought the car out with its new-age, seven-speed double-clutch gearbox - not just the six-speed manual - and added some cupholders and re-worked the armrest on the console to make gear changes easier. Oh, and a lot of the driver-adjustable electronic systems are silly and unnecessary. They seem more like toys for the Xbox generation in a car with impressive basic engineering and wonderful in-house computer programming. Still, almost everything about the M3 is excellent, even measured against the already-classy 335i twin-turbo coupe and the rampaging M5 with its F1-inspired V10 engine.
It's not a Porsche but it's not trying to be, and a Ferrari does not have the boot or back seat of the M3. Eventually, there will be an M3 convertible - built into the company's latest folding-roof coupe - but the regular car is more than enough for now. It hits the road after the most intensive and costly development program in M3 history, which means 80 per cent of parts are new or improved.
Much work has been devoted to weight reduction, even though it's 80kg heavier than the previous six-pack M3, and higher-tech electronics, noise reduction and more comfort and safety. There is a lot of stiffening around the suspension, the weight balance is an ideal 50:50, the iDrive system includes the latest "favourite" buttons and an MDrive setting for the driver's sports preferences, and the body is hunkered down and muscled up with a look that says M. "We have a big commitment, an obligation," says technical director of the BMW M division Gerhard Richter. "We know exactly what our customers want to have."
In the case of the M3, that meant a V8. So the engineers shaved two cylinders from the M5's V10, then went to work to liberate those 309kW and 400Nm of torque with a claimed fuel consumption of 12.4 litres per 100km.
"The engine is the smaller brother of the V10," Richter says. Measured against the outgoing six it has 17 per cent more power, is 15kg and 7 per cent lighter and uses 8 per cent less fuel.
It is mated to the six-speed manual transmission and an M limited-slip differential feeding power to the rear wheels, while the car rolls on 18-inch alloys - 19s are optional - with single-piston brake calipers gripping vented and cross-drilled discs, with sports-tuned fully independent suspension. The electronics in the car run from the usual anti-lock brakes and stability control to driver-adjustable servotronic steering and throttle response. There are front-side-head airbags and the electric assists and CD sound and classy air-con and leather wrapping you expect in a $150,000-plus luxury car.
But the M3 is all about driving, right down to the hot laps with Richter on the classic Nurburgring course in Germany. It also comes down to the numbers. So the M3 V8 does the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds, will slam through an 80-120 overtaking run in 4.9 seconds in fourth gear, and is only held back to 250 km/h by a corporate agreement and slick electronics. The first 10km in the new M3 are extraordinary.
And it's not about the speed. Yes, there is speed - and more than enough for any situation, up to and including a full-on racetrack attack.
But it's the flexibility and refinement that makes the big impact. The new M3 will pull from just beyond idle in any gear, including sixth, is as quiet and comfy as any other 3-Series coupe, and makes no special demands on the driver.
If you want to dribble along it will do the job. If you prefer a wicked spin to 8400 revs it's just as happy. It tricked in traffic without complaint, when it was easy to appreciate the excellent aircon and the latest supportive M seats. They are not as contoured or as race-shaped as earlier buckets, yet are more comfortable and make for easier access to the back seat. The ride is firm but not sharp, the car is quiet but still announces its presence, and the controls are all firm with a direction connection to the road.
And the V8? Incredibly flexible, with a strong surge of torque from 2000 revs . . . which grows to a roaring power burst that runs from 5500 revs all the way to the redline. And even the rev-limit is new age, with the bap-bap-bap interrupter of previous models replaced by a gradual shutdown, which is easier on the catalysts and kinder to the environment.
The M3 mostly does what it is told, with the driver making the decisions on braking distances and cornering balance and exit speeds. It will really get up and go, but it is also swift and sensible with a turn-and-squirt approach to most bends, even at speeds that seem silly. It is a car you can thrash and push and hound, really having fun at the race track. And then you can drive it back to town.
I found the electronic adjustments in the car were mostly meaningless - with the best result on the basic settings for steering, throttle, stability control and suspension - although play racers will probably go for heavy steering, sharp throttle and stiff suspension without realising the car works better the way the M engineers set it in the first place.
The M3 has always been a car for its time. This time the beast has been tamed just enough to ensure it does not go extinct.
Auto delay on BMW M3
July 20, 2007 12:00am
THE new-age automatic transmission crucial to the success of the new BMW M3 is going to trail six months behind the arrival of the car in Australia.
The first M3 deliveries will be made in October, but they will all be six-speed manuals and it will be at least April before the automatic is ready for the road.
The new transmission comes as BMW finally dumps the SMG -- sequential manual gearbox -- which has frustrated as many people as it has delighted. Fans loved the F1-inspired computer controls of a traditional manual gearbox, but many others hated the slow change and mock-auto performance.
Its replacement, the M DCT, will be fitted to the M3 before quickly migrating through the BMW range.
It is a seven-speed Getrag automatic but, unlike traditional designs with a torque converter, follows the new Volkswagen path with twin clutches and hi-tech computer controls, which mean it can give almost seamless changes with full auto or full manual control.
"For me, it's the best solution. It's easier to drive," the head of BMW's M division, Gerhard Richter, says of the M DCT gearbox. "We don't talk about the date, but we make such a gearbox. We are working for such a system, but we cannot talk about when." The M DCT -- probably for M division and double-clutch transmission -- is an open secret in Europe, despite Richter's denials at the launch in Spain last week of the new V8-powered M3.
This model marks 20 years for the M3, which has been a global racing and sales success. It has become bigger and heavier with each generation and the 2007 model is the first to get a V8 powerplant, following the switch to an F1-inspired V10 two years ago for the larger M5.
BMW's M division has only unveiled the two-door M3 coupe, but is expected to follow with a convertible towards the end of next year. It is the M DCT that is crucial here because about 70 per cent of Australian customers choose an auto, compared with about 40 per cent in Europe. It could add as much as $10,000 to the price of the new M3, which will be in the $160,000 range, but it will mean much better response and more refinement.
BMW is not the only company turning to twin-clutch gearboxes. Porsche is in the final stages of developing a similar transmission for its 911. Richter says the delay in the M DCT is intentional because BMW wants to introduce the V8 M3 as a manual, particularly in the US. America is the only country that demands a manual gearbox in the M5, which is sold with only SMG in Australia. "It was our regular plan to start with the manual gearbox. We know a lot of customers want the manual gearbox," Richter says.
For the future, he says the M division is concentrating on improved computerisation and weight cuts. It already has a carbon-fibre roof on the new M3, together with plastic and alloy body panels.
|07-20-2007, 11:07 AM||#2|
Drives: .2GT3/335Cpe/991 GT3 coming
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: thinking about cars, girls and money, not necessarily in that order.
Nice find. The reviews get me very excited. I can't wait to get mine.
One comment that I found particularly interesting; it's no Porsche and it's not trying to be. Couldn't be more true, but it doesn't make me want the M any less.
Thanks for posting.
Last edited by devo; 07-20-2007 at 03:54 PM.
|07-20-2007, 11:18 AM||#3|
This part was odd; about US tranny choices. If they wanted to debut the car in a manual, specifically for the US, then why wait to release it when the new tranny comes out? Seems like it would have arrived to the US this year.
"Richter says the delay in the M DCT is intentional because BMW wants to introduce the V8 M3 as a manual, particularly in the US. America is the only country that demands a manual gearbox in the M5"
|07-20-2007, 11:20 AM||#4|
Drives: 550i M-sport AW
Join Date: Jul 2007
|07-20-2007, 12:01 PM||#7|
O! So Sour!!
Gehard said himself it would be below 60K for the U.S.
So a faily optioned M3 will cost us 70K or a little more out the door.
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