Caught testing at the Nürburgring under heavy camouflage, the development M3 shows that the M division's new plan is in full swing. Although the super-saloon is far from finished, the car is being put through its paces, suggesting the chassis setup and powertrain are at an advanced stage of development.
Based on the new 3 Series, the M3 is set to adopt the latest evolution of BMW’s CLAR platform, a structural basis already used by the 5 Series and 7 Series and their M variants, the M5 and M760iX. Through the greater use of aluminium and high-strength steel, the new platform is claimed to play an integral role in reducing the weight of the new M3 despite an increase in its exterior dimensions.
In addition to the new platform, BMW M is also planning to provide the new M3 with a number of lightweight carbonfibre components as standard in a bid to further bring the car’s weight below the 1585kg of the M3 CS. Although nothing is official, the new M3 is expected to follow the lead taken by the latest M5 in featuring a carbonfibre roof as standard.
Earlier reports suggested the new M3 would be powered by a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain with a gearbox-mounted electric motor providing additional performance via an extra driving mode. However, sources at BMW M say those reports were wildly speculative. The latest word from M division’s Garching headquarters is that the M3 will stick with a conventional combustion engine in the form of an upgraded version of BMW M’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder unit mated to either a standard-fit six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed automatic.
Details remain scarce, although a combination of both mechanical and software developments are claimed to raise power by nearly 10% beyond the evolution of the engine used by today’s M3 at around 465bhp. That’s 21bhp more than today’s M3 Competition and 9bhp more than the new M3 CS.
Sources have told Autocar that the next M3 is likely to remain rear-wheel drive, with earlier plans to provide it with a fully variable four-wheel-drive system similar to that offered on the new M5 now ruled out because of cost and weight.