The next-generation BMW M3 – due for launch in September – has been snapped with minimal disguise, confirming at last that it will wear the same vertically oriented front grille as its M4 sibling.
The performance saloon has been spotted many times before - and we've driven it in prototype form - but it has always shielded its nose from view. Speaking at the unveiling of the standard 4 Series, BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec said the "polarising" design will become a "brand shaper" but implied it would not make its way to the M3. He said: "The 3 Series has a very horizontal one because it’s a more rational, serious car. A coupé like the 4 Series should express the exotic part of BMW.”
Now, though, it appears the brand will strengthen the link between the two mechanically identical performance cars with shared design elements. Apart from the front end, the M3 looks to retain the overall profile of the standard 3 Series, while gaining performance-oriented styling tweaks such as widened wheel arches, a subtle rear spoiler and four large exhaust pipes. A leaked image of the rear end previously revealed that it would also feature black plastic trim elements and a downforce-enhancing rear diffuser.
The hotly anticipated performance saloon will use an extensively updated version of BMW’s twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine, producing 473bhp and 443lb ft.
For the first time on an M3, four-wheel drive will become an option soon after the new car's launch but all forms of electrification are believed to have been vetoed. However, persistent reports suggest that the 2020 M3 could be the final M model to be launched without some form of electrification; something made necessary by the increasing priority of meeting fleet-average CO2 targets.
There are no confirmed details about the new M3’s performance, but the lighter, more powerful car will eclipse the current M3 CS’s 0-62mph time of 3.9sec. It will be sold with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or an optional eight-speed automatic, but the auto will enable better performance figures thanks to a built-in electronic launch control system.