2015 BMW M3

2015 BMW M3 2015 BMW M3
Instrumented Test From the September 2014 Issue of Car and Driver

The new F80-generation M3 is drawing its share of cyber hate, mainly because of its engine configuration. Engines are (or should be) holy to a company whose name translates to “Bavarian Engine Factory,” and special powerplants should be part of what you pay for in any M car. But the new M3’s 3.0-liter turbo inline-six seems suspiciously similar to the lump fitted to everyday -35i BMWs. If the M3 has been reduced to a parts-bin fluff job, well, then God is dead and the war’s begun.

On closer examination, however, this new double-turbo engine, named S55, proves to be as special as any M3 mill that came before it. For the most part, it’s a new design, with two air-to-liquid intercoolers, a stiffer closed-deck block, and a magnesium oil pan. It pumps out 425 horsepower at 7300 rpm and 406 pound-feet of torque just off idle, at 1850 rpm. Fans of great engine notes will quiver at its deep rumble—manlier and less cotton-stuffed than most turbocharged engines. Compared with the previous 4.0-liter V-8, it produces a modest increase in power (11 horses) but a huge bulge in torque (111 pound-feet).

One blast of the thundering new twin-turbo six quells any fear that this M3 is somehow less special than the car it replaces.

Aside from the turbos, another M3 first: The F80 weighs less than its predecessor. The diet was more than just trading high-calorie steel for low-cal aluminum and carbon, though plenty of both are employed. BMW trimmed mass from everything that could spare even just a gram or two. One of the loss leaders is a carbon-fiber driveshaft (12 pounds lighter than a 435i’s). Even the rear-axle flanges save nearly one pound apiece. The 3580-pound sedan is exactly 100 pounds lighter than the last M3 sedan (with a manual) and 11 lighter than a 335i.

BMW plucked the six-speed manual from the 1-series M, upgrading the synchros and installing a twin-disc clutch before marrying it to the S55. Clutch takeup is right in the middle of the pedal’s travel and happens rather quickly. And with the manual, you get a better sense of the power on hand because every WOT shift sends a surge through your body, as if this engine were a big-block with grossly irresponsible displacement. Upshifting smoothly when peacocking for passengers takes some practice.

There is a rev-matching feature in the trans, though it’s not active in the engine’s sport-plus mode. There’s nothing vague, sloppy, or chintzy about the shifter’s action. Rowing your own gears is as gratifying as an honest par-five eagle.

Adding an extra lawn mower’s worth of power and shedding one cheerleader’s worth of mass doesn’t make the new M3 significantly quicker than the old E90. Controlling the massive torque with careful throttle modulation nets a 4.1-second zero-to-60 time and a 12.4-second quarter-mile. The shorter sprint is right on top of the old car’s, and the quarter-mile time is 0.2 second quicker.

BMW may deserve some hate mail regarding the steering feel, though. There’s next to no feedback coming through the wheel. And yet, the M3 still communicates. BMW mounts the rear subframe carrying the suspension rigidly to the unibody (without rubber bushings), aiding chassis-to-driver communication. This may seem like a trivial change, but the back end is an important data source. Sensing the difference between heading into full-on oversteer or just slipping on a little gravel is hugely reassuring when driving near the limit. Grip, measured at 0.98 g, is plentiful.

Feel from the brake pedal is also spectacular. Its short-travel operation responds to tiny pressure adjustments, and the pedal never gets too deep to prevent a perfectly blipped throttle for a heel-and-toe downshift.

Our test car came fully frothed with $21,725 in extras, including a carbon-ceramic brake upgrade ($8150), a full leather interior ($2650), the adaptive suspension ($1000), and just about every other option, including the Executive and Lighting packages and rear-seat sunshades (on an M3!) for a grand total of $84,650. Very nice examples sticker for less than $70K.

As they say on the street, “Haters gonna hate.” If you happen to own a new M3, maybe let one of those haters into yours. That’ll shut ’em up.