The BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe, arriving in showrooms this month, are technological wunderkinder loaded with electronics that actually help you enjoy driving more than getting in the way of the fun. It’s unlikely anyone is going to call these electronic aides “nannies.” Or if they are nannies, they are like Mary Poppins with a leather jacket and a mohawk.
BMW is taking on the best of the performance coupe and sedan class with a phalanx of performance electronics that actually help you be a better driver. Take the Drift Analyzer, for instance. (If you have to go in for analysis, we recommend this kind.) No wait, let’s start with DSC with M Dynamic Mode and 10-stage traction control. Better yet, let’s go even farther back: the chassis.
“Both new M3 and M4 models benefit from body and chassis enhancements over their non-M relatives, and from countless hours of intensive testing at BMW Group’s Miramas testing facility in the South of France, at the winter testing center in Arjeplog, Sweden, and from Nürburgring’s Nordschleife,” said BMW in a release.
You might imagine that last facility would be the most fun, and the most instructive. M engineers started with the 3-Series chassis and added 84 pounds of aluminum bracing, mostly to the underside of the car around the front and rear axles. The stiffer chassis allowed them to more precisely tune the suspension.
“What you experience as less roll is the result of perfectly adjusting the individual suspension setup for each wheel on each corner because the middle sections, the body itself, is as stiff as a brick,” said BMW M spokesman Martin Schleypen.
To that stiff brick BMW says it added Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled shocks, M Integrated brakes with two settings for brake feel, and then M Traction Control, which is part of the optional M Drive Professional; that M Drive Pro has a new integrated wheel slip limitation function as part of the Dynamic Stability Control system, the latter of which can be adjusted through 10—count ‘em 10!—stages of control.
So you can be as good or as great as you want to be, just play around with some of the settings.
The coolest part of all this electronic control is surely the M Drift Analyzer, which BMW says records the “duration, distance covered, line, and angle of a drift” and then gives you a rating that tells you how good you were on that last slideways tire-shredder. You still have to perform the drift yourself; the M Drift Analyzer merely tells you how well you did it. Formula D ought to check this out.
“The drift analyzer is more or less designed to help you to improve on your own skills,” said Schleypen. “Because actually, what helps you to control the car is the M Traction Control slider, which is a different thing that actually determines the behavior of the car. The drift analyzer itself, it’s just a recording function to show you how you performed your drifting—what was the angle? what was the length of the drift?—in order to give you a hint of what to do better the next time. So it’s not a drift mode in the sense where you push a button and the car starts to drift by itself without you being in charge of controlling it.”
It is nonetheless truly cool that we can still get things like this on cars, and it’s available exclusively on the new M3 and M4. There are buttons you have to push to agree that you are not on a public road and a few other things, but there it is. Why did BMW add this feature?
“While developing the new generation M3/M4 there was one important goal for ourselves, that was to improve on traction versus the previous generation,” said Schleypen. “We developed a completely new traction control system, which is about six to 10 times faster than the previous one. By developing this traction control system, including the 10-stage traction controller, let’s call it by coincidence, there were a lot of data floating around in the car, and we just saw that there’s so much data, couldn’t we just make it accessible to the driver? Then we came up with this idea that we could show the driver how his actual driving style was like and hence, there was the Drift Analyzer. So the main feature that allowed us to develop this was the 10-stage traction control and traction control algorithms in detail.”
So keep studying math, kids!
All these electronic features combine with an otherwise solid M3/M4. There are two choices of engine power from the twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight-six, for instance: 473 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque in the “base” cars, with your choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, and 503 peak horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque in the top-end M3 Competition and M4 Competition models. Also in the Competition models, wheels and tires go up from 18-inch front/19 rear to 19 front/20 rear. The standard transmission is the eight-speed M Steptronic automatic.
Curb weights range from 3,830 pounds for the M4 Coupe to 3,890 pounds in the M3 Competition Sedan. At launch the two will be available in rear-wheel drive only, with AWD expected by the end of the year.
Pricing ranges from $70,895 for the M3 sedan to $75,769 for the M4 Competition Coupe. Those prices line up nicely against the performance trim levels of the class: the 505-hp Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio for $74,500; the 472-hp Lexus RC F at $65,975; the 503-hp Mercedes-AMG C-63 coupe at $78,250; the 444-hp Audi RS 5 coupe starting at $75,100; and the bargain of all competitors, the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing with a starting sticker of $59,900, with late-summer delivery. Of all those, the M3 and M4, with their myriad electronic controls, all aimed at fun as much as driver improvement, may just be ahead of the pack.
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