BMW’s M division is now focusing on taking weight out of its cars rather than putting more power into them as a way of delivering its familiar high performance.
“We want to be in a different league for power-to-weight,” says Carsten Pries, the head of M product management, “but we prefer to have a car that weighs 1,000kg rather than one with 1,000 horsepower.”
The division’s two latest offerings, the M3 saloon and M4 coupe, are more powerful than the models they replace, but the increase is only 3 per cent, from 416bhp to 427. Weight, however, has fallen by up to 80kg, or 6 per cent. This helps to bring fuel consumption and CO2 savings of up to 28 per cent, or potentially another 100 miles on a full tank of fuel.
The front end of both models is now almost exclusively made from aluminium, and there are magnesium and carbon fibre sections in the structure and drivetrain. Also contributing to the improved economy and emissions is a new twin-turbo six-cylinder engine to replace the V8 in the previous models, and the availability of a double-clutch gearbox.
The desire to cut weight is the main reason why BMW M has decided to stick with rear-wheel drive for the M3 and M4, rather than offer the xDrive all-wheel-drive system. “What is the point of taking out 80kg if you are going to put 75kg back through xDrive?” says Pries.
“It does not mean that we will not have xDrive in an M model in future. On Thursday I am going to a customer event in Istanbul, and sometimes these give us early indicators of changing preferences. But many M3 customers like to take part in track days, and they prefer the feeling of rear drive.”
BMW sold 31,300 M cars globally in 2013. Around 40 per cent of production goes to the USA, with the UK taking second spot ahead of Germany. Last year BMW also added the M Performance range to sit between its mainstream and pure M models, and these accounted for another 41,200 sales.
The new M3 and M4 go on sale on June 21 priced from £56,175 and £56,635 respectively. In September a new M4 Convertible, costing from £60,745 and exhibiting a similar weight loss to the saloon and coupe, will join the range. BMW expects to sell around 5,000 M3 and M4 cars over their lifetime, with a peak of 1,200 next year.