It’s tempting to feel that BMW was actually trying to be controversial with the new hot 3-series. For a start, the M3 Coupe is dead. Just as the two-door Three is now the 4-series (confused yet?), the flagship 4-series wears the new ‘M4’ badge. If you want that hallowed M3 badge on your driveway, it’s the four-door M3 only for you.
Next, BMW ditched the best thing about the old M3 – its rev-tastic 4.0-litre V8 engine. The M Division and naturally aspirated engines go together like ‘Munich’ and ‘beer festival’, but demands to cut emissions and offer more easy-access torque has necessitated a switch to turbocharging.
Boo, cry the naysayers, fearing for their beloved crisp throttle response and spine-tingly engine howl. Not so fast, says BMW. The new M3 and M4 use a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six motor, developing 425bhp and 406lb ft. That’s 11bhp and 111lb ft more than the thirsty old V8, and the six can allegedly crack 30mpg too.
>> Click here to read Ben Barry’s tech report on why the new BMW M3’s 3.0-litre six is better than the old 4.0-litre V8
In addition to a slug more poke, there are plenty more guaranteed crowd-pleasers aboard the new M3 and M4. Thanks in part to a diet of carbonfibre body panels and aluminium suspension components, the M4 is 83kg lighter than its M3 Coupe predecessor – good news for agility and economy. There’s still a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, satisfying those old-school buyers not seduced by the whipcrack charms of BMW’s seven-speed dual-clutcher.
Then there’s the wealth of driver-centric assistance tech, designed not to rein in the fun, but make you faster on track, and more playful on the road. We can’t wait to bring you the CAR verdict on the ‘Smokey Burnout’ launch mode, and an even more hard-core ‘M Dynamic’ setting for maximum attack driving.
>> Click here for CAR’s full story on the BMW M4
Of course, the M3 and M4 need to be right at the top of their game, because 2014 brings some fearsome new rivals. Lexus has stuck with naturally aspirated power for its 450bhp+ RC-F coupe, which (Lexus claims) riffs on the styling, drivetrain and handling lessons learnt from the LFA supercar. That’s a recipe for a world-beating performance car – could Lexus be the dark horse of 2014?
>> Want more insight into the Lexus RC-F? CAR’s full reveal story is here
Meanwhile, Mercedes is readying the C63 AMG version of the new C-class. Packing a 450bhp punch from an all-new 4.0-litre V8 engine (also boosted by two turbochargers), it’ll be offered in saloon, coupe and estate bodystyles, for much the same £56k price tag as BMW’s M3 and M4.
Plus, don’t forget Jaguar has a small sports saloon in the works, which will be underpinned by Jaguar Land Rover’s lightweight ‘iQ Al’ aluminium architecture. If it’s anything like as affirming as Ben Barry found the new Jaguar F-type R Coupe we’re in for a real treat.
Any new M-car is a special event for motoring enthusiasts. In 2014, we’re potentially set for two of the greatest derivatives ever arriving at once. We can’t wait.
>> Click here to check out the previous Most Wanted car of 2014