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New 2020 BMW M3 (G80): prototype spied testing at the 'Ring

Published: 09 October 2018

► New 2020 BMW M3 scooped
► The G20 era M3 spied
► Nearly 500bhp and 4wd

Our snappers have got pictures of the new BMW M3 testing, just days after the unveil of the ‘stock’ BMW 3-series. The new pictures show the new 2020 M3, codenamed G80, testing at the Nordschleife, and offer the best look yet at what that M-letter will bring to the new car.

Our spy pictures reveal the larger-than-life brake discs, traditional M division quad-tailpipe exhausts and other go-faster paraphernalia familiar from five earlier generations of M3. And if you want to see what the 2020 M3 will could look like shorn of its disguise, check out our artist's impressions below. Of course, now that we've seen the finished 3-series, there are a few bits to overlook...

Read on our full, detailed scoop dossier on the G80 M3.

New BMW M3 (G80): everything you need to know

So many questions. Will the next M3 be little more or less than a cut-price, downsized M5? Can the next M4 in its standard form hope to eclipse the bells-and-whistles GTS version of the current car? And can the most important M car BMW makes get back to being the best compact sports saloon/coupe money can buy, without caveat?

BMW M3: CAR magazine's artist's impression

The all-new 3-series saloon, code G20, will be followed in 2019 by the Touring (G21) and in 2020 by the 4-series coupe and convertible (G22/23). Of these four bodystyles, three will receive the full M treatment. Why no M4 Gran Coupe? Because the next Gran Coupe will be electric.

While previous M3s have been powered by a mixed bag of engines, from lightweight and punchy 2.0-litre four (E30) to a 4.0-litre V8 (E90/E92), the next version, due 2020, remains faithful to the twin-turbo 3.0-litre found in the current car. The power output of the next-gen base car is said to equal that of the limited-edition M4 GTS, which musters 493bhp at 6250rpm and 442lb ft at 4000rpm.

It thus eclipses the 444bhp twin-turbo V6 in the new Audi RS5, matches the Mercedes C63 S AMG and will give the 592bhp Jaguar XE Project 8 – of which only 300 units will be built, remember – a good run for its money. And that’s even before the hotter CS and GTS versions enter the arena...

New BMW 3-series revealed: everything you need to know 

Sixth-generation BMW M3: the engineering secrets of G80

The sixth-generation M3/M4 will be distanced from the bigger M5 while at the same time drawing inspiration from it, with BMW likely adding optional on-demand all-wheel drive. Four driven wheels will make it easier and safer to tap into more of the six’s power, more of the time, its output boosted by a 48-volt mild hybrid system, electrically spooled turbos (as used to great effect on the Bentayga/SQ7’s TDI V8) and the GTS’s water-injection system.

The new BMW M3 (2020): CAR magazine's artist impression reveals the G80

Among the development goals are a reduction in weight, a more pragmatic balance between low drag and high downforce, greater traction – especially in the wet – a more efficient drivetrain and a more intuitive infotainment4 system. Dubbed iD7, the new set-up features no fewer than three interactive displays.

While the M3/M4’s carbonfibre peaked with the current £122k (!) M4 GTS, the future will bring increased use of aluminium and composite materials. M Division has its heart set on the new architecture that’ll offer a dynamic 50:50 weight distribution and improved torsional stiffness together with reduced weight.

While the M3 (G80) retains four doors and five seats, the rear bench will again be a delete option for the future M4 GTS. Like Porsche, BMW intends to offer three types of seats, from lightweight fixed-back carbonfibre buckets through conventional sports seats to fully adjustable comfort seats.

BMW codenames explained: making sense of E, F and G numbers

Prices, specs of new 2020 BMW M3

Even though the list price is due to jump to close to £68k (the current M4 Competition Package costs £60,055), the new M3/M4 won’t be offered with such high-tech goodies as switchable anti-roll bars, air suspension, rear-wheel steering or active aerodynamics.

It does, however, seem safe to expect a somewhat less complex version of the all-wheel drive pioneered by the 2018 M5 as an option, an infinitely-variable electrically-operated side-to-side locking diff, variable-rate and variable-effort electrically-assisted steering, adaptive dampers and a lightweight brake-by-wire system with four individual electric actuators.

The new 2020 BMW M3 gets e-turbos, 48-volts and nearly 500bhp

In line with the future M5, the smaller M models are to abandon the current seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in favour of an eight-speed auto offering a choice of shift speed and shift patterns. As with the engine, steering and dampers, the gearbox can be tweaked via the driving experience selector. If the manual six-speeder survives , it will do so only in the rear-drive models.

48-volt electrics, water injection and other tech highlights

Thanks to turbocharging, increasing power is no longer rocket science – but durability, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions all pose tough challenges. In the case of the new S58B30 M3/M4 engine, BMW’s targets require substantial modifications. These will include a particulate filter, a 48-volt electrical system, mild hybridisation, a coasting mode in its most eco setting, a start/stop system that will cut the engine significantly earlier and the water injection first introduced in the M4 GTS.

When pushed, the ECU activates three pairs of water injectors which spray small amounts of water into the intake plenum, thereby reducing the temperature during the compression phase, keeping knock (pre-detonation) at bay. Mid-term, BMW intends to extend this on-demand temperature control device to the intercooler. In any case, the new engine can sustain higher boost pressures than the current unit, so the near-500bhp envisioned for the mainstay products is definitely not the end of the road. 

In terms of character, the next M3/M4 won’t be as sharp-edged, harsh-riding or aggressive as the current car. Instead, a more compliant and cohesive suspension set-up is claimed to provide superior control at the limit, boosting confidence. Compared with the current Competition cars, the future calibration is less nervous, more transparent and better balanced overall – all of which is good news.

And although M Division’s engineers are determined to take out weight, they must first compensate for the extra kilos brought onboard by the water injection, the heavier 19in and 20in wheels and tyres and the standard-fit aero kit, which includes bigger ducts and deflectors.

The new 2018 BMW 3-series: we spy a prototype on test

The next BMW 3-series: bigger, better... and maybe an M3 Touring?

In addition to the M-specific tweaks, the future M3/M4 will benefit from changes made to the volume 3-series models. Among them are a more stable aero balance, wider track, a longer wheelbase, a lower centre of gravity and more user-friendly ergonomics. As for design, expect greater differentiation and more extrovert looks. The biggest changes will be made to the M4 convertible (G83), which switches from the bulky retractable hardtop to a power-operated fabric top.

Rumours of a stripped-out speedster and an M3 Touring remain just that, but the M4 (G82) will be differentiated from the stealth saloon using bespoke body panels and racy cabin trim. Rest assured both will have been developed with one key objective: to once again deliver an M3 that makes the Porsche 911 feel a little pointless.

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By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel