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The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

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On: Sat, Jan 18, 2014 at 8:47AM | By: Lou Ruggieri


The King is Dead.  Long Live the King!

The M3 is dead. Well, sort of. The two-door M3 is dead, but the four-door M3 lives on. So if you want the ultimate M3, you now can only get it in sedan form, but in essence the two-door M3 lives on as the M4. Confused yet? Essentially, 4 is the new 3. For 2015 BMW wanted to differentiate between its midsize two-door cars and its midsize four door versions. The 3-Series is now four-door only, while the newly designated 4-Series can be had only with a pair of doors. 

This marketing-math applies to the M versions of these cars as well, and while we aren't crazy about the name change, a new M3 by any other name would still ride as sweet. And the newest M thre... er... M4 is an evilly fantastic expression of BMW's continued pursuit of the Ultimate Driving Machine. As ironic as it is, the newest M model actually harks back to the roots of the family tree. The outgoing E90 M3 takes with it probably the last we'll ever see of a naturally aspirated V8 again. BMW held out for a long time while Mercedes and Audi delved into the world of forced induction for their sports cars, and, after getting smoked one too many times around the track, it seems the Bavarian Auto Works brain trust finally realized that when it comes to power and fuel efficiency, it's very tough to beat a turbocharged motor. So while they marched away from their long-standing unwritten rule about forced induction, what BMW did do is bring back the venerable inline six-cylinder engine, albeit a much more advanced straight-six than yesteryear, but, still, the cylinder count and alignment is spot on.

The S55, as it's designated internal at Bimmer headquarters, is the crown jewel of the M4. It is a three-liter motor that sports twin single-scroll turbos that can summon up to 18.1 psi of boost funneled through a liquid-to-air intercooler. That boost along with a forged steel crankshaft, variable valve-lift, magnesium oil sump, and manic 7600 rpm redline all contribute to the S55's 430 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 406 pound-feet of torque at a very flat curve from 1800 to 5400 rpm to give the M4 a very stout powerband. To make driver feel even more exhilarated, the M4 uses a dual-mode muffler (closed for hum-drum grocery-getting, and wide-open for the occasional impromptu on-ramp impulse), along with a "feature" we're not crazy about in theory—a synthesized engine soundtrack. This system essentially "plays" reproduced engine sounds through the car's stereo speakers. To most throw-back purists, your humble author included, this is nothing short of automotive heresy that only a few years ago would get you laughed at and ridiculed out of any public setting you chose to share such information. But, objectively speaking, we will say that the system does sound pretty authentic and, had we not known that it was fake, would have made the car sound very exciting. But, once the curtain gets peeled back, it's tough to un-see something like this. But you can make your own judgements.

Carbon-fiber is the theme of the body—everything from the seat frames, to the roof panels, to the inner panel on the spoiler are all made from it, helping to trim 175 pounds off the previous M's curb weight. Aluminum dominates the chassis, making everything from the wheels to the subframe and body-frame reinforcement pieces. Another 26 pounds is saved by way of a lighter and more compact manual transmission, while the dual-clutch automatic sports electronic launch control and steering-wheel paddle shifters.

Everything about the M4 says "speed." From its low-slung squat stance to its aggressively designed front nostrils—even its side-mirrors are designed to be aerodynamic—in short, the M4 is a very impressive animal that says, "Let's do this" with every ounce of its being. While performance numbers are not readily available just yet, we are fairly certain BMW isn't going to make a slower M car than the outgoing version. So, we can say with a significant amount of confidence that the M4's acceleration times will more than likely beat the outgoing M3's 0-60 mph mark of 4.3 seconds, 0-100 in 9.4 seconds, and 12.8 second quarter-mile time. BMW does claim that the M4 will improve in gas mileage by 25%. But considering the outgoing M3's mpg was a paltry 14/20 city/highway split, we aren't going to get too excited by a 25% improvement. Better is better, but better than terrible still isn't good. But then, no one is going to shop for an M4 and then go look at a Prius.

Thankfully the base price shouldn't climb too far past the $65,000 mark unless you opt for the carbon-ceramic brake rotors which will raise the as-tested price by quite a bit. So for about the same money, the M4 seems as if it could be just a bit better in most regards than the M3 it replaces. While we still think the name change is going to take some getting used to, the car itself shouldn't take more than one ride to convince us and just about anyone else that it is, in fact, the new king of the mid-size automotive sports market. The king is dead. Long live the king!


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