Screeching Michelin performance rubber could be heard for hours from afar as if I was attending a Sunday race of the GT Le Mans class of the IMSA Tudor United Sports Car Championship which BMW is currently leading. Up close you could witness 2015 M3s and M4s blasting down the straightaway of Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. It’s one of the fastest tracks in the country and certainly one of the most exciting to drive on. So instead of stargazing like a fan of BMW Team RLL’s Dirk Müller, I found myself a helmet, strapped in the M4 and drove it like I stole it!
Every iteration of the M3 since 1985 has become even more special with the passing of time. Its following and car clubs are cult-like and its history and reputation are legendary. The current 5th generation M3 is mechanically brazen and aesthetically welcoming. To add to the storyline, hype and fame, the most powerful letter in the alphabet has introduced the number “4” to its title. Welcome the all-new M4 boys and girls. With such a stellar naming convention BMW might as well unveil an M7 to shut the game down. Both the $62,925 2015 BMW M3 Sedan and the $65,125 2015 BMW M4 Coupe are every day driving vehicles with a penchant for motorsports performance when dialed up by the owner. To demonstrate, BMW set up street drives in slow-speed, sightseeing towns to showcase the ease of getting around town without feeling like you’re pulling into the pits.
The basis of any M car is the technology underneath the power-domed hood. These vehicles feature a lighter and completely new TwinPower Turbo, inline, Direct Injection 3-liter 6-cylinder engine with a whopping 38% increase in torque. The 3rd generation M TwinPower Turbo produces 425-horsepower, 406 lb-ft of torque between 1850-5500 rpms, and is coupled with either the standard and tweaked 6-speed manual gearbox from the 1M Coupe or the 7-speed M DCT with Drivelogic double-clutch transmission ($2,900) from the M5 and M6, but with added electronics. I prefer the M DCT and steering wheel paddle shifting personally. These are also the first M cars to come equipped with Electric Power Steering (EPS) which is gaining the respect of the auto industry. High speeds turns on the 14-turn, 4-mile raceway were handled with complete accuracy.
Stealthy acceleration is available in each gear whether the revs are low or high. In fact, much of the mechanical advancements to the RWD M3 and M4 were accomplished with motorsports performance in mind. For example, a carbon fiber drive shaft built in-house from BMW, a carbon fiber, engine wrap-around precision strut bar, an enjoyable Active M Differential and massive amounts of cooling technology to push the vehicles hard on track are just a few of the advancements in the M cars. Even on very hot track days the M is able to withstand the heat because of the Intercooler and ancillary cooling components. But let’s not forget the M1 and M2 buttons which allow the driver to individually customize their vehicle’s parameters based on anticipated handling characteristics. For example, our cars were set as follows (M2 for optimal performance):
- Throttle: Sport
- EDC (Electronic Damping Control): Sport
- Steering: Sport
- DSC: ON
- HUD (Head-up Display): M Mode
- Trans: S3
- Throttle: Sport Plus
- EDC: Sport Plus
- Steering: Sport Plus
- DSC: MDM (M Dynamic Mode)
- HUD: M Mode
- Trans: S3
The exclusive tire of choice for both M vehicles in either forged 18” light alloy V-spoke style 513 M wheels or optional 19” light-alloy double-spoke style 437 M rims ($1,200) is provided by that muscular Michelin man and has been with the M3 for 30 years now. Together, the dynamic duo of BMW M and Michelin have conquered wins and championships in F1, the 24 hours of Le Mans and the notorious 24 hours of the Nürburgring. The Pilot Super Sport tire is forgiving enough for daily commutes and technologically savvy for weekend race warriors. And now every single modern M car is supplied with Michelins. “This is an incredible car and tire combination that delivers real racecar levels of performance, an engaging connection to the driving experience and still offers a comfortable ride as your daily driver,” said Oscar Pereda, director of ultra-high performance, Michelin North America. Braking is orchestrated from either the base M Compound Brakes with a 4-piston fixed front caliper in blue or the racing worthy and optional M Carbon Ceramic Brakes ($8,150) with 6-piston fixed front calipers in gold.
Weight reduction and lightweight advanced materials were the overall goal for the structural concept of the 3.9 second 0 to 60 mph M4, and M3 which is lighter than its predecessor. BMW reduced the weight of the completely new front seats and the weight of the rear seats, utilized the famous M carbon fiber roof, and took weight out of the aluminum engine hood as well as the front fenders. Yet, the vehicles are still menacing with a chiseled front fascia, breathable side gills, aerodynamic and angular side view mirrors and four smoking rear tailpipes.
Inside, our black leather M interior was highlighted with carbon fiber trim, bolstered sports seats, M sports wheel, metal M foot rest, harman/kardon advanced surround system, and of course the BMW state-of-the-art iDrive controller and high resolution screen. A new partnership with GoPro features the video app in the BMW Apps so you can record all your M driving excitement!