Four for M

words - Mike Sinclair
BMW’s next-generation M3/M4 could return to the model’s four-cylinder roots

BMW M’s product planning chief says the next-generation M3 model family could be powered by a four-cylinder engine, despite the fact the Bavarian performance brand is currently without any four-cylinder models.

Speaking at the international launch of the all-new F80/82 M3 and M4 in Portugal over the weekend, BMW M Division Head of Product Management Carsten Pries told motoring.com.au it was “foreseeable” that a four-cylinder engine could power the next generation of the iconic model.

“We do not start our design process with a power output in mind. We have a set of characteristics that a new model must meet. For sure, you could see a future [M3] powered by a four-cylinder engine,” Pries told motoring.com.au.

In its latest fifth generation, the new M3 (sedan and M4 coupe) is powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline six-cylinder. The new powerplant is around 25 per cent more fuel-efficient than the V8 engine in the E90/92 M3 generation it replaces, yet the six offers almost 40 per cent more torque and power gains.

Just released, the new M3 and M4 will likely have a model life of six to seven years. Thus there’ll be some time to wait for details on the powerplant that would power a four-cylinder M3.

According to Pries, the new smaller, lighter six now used was a “significant contributor” to the new generation car’s ability to address the “weight spiral”.

“Performance can be boosted with more power, but if we are to address issues like emissions and consumption [in the future], we have to look more at weight. We decided in this generation to address the [upward] weight spiral,” Pries explained

Pries said the downsizing trend is likely to continue in future generations.

“If we have a car with less mass, it is foreseeable that the [performance] targets we set could be reached with a four [cylinder],” he stated.

The original E30 generation M3 and a number of its derivatives were powered by four-cylinder powerplants. There are currently, however, no bespoke four-cylinder M division engines -- even the hot M135 hatch is powered by a six-cylinder engine.

The long-rumoured M2 has now been spotted by spy photographers, however, any hope of that debuting a new M-fettled four have been dashed. The smallest full-house M car will feature a single-turbo version of the same base engine used in the new M3/M4, M sources told motoring.com.au.

Published : Sunday, 11 May 2014
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