The current M3/M4 is not our favorite car in the class, but the next generation could be.
The competition in the compact sport sedan segment has never been hotter. This was once a segment where the BMW M3 dominated and the competition simply wanted a small piece of the action. Fast forward to today and it seems like every luxury automaker has an "M3-fighter," some of which we actually to the M3. The current F80 generation M3 is set to be phased out and a new model is on the way. Here are five improvements we'd like to see on the next generation M3 and M4.
One of our biggest gripes with the current M3/M4 is the way it sounds. BMW dropped the wonderful S65 V8 engine from the previous M3 in favor of a twin-turbocharged inline-six S55 engine. While we weren't exactly happy about the engine downsizing, we felt confident BMW could make an excellent inline-six engine. The S55 is a powerful unit, which can be easily tuned, but we hate the way it sounds. Competitors like the V8 Mercedes C63 and V6 Alfa Romeo Giulia QV trounce the M3 with their exhaust notes. The next M3 will likely use a modified version of this same engine, but we hope BMW can find a way to make it sound better.
BMW also made the bold decision to replace the E90 M3's hydraulic steering in favor of an electrically assisted unit. Many new sports cars have made this change, but others have faired better than the M3. We loved the steering in the old M3, but the new car's steering has been a point of contention, deemed too light in comfort mode and too twitchy in sport mode. We'd like to see BMW stick with one steering feel instead of having different modes. We understand that some buyers like to be able to change their steering feel, but BMW used to be heralded for having the best steering feel in the business. Why let the customer choose when BMW knows best?
BMW used to scoff at the idea of building performance models with all-wheel-drive or (heaven forbid) front-wheel-drive. The latest M5 comes with an advanced AWD system, which can send 100% of its power to the rear wheels. There is evidence to suggest the next M3 could use a similar system. We are putting our foot down by saying the M3 should always be RWD. An AWD system would help BMW compete on 0-60 mph times, but that's never been what the M3 is best at. Even if the AWD system can send all of its power to the rear, it adds weight and overall complexity to a car that has strayed too far from its purist roots.
BMW and Audi have both made the intriguing decision to kill off the dual-clutch transmissions in their performance models in favor of traditional automatics. Automatics can handle more power, which makes them a better choice for performance cars. This is a bit sad, but we are willing to forgive BMW so long as it doesn't kill off the manual transmission. Only the Cadillac ATS-V offers a manual transmission in the segment, because the Alfa Giulia's stick went MIA prior to its US introduction. Please BMW, give us a manual for at least one more generation of the M3.
The biggest criticism of the current M3 became apparent after the company revealed the M4 GTS and the optional Performance Package for the M3/M4. Media outlets complained that the standard car felt "unfinished" next to the M4 GTS, which was later rectified with the Performance Package and models like the CS. It may be a lot to ask for, but the M3 should be perfect from the start. It should't need some optional package to make it perfect. No matter what the next M3 ends up being like, we hope BMW gets it right the first time.