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Bahnstormer BMW M3

The arrival of BMW's 7-speed “DSG” style double clutch transmission is likely to spell the end of the auto as we know it for the company.

The M version of the transmission with drive logic is set to make its debut in the new four-door M3 sedan with deliveries due to start in December.

It's faster than the previous SMG robotised manual and faster again than the current six-speed manual - fast enough in fact to propel the sedan from rest to 100km/h in a mouth watering 4.7 seconds.

That's just a tenth of a second slower than the iconic coupe.

A watered down version of the transmission will soon also find its way into the 335i 3 Series Coupe and Convertible, but under a different name and without drive logic control.

The latter dictates how quickly gear changes occur, smoothing them out or speeding them up at the touch of a button.

The sedan joins the M3 coupe and soon to be released cabriolet, and is expected to account for about 25 per cent of sales.

It's not the first time BMW has produced an M3 sedan.

The second generation E36 model launched in 1993 holds that distinction but it was never sold here.

It is however BMW's first V8 powered M3 with a 4.0-litre V8 that delivers 309kW of power at 8300rpm and 400Nm of torque from 3900rpm.

With four doors and a proper back seat that can accommodate three people instead of the coupe's two, it adds a practical dimension to a car that ordinarily has very little to do with the practicality.

As well as putting it back on the shopping lists of those that would have normally scrubbed a coupe, it could also lure buyers from Benz's attractive C63 AMG sedan.

The only other major difference between the coupe and sedan is that the sedan is 25kg heavier and misses out on a carbon fibre roof.

Given the additional weight of two extra doors BMW's engineers probably felt there was nothing to be gained (the roof shave 5kg or 20kg compared to a roof with sunroof fitted).

We were able to go for an all too brief blast in the M3 sedan down the autobahns of Germany this week.

Here it is legal to go as fast you like in certain areas, but you need to keep a watchful eye out for traffic entering from other lanes.

The M3 sounds fantastic under full throttle and at speeds exceeding 200km/h it makes for rapid transport.

The new seven-speed transmission is as good as they say, moving rapidly through the gears under hard acceleration, with an uncanny sense of timing, anticipating changes before the driver.

You can leave it in D or change gears manually using the wheel mounted change paddles.

The new transmission is quicker and uses less fuel than the auto or manual at 11.9 litres/100km.

As good as it is, after driving this car, it won't be long before the manual is discarded altogether.

The good news is that price of the sedan is expected to be between $12,000 and $15,000 cheaper than the $162,000 coupe.

The bad news is that the double clutch auto will set you back $6700 more no matter which model you buy.

At this price we can't see it reaching the incredible 70 per cent take up rate of the SMG transmission.


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