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Four-door BMW M3

The new car market is facing the doldrums, but BMW will inject some red-hot summer sizzle to the family sports saloon mix next weekend (SUBS Nov 22) with the launch of its first - for Australia - M3 with four doors.

The sports saloon market has been dominated by the potent 6.2-litre Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG saloon, leaving rival BMW out in the cold with nothing in its weaponry to counter.

But that's all about to change.

BMW's 4.0-litre V8-packing M3 sedan will join the M3 coupe and cabriolet to give its German rival a serious run for its money.

The M3 saloon will hit the streets running with, according to BMW, a price advantage over C63 AMG - but that depends on how you look at it.

The Benz sells for $144,365 and comes with a seven-speed auto G-tronic transmission.

The base M3 with a six-speed manual box has been priced at $145,000 which is $17,901 under the M3 coupe and $31,142 cheaper than the M3 cabriolet.

But the M3 saloon fitted with BMW's new Getrag seven-speed dual clutch robotised sequential manual/auto is priced at $152,309. BMW charges a hefty $7309 just for the sequential box.

BMW spokesman Toni Andreevski says the M3 manual still holds a price advantage over the C63 AMG: "The M3 saloon comes standard with a rear locking axle which Benz sells as a $5826 option and our saloon has keyless entry; Benz charges $1800 for that as an option and there's no 19-inch alloy wheel availability on the Mercedes."

BMW sells the optional larger wheels for an extra $4000.

The five-seater M3 offers serious performance from its 309kW V8 with 400Nm on tap which redlines at 8400rpm. Andreevski expects most buyers will opt for the dearer version of the M3 because it packs more performance for less fuel usage over the manual.

The dual clutch model is marginally quicker, if set in launch mode, taking a claimed 4.7 seconds to hit 100km/h; the conventional manual takes 4.9 seconds.

BMW says the semi-auto is rated at 11.9l/100km, while the best the manual can do is 12.4l/100km.

Standard gear includes a brake regeneration system which recharges the battery on overrun or braking, and 18-inch alloys shod with 245/40 ZR-rated rubber up front and 265/40s in the rear. The optional 19-inch alloys have an even lower profile, with 345/35 up front and 265/35 in the rear.

The saloon also boasts a full satellite navigation system with 8.8-inch colour monitor, TV, LOGIC7 hi-fi, bi-Xenon headlamps, Novillo leather upholstery, and M-seats which are power adjustable and heated.