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BMW M3 auto 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
9
Alistair Kennedy road tests and reviews the F80 BMW M3, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

BMW has launched the fifth-generation of its famed M3 high-performance machine. A major change is that it again uses a straight-six engine not the V8s of recently superseded models. This new engine, together with significant weight reduction, mean major improvements in both fuel consumption and emissions. 

At 1560 kg the M3 is about 60 kg lighter than its immediate predecessor. This has been achieved through the use of a variety of lightweight materials in particular carbon fibre and aluminium.

Adding to the more and less equation, there’s a slight price rise but one that’s more than offset by the inclusion of extra equipment.

DESIGN

2014 BMW M Models

Explore the 2014 BMW M Models range

The new M3 has a stockier appearance than before, partly because the wheels have been pushed further out taking the wheel arches with them. As before, the long BMW bonnet has been broken up by a power dome in its centre. 

Twin exhaust pipes on either side of the car’s rear remind fellow road users that this is a serious performance car.

The roof is made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) with a - heavier - powered glass sunroof available as a no-cost option. CFRP had previously only been used with the previous M3 coupe.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The new six-cylinder engine has twin turbochargers. Although its capacity is just 3.0-litres, such have been the recent improvements in engine technology that its maximum power of 317kW is marginally higher than the outgoing 4.0-litre V8 (309kW). 

When it comes to torque there’s no comparison with the 400Nm (at 3900 rpm) of the V8 being swamped by the 550 Nm of the new turbocharged six, and delivering it between 1850 and 5500 rpm. Such is the advantage of turbocharging.

The reduction in fuel consumption is just as dramatic, with the six-cylinder officially registering 8.3-litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, compared with the 11.9-litres per 100km of the eight. As usual we add our disclaimer that factory testing is almost invariably below real-world testing, never more so than in performance cars. Under sufferance we’ll do some subdued driving during our extended tests back in Australia and see what we come up with.

While the new twin-turbo lacks the throaty growl of the V8 it does put in a passable impression. It’s a different tone but almost as appealing for all but the 1970s diehards. 

Power is conveyed to the 19-inch wheels via an improved version of BMW’s seven-speed M double-clutch transmission. It has integrated launch control. 

It’s a gearbox that has almost all the advantages of a manual transmission, combining the performance of a full manual with the ease of operation of an automatic transmission and with the benefit of steering-wheel mounted shift paddles.

Although not available on our launch program cars, a six-speed manual is also available for the same price as the auto.

SAFETY

All of the expected safety features are included giving the expected five-star ANCAP rating. Highlights include Cornering Braking Control (CBC); Dynamic Braking Lights that set the brake lights and hazard lights flashing under heavy braking activate. There are IsoFix children restraints on the rear seats.

DRIVING

Our testing of the new M3 (and its cousin the M4 coupe which we cover in a separate story) comprised a hectic morning on the track and skid pan of New Zealand’s newest racetrack at Hampton Downs. That was followed by a 270-km dash along some delightful driving roads to Taupo in the centre of the North Island for some more track work and straight-line acceleration/braking tests.

The Land of the Long White Cloud lived up to its name throughout our two days of testing except that for the majority of the time they were black and leaking. A good thing in many ways, certainly in cars of this quality, because of the greater demands placed upon them. 

No surprise that despite plenty of aggressive driving the cars passed with flying colours gripping the road tenaciously and holding their lines through corners to perfection. Not to mention the peace of mind in knowing that if you do blunder there are a host of electronic minders there to help you get you out of trouble. 

Just keep in mind that that all the electronics in the world won’t let you beat the laws of physics. If you get it really wrong you’re probably going to crash.

The zero to 100 km/h sprint takes 4.1 seconds, again beating the V8 which stopped the clock at 4.7 seconds. 

Verdict

Once again BMW has managed to make their best even better. A smaller engine with forced induction gives more power and torque, at the same time providing lower fuel consumption and reduced carbon emissions. That combined with a lighter body to help provide improved  chassis dynamics. All in a practical car that can double up as family transport and excitement machine.  

The M3 sedan will sell for $156,900 plus on-road costs. BMW says this is about $8000 more than the superseded model, but points out that previously optional equipment that is now standard would have doubled that increase.

Pricing guides

$69,900
Based on 11 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$61,990
Highest Price
$78,980

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
M6 4.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $99,800 – 126,170 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M6 Pricing and Specs
M3 4.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $56,000 – 70,840 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M3 Pricing and Specs
M3 Frozen Silver L.e. 4.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $60,300 – 76,230 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M3 Frozen Silver L.e. Pricing and Specs
M3 Pure 4.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $45,200 – 57,090 2014 BMW M Models 2014 M3 Pure Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Pricing Guide

$61,990

Lowest price, based on 9 car listings in the last 6 months

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