UPDATE - 07.02.2019
A constant flow of information from rumourville has prevented the next BMW M3 from slipping far from our minds. But today, our spy photographers have given us the most tangible thing we can get our teeth into: new pictures of the G80-generation super saloon testing out in public. They provide us with the clearest glimpse of what's to come from a model due to hit the market with up to 500hp.
That's what the internet would have us believe will be the case for the top Competition variant, anyway, with the model sitting above a 'regular' M3 and pared-back Pure. We've more on that below, so for now, we'll focus on what the new spy pictures show us. Those flared wheel arches look like they hide a fairly generous increase in track width beneath them, don't they? And we spy some negative camber at both front and rear, suggesting the 2020 car is being given a pretty aggressive chassis setup from the off.
The sharpest of them all could actually be the Pure, because it'll forgo all-wheel drive - the same adjustable system used in the M5 - for a rear-only setup, although with less driven rubber and fewer horses from the twin-turbocharged inline-six beneath the bonnet, it'll inevitably be the slowest of the lot. There's no clear signal as to what driveline is underneath today's development car; we'd expect that big box exhaust with quad exits to be common across all the variants, though, as it was on the previous M3.
The rest of what we can see is largely standard G20 3 Series, with the LED lighting at the rear identical. The front lamps aren't production units but rather the ones BMW fits to its development cars, so we'd expect the same twin LED day running lights as usual to be integrated on the finished product. The front bumper, although heavily covered, seems to have enlarged intakes to keep the intercooler feeding the 3.0-litre motor behind it. Presumably BMW's M department will swap the G20 mirrors for the sharper M3 ones we've become used to as well.
This car doesn't seem to have the optional carbon ceramic disc and gold caliper combo we might expect to come as standard on the top Competition variant. Perhaps the M department is planning on launching that version a little later and this is an example of the regular, circa 475hp M3, then. We'll probably have to wait till next year to find out.
PREVIOUS STORY - 30.09.2018
Remember the rumour of a BMW M3 Pure that surfaced a couple of weeks back? It's now been joined by more speculative information that suggests the next-generation super saloon will come in three guises, with the top using a twin-turbocharged straight six to produce 500hp - 40hp more than the run out F80 CS model.
According to a thread on Bimmerpost, the Pure will be the entry level G80-generation M3 with 444hp, but with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive it'll arguably be the driver's favourite. Above this, there'll be the 'regular' M3, possibly an xDrive only model with 475hp, and a top Competition model, which could use the same all-wheel drive base to channel 500hp.
Like the M5, it's probable that xDrive M3s will be capable of rear- and all-wheel drive. But it seems that the non-Pure M3s will be automatics only, because BMW doesn't make a manual tough enough to handle the extra torque. On that subject, it looks like BMW's new eight-speed torque converter will replace the DCT, because it's that good.
While this is all speculative information for now, it does make sense. BMW's been keen to offer its M models earlier into each of its series' production life cycles to boost sales. Providing a wider-reaching line-up of M cars would surely continue this volume-increasing trend, while also keeping both the purists and mainstream happy.
If BMW can carry the latest 3 Series' weight losses over to the M3 and develop a melodious powertrain that can rival Alfa Romeo's intoxicating 3.0-litre V6, then, well, you have to imagine it'd be onto a winner. Good news, then, that rumourville expects the M division to slot its most advanced inline six beneath the G80's snout, codenamed 'S58' and featuring a water injection system to maximise performance. It's due out in late 2020...
ORIGINAL STORY - 18.01.2019
Less equipment for more money is hardly a new concept in the car industry. Numerous lightweight specials over the years have been sold at a premium, and the genre has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years, too, with manufacturers realising that a market exists for simpler, more analogue cars at a time of radical technological advance: see Porsche 911 R, Aston Vantage V12 S manual, Audi R8 RWS and so on (the latter not more expensive, granted).
One manufacturer yet to embrace the trend is BMW, with M cars now heavier and more complex than they've ever been. Even an M2 Competition, one of the best in recent history, is heavier than the standard M2 because of its new engine. However, that may all be about to change with the next generation of M3.
If Car is to be believed, there will be a 'Pure' version of the upcoming car, available exclusively with a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive, while the regular model gets all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission as standard. While that might seem a wee bit cynical, it might also be the best way of preserving right-drive and the fast-fading prospect of a third pedal.
Think of the 911 R argument: if options like the single-mass flywheel, manual gearbox, titanium exhaust and 500hp GT3 engine were quietly introduced to the Carrera options list, they might have received quite the same attention as a bespoke, stripey, homage-happy model. Manual M3s have not been popular with new buyers ever since any kind of automatic has been available - look at how many SMG E46s are still around - so the logic of combining the option with a designated trim level makes sense.
The early intel also suggests that the Pure M3 and M4 will have less power than the flagship version - 460hp against 480hp - and probably reduced torque as well because BMW doesn't have a manual that can handle more than 480lb ft. The 3.0-litre straight six will be bolstered with water injection like the M4 GTS and renamed as 'S58', said to be the most sophisticated inline six BMW has ever made.
The regular M3 is thought to inherit a version of the M xDrive all-wheel drive from the M5, along with an eight-speed auto replacing the DCT - BMW having hinted previously at automatics taking the place once occupied by dual-clutchers. Expect acceleration and lap times to improve with the additional ratio and traction, with the Pure - or whatever its production name is - there to cater for those who feel the M3 is all getting a bit much.
The next generation of M3 and M4 is due at Frankfurt in September, BMW naturally using its home show to make the big reveal. Naturally all of this is informed conjecture for now, though rumours of a rear-drive only, manual-only M3 ought to appease those who feel BMW have abandoned their illustrious heritage to some extent. With a dedicated model they might even put the effort into making the manual nicer to use - let's wait and see. And hope. More news no doubt following soon!