Spy photos of disguised pre-production BMW M3s have been around for a couple of years, but this is the first time that we've been able to see (and hear!) the full M-car version of the G20-generation of the 3 Series driven in anger. We expect the production version to be unveiled before the end of the year.
Picture credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien. Video published on YouTube by Auto Addiction.
We are getting tantalisingly close to the full reveal of the G80-generation M3; BMW's M Division boss Markus Flasch has previously said the new G20 3 Series-based M3 would only go into production in late 2020, with cars arriving at dealers in early 2021 (but he did say that before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we hasten to add). Our spy photographers have spotted the eagerly anticipated Bavarian sports sedan being testing at the Nurburgring (again) and late last year, the newcomer's rear was revealed by a spy photo that appeared on an enthusiast website.
BMW cannot really afford to delay the introduction of the M3 for much longer as the evocative (and recently updated) Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio stole much of the outgoing car's thunder (let alone the headlining GTA version) and the current 3 Series has been on the market for a good while. Our spy photographers suggest that the newcomer will adopt the oversized vertical (beaver-toothed, to be unkind) grille we saw on the BMW 4 Concept (revealed at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show). The controversial styling cue is widely expected to feature on the next 4 Series and, therefore M4, but the nature of the camouflage of this disguised pre-production car might just be a classic case of misdirection to keep nosey enthusiasts – let alone motoring writers – guessing.
We expect that the S58 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder of the BMW X3 M and X4 M will be utilised in the next M3. That motor delivers 375 kW and 600 Nm in its Competition spec, but bear in mind that the M Division may want to keep a bit in reserve for hotter versions of the G80. The general consensus about the car featured in the Auto Addiction video is that it is fitted with larger-bore exhaust ends and consequently, sounds fruitier than the standard car will. It's possibly courtesy of an M Performance upgrade, but it might also be a Competition-spec M3 in the video...
The quartet of exhaust ends leaves no doubt that this is an unbadged G80-generation M3. Pic credit: Auto Evolve.
All that remains to be seen (apart from the shape of the new M3's double-kidney grille), is whether the car will feature the xDrive all-wheel-drive system (like the BMW M5) in conjunction with an 8-speed automatic (non-dual clutch) transmission. Given the standard sports sedan's executive-express model positioning and lofty expected power and torque outputs, it stands to reason that the initial version of the new M3 will effectively be "a much wilder M340i xDrive" (in a manner of speaking). However, it's been widely reported that a manual-gearbox version of the car will also be produced. Performance purists and a bunch of M traditionalists are hoping that rear-wheel-drive will be offered too, but perhaps only as a temporary switchable mode in the car's M drive-mode settings.
Auto Addiction also recently published a video of the upcoming G82-generation M4 being put through its paces. Watch it here.