2008 BMW M3 Sedan Preview
By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2007
- Shares the fourth-generation M3 Coupe engine and mechanicals
- Marks the second offering of an M3 Sedan
- First M3 Sedan with a V8 powerplant
- Standard 6-speed manual transmission
- MDrive allows driver customization of vehicle dynamics
- Aggressive styling differentiates it from the standard 3 Series sedan
- North American sales start in Spring 2008
Now in its fourth-generation, the BMW M3 has been sold in North America for nearly two decades. In that twenty-year period, enthusiasts have been offered an M3 sedan just once, for a few short years in the late 1990's based on the E36 chassis. With only slight cosmetic changes to differentiate itself, the E36 M3 Sedan looked much like the standard 328i sedan at the time-even though the M3 Sedan hid a powerful inline-6 under its hood and M-tuned suspension and braking components under the fenders. At its introduction, the E36 M3 was touted as the world's fastest sport sedan.
After a model-generation absence, and eight years time, BMW M GmbH is once again introducing the M3 Sedan-on the modern E90 chassis. Following on the heels of the 2008 M3 Coupe, the 2008 BMW M3 Sedan shares nearly all of the same mechanicals. The powerful all-new V-8 powerplant, M-tuned suspension, compound brakes, and options list are nearly identical. The chassis, now with a set of rear doors, sets the two apart.
Sharing few physical similarities with the standard 3 Series sedan, the BMW M3 Sedan features an aggressive, sporting stance. Available in just one trim level, and equipped with the same V-8 powerplant as the M3 Coupe, the front of the M3 Sedan features a new front end boasting three large intakes on the grille and a power dome on the aluminum hood. The front quarter panels sport the BMW M-model characteristic "gills" with the M3 logo. The rear of the M3 Sedan appears muscular with contoured bumpers, a split diffuser underneath, and four exhaust pipes. New M-specific mirrors, M-specific wheels, and a discreet lip spoiler on the trunk lid complete the package.
The aggressive and sporty theme is continued inside the M3 Sedan. Upgraded from the standard 3 Series sedans, heavily bolstered leather sport seats hold the driver and passenger firmly during spirited driving. A thick leather M steering wheel with thumb contours, M shift knob, and a revised M-specific instrument cluster face the driver. The headliner color is an exclusive near-black Anthractite-replacing gray in the standard sedan. BMW says the dark color helps the driver focus on driving.
Options for the 2008 BMW M3 Sedan include backrest-width adjustments for the front seats, folding rear seatbacks, SIRIUS satellite radio, and a DVD-based navigation system. A USB-enabled port for control of an Apple iPod or iPhone media player is available.
Historically, all BMW M3s have been front-engine, rear-wheel-drive. The 2008 M3 Sedan is no exception. An all-new 4.0-liter V-8 is rated at 414 hp, making this the most powerful M3 Sedan ever sold. When compared to the 3.2-liter 333 hp six-cylinder engine found in the previous generation M3 Coupe, the new V-8 powerplant weighs less, yet offers a substantial increase in power. (Enthusiasts will recall the last powerplant offered in a U.S.-spec M3 Sedan was a 3.2-liter inline-6 rated at 240 hp.) For now, the only transmission offered is a 6-speed manual with a mass inertia optimized, and internally ventilated, twin-disc clutch.
BMW developed a new aluminum chassis specifically for this model with near-perfect 50/50 weight balance in mind. Virtually all front-end components have been constructed with lightweight aluminum. These include the front struts, swivel bearings, central subframe, and a stiffening thrust panel below the engine. The five-arm design rear axle, transverse arms and track arms, are also manufactured from lightweight aluminum alloy. Both front and rear axles feature hollow anti-roll bars. Hidden inside the standard 18-inch light-alloy wheels are four large, ventilated and drilled, compound high performance disc brakes equipped with ABS.
Assisting the driver, power distribution between the wheels and suspension settings are controlled both mechanically and electronically. A mechanical rear differential, called the M Differential Lock, is able to transfer 100% of the power to the drive wheel with the best traction. Electronic Damper Control (EDC) optimizes the car's dive and roll during cornering, acceleration, and braking. Electronic intervention, which can be completely defeated, is handled by the multi-mode Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). BMW's "MDrive" allows the driver to personalize many of the M3 Sedan's driving characteristics including traction control settings, stability control sensitivity, suspension modes, and throttle response.
The comprehensive safety features on the 2008 BMW M3 Sedan mirror those found in the 2008 M3 Coupe. These include dual front-impact airbags (with dual-threshold deployment), front-seat side-impact airbags, and pretensioning seatbelts to protect the driver and front passenger. All outboard passengers are further protected by side-impact curtain airbags running the length of the cabin. BMW's Advanced Crash Safety Management system unlocks the doors, switches on the hazard flashers, illuminates the interior lights, and disconnects the fuel pump, alternator, and starter in the event of a severe accident.
The M3 Sedan may also be equipped with BMW Assist, a hands-free communication system based on GPS and cellular phone technology. In the event of an accident, the system will automatically alert authorities to the exact location of the vehicle. BMW Assist also offers roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery, and concierge services.
The race-bred V-8 mounted under the M3 Sedan's hood utilizes ion-current technology to determine engine knock, misfires, and poor combustion (these conditions, the results of fuel burning in an uncontrolled manner, are detrimental to engine life). Unlike most engine management systems that control and monitor combustion from external sensor points, BMW uses an innovative system to monitor engine performance from within the combustion chamber itself-the spark plug. Each of the eight spark plugs is tasked with fuel ignition, and monitoring and controlling the combustion process. The dual function of the spark plugs facilitates better performance, diagnostics, and maintenance of the M3's engine. -Michael Harley
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