by Paul Dana
On sale date: Fall 2000
Expected pricing: $43,000+
BMW won't reveal much about the next-generation M3, but that doesn't mean enthusiasts shouldn't get excited. Since the second-generation performance variant of the 3 Series sedan came to life in 1992, more than 70,000 M3s have been sold worldwide. Those lucky enough to own one know that it may well be the perfect all-around car for driving enthusiasts. Like few other offerings, it combines world-class sports car performance with the practicality and luxury of a fine German sedan.
A prototype of the future M3 version was on display at the Frankfurt Auto Show, and the production version is expected to hit showrooms in the fall of 2000 as a 2001 model.
The new car wears more overt clues to its performance than did its predecessor. Styling updates include a revised front air dam with aggressive flares at its outer corners, stout rocker panels, flared wheel arches, plus an imposing bulge in the center of the hood to hint at the power lying within. Like its Z3 and Z8 brethren, the new M3 also will sport horizontal vents cut into the fenders behind the front wheels. Four tailpipes poke through the rear valance instead of the normal two. Wheels on the show car were 18-inch multi-spoke design, and the whole machine was finished in satin chrome paint.
Word on the street says the car will feature 340 horsepower emanating from a revised 3.4-liter straight-six engine, an increase in size and power from the 3.2-liter 321-horsepower unit found in the current European-spec M3. M3s in the U.S. currently make do with 240 horsepower. It has also been reported that the car will offer a sequential semi-automatic gearbox operated with thumb switches on the steering wheel. A convertible version may also be in the mix. BMW officials would shed no light on these details.
The concept car is scheduled to appear again at the Detroit Auto Show in early January, at which time more information should be available.
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© 2000 New Car Test Drive, Inc.