Even though spy photos of the next-generation BMW M3 and BMW M4 have been appearing on the internet for some months – a sign that a showroom debut is not far away – the company has confirmed there is now going to be a 12-month delay.
The next-generation M-cars were due to be in European showrooms by the end of this year, with an Australian introduction some time in 2020 – but both release dates have been pushed back by at least 12 months.
At the recent M Festival in South Africa, the head of BMW M Division, Markus Flasch, revealed the company’s rollout of key high-performance models through 2021.
“So 2021 will be the year of the BMW M3 and M4,” Mr Flasch says. “There’s not so much I can disclose about the models but you can expect that we will have the most powerful engine in the segment.
"It will have a manual stick shift, all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. You can expect we will do (a number of) derivatives and special models based on this, because this (3 Series family) is what BMW was founded on.”
While there’s little fresh light in Mr Flasch’s comments on drivetrain, his “most powerful engine in segment” is a sign of power escalation that will surely stoke enthusiasm amongst fans of the premium mid-sized high-performance segment.
Outputs of current 3.0-litre turbo-six M3 and M4 range start at 317kW/550Nm and top out at 368kW/600Nm, though it’s long been believed the new 'G20'-based successor will feature variations of the ‘S58’ engine currently offering 375kW/600Nm the X3 M and X4 M.
As a yardstick for M3 outputs, its key rival – the Mercedes-AMG C63 – develops between 350kW/650Nm (regular) and 375kW/700Nm (S version) from its 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 though, as previously reported, the rumour mill suggests AMG could move to a turbo-four with plug-in hybrid propulsion for next-gen C63, potentially making 400kW and 800Nm.
Meanwhile, the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV outputs 375kW and 600Nm of torque from its 2.9-litre V6 engine.
Mr Flasch confirmed BMW M is developing electrified powertrains, be it solely or in conjunction the BMW mothership, yet clearly stated that its "pure" M3 and M4 models will stick solely with internal combustion for the 2021 release.
“The models that will see electrification won’t be the pure, the core, the most distilled projects such as the M2, 3 and 4,” Mr Flasch says.
“If we do something that will bring weight it’s very likely to be to a heavier, larger car. The X5 M today is a heavy and large car.”
Why the delay to 2021? While BMW M did not provide any specifics, it’s believed to have been caused by the backlog of engineering work required to re-certify cars to meet new, more realistic fuel economy testing, which has impacted most European brands.