Driven By Technology
There's so much technology behind the M3's superb performance that you could fill a telephone book with all the details. For starters, the engine features BMW's "double VANOS" variable cam timing system. While variable cam timing has been seen on many automobile powerplants for years (and the only motorcycle currently sporting variable cam timing is Kawasaki's Concours 14 sport-tourer), a unique aspect of the double VANOS is that both the intake and exhaust camshaft timing are continuously variable by the ECU over a much wider range than previous applications. This allows early valve opening and short overlap for optimum low-end torque, smooth running, and fuel efficiency, along with late opening/abundant valve timing overlap for peak volumetric efficiency at high rpm to give maximum horsepower.
But even more important are the chassis components (or rather, electronics) that help the driver control that power. The M3 is equipped with what is called the "M Drive" system that allows electronic adjustments to various engine, suspension, and steering components so that the driver can custom-tailor the car's behavior for his particular driving style or need. And the settings go far beyond conventional adjustments.
The latest generation M3 coupe...
The latest generation M3 coupe is the first mass production automobile to come standard with a carbon fiber roof. Other outer components such as the aluminum engine hood and thermoplastic front fenders help centralize mass for better handling. Sound familiar?
Interestingly, the M3's front...
Interestingly, the M3's front brakes use single-piston slide calipers to grab its massive 360mm x 30mm vented and cross-drilled discs. Their proven performance shows how important the pad compound/disc friction interface is over flashy items such as six-piston calipers.
The M3's 4.0-liter DOHC V8...
The M3's 4.0-liter DOHC V8 engine cranks out an impressive 414 horsepower at 8300 rpm. Sportbike engines have been treading deep into the 100-horsepower-per-liter output zone for decades, but production automobile engines have only recently begun to exceed this mark.
One is the "Electronic Damper Control" option. Unlike the ESA on BMW's K-bikes or the electronically adjustable Öhlins suspension on Ducati's new Multistrada 1200S, the EDC isn't limited to static settings; instead, it uses various sensors to continuously adjust the shocks' damping according to driving conditions. By measuring aspects such as the car's speed, the front wheel steering angle, and the vertical acceleration of the front and rear axles, the EDC is able to continuously swap between three damping curves in split-second increments via magnetic valves in the shock bodies. The driver can also manually select one of the three damping curves (Comfort, Normal, or Sport) if desired.
The M3 is also equipped with "Servotronic" electronic steering assist. An electromagnetic valve controls the amount of force applied by the steering hydraulics in relation to the driving situation. The power assist progressively decreases as the vehicle speeds up, ostensibly allowing the driver better feel and more precise steering.
Our S 1000 RR test unit came...
Our S 1000 RR test unit came equipped with the BMW accessory Akrapovic slip-on muffler. Performance improvement was minimal, but sound improvement was definitely noticeable, while still remaining relatively quiet at low throttle settings.
It's the BMW DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) that most represents the crossover in technology between the company's automobiles and motorcycles, however. By measuring various parameters (each wheel's speed, throttle position, steering angle, and a gyro sensor to signal when one end of the car is out of line in relation to the corner), the DSC is able to prevent the M3 from losing control in a turn no matter what the driver does by applying brakes to any of the four wheels and/or reducing power. While the Dynamic Traction Control/Race ABS on the S 1000 RR obviously cannot prevent the rider from losing control due to a motorcycle's single-track stance, it's interesting to note that the two-wheel system uses similar parameters (wheel speeds, throttle position, and a gyro sensor for lean angle instead of yaw) to determine when and how much to intervene.
Unlike the S 1000 RR's system, the M3's electronic nannies are even more adjustable once you access the "M Drive" menu in the iDrive dash display. Not only are you able to separately adjust the EDC and Servotronic steering assist, but also the engine's throttle response, and the DSC as well. One similarity though, is setting the DSC to "M Dynamic Mode"; this allows the driver much more freedom to exceed traction limits before it reels everything back in-much like the Slick mode in the DTC/Race ABS on the S 1000 RR sportbike.