Update - 07/21/2005
Seen here driving on the German Nürburgring is the first prototype of BMW's much anticipated M3. These photos confirm our original report (see story below) of a 4 door M3 being brought back into the model range since the E36 platform. We also reported the M3 would receive a V8 engine. If you look closely at the hood you'll notice the entire center has been sectioned out and replaced with a specially fabricated cover. It cannot be determined from these photos if the cover is steel or another material, however, it is clear that the purpose of this modification is to compensate for a larger engine. Other indicators of this prototype's intentions can be seen in the massive cross-drilled front and rear brake rotors as well as dual split exhaust pipes carefully hidden under the rear bumper fascia. Unfortunately this prototype is not having a full dress rehearsal since M3 styled front and rear fascias are absent as standard 3 Series bumpers take their place.
Original Story from 02/28/2005
In 2006 BMW will kick it up a notch in the sports coupe market with the much anticipated next generation E90 M3. Both Coupe and Cabriolet models are planned with a new addition of a 4 door sedan not seen since the E36 platform.
The initial idea considered was a 4 door M3 saloon and a 2 door M4 coupe. But recently BMW has changed their minds and keep the legendary M3 coupe alive. Internal pressure from the BMW board was too great to kill it off. Therefore, the M3 coupe, M3 saloon and an M3 cabriolet in addition to an M4 2 door coupe/cabriolet will be developed. Did you get all that?
(Edit: The M4 will be a coupe/cabriolet = 2 door coupe with folding hardtop)
The M3 coupe will feature a 6 Series like glasshouse with the possibility of a new distinct interior. The front will sport a new aggressive yet subtle bumper while the rear will display quad exhausts like the new M5. Power will come from a new lightweight V8 producing around 400hp and uses the latest dual-VANOS variable valve timing system. New engine building technology and lightweight materials mean the engine should amazingly weigh the same as the outgoing 3.2 liter in-line 6 cylinder from the current E46 M3 but with considerably more power.
During early testing of the cabriolet version of the 3 series BMW experimented with both a normal canvas roof and a hard folding top but decided on the canvas due to weight savings and maintenance.
The new M3 is slated to arrive in early 2006 with a 2005 Frankfurt debut and the cabriolet will have a Geneva 2006 debut with sales beginning in summer 2006. The SMG transmission will come standard and a CSL version of the coupe with excess of 420hp is being planned as well.
The M4 will also feature theV8 engine mentioned above in the M3 and should go on sale later. No further details are known. A concept for the regular 4 Series is slated for Frankfurt in September.
Originally published as: "During early testing of the cabriolet version of the 4 series..." Edited 03/24/05 to read "During early testing of the cabriolet version of the 3 series..."