BMW UK has announced details of the new BMW M3 Coupe, a model that 21 years ago created an entirely new segment for super-high-performance compact cars. In the past two decades and three previous generations, the M3 has proved a success on road and track. Originally powered by BMW’s first 16-valve four-cylinder engine and subsequently by 3.0-litre and 3.2-litre powerplants, BMW M3 engines took top category honours on a record six successive occasions in the Engine of the Year awards. Racing derivatives have also won more Touring Car titles than any other car as well as numerous Endurance races.

With DNA connecting the new M3’s engine to that of the BMW Sauber F1 Team, the racing link is maintained in the fourth generation M3. The new M3 Coupe engine develops 420hp at 8,300rpm and 400Nm of torque at 3,900rpm from its 3,999cc V8-power unit, and red-lines at 8,400rpm. To highlight the flexibility of the engine, 85 per cent of torque is available from 6,500rpm. Power is transferred to the road by BMW M’s six-speed manual gearbox and variable M differential which conveys up to 100 per cent of available power to the wheel with most grip.

Like its predecessor, the new V8-powered BMW M3 easily breaks through the magical 100hp per litre barrier, offering 105hp per litre. This engine powers the car from zero to 62mph in 4.8 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. However, these supercar levels of performance do not compromise economy with the car still delivering 22.8mpg on the combined cycle, being an eight per cent improvement over the outgoing car.

This relative frugal economy is delivered, in part, thanks to BMW’s EfficientDynamics programme. Far from only influencing the smaller-engined cars in the range, EfficientDynamics offers benefits to one of the most sporting cars offered by BMW, courtesy of Brake Energy Regeneration. This technology uses an Intelligent Alternator Control and Absorbent Glass Mat battery to recognise when the engine is on over-run and activates the alternator to charge the battery with what would previously have been wasted energy.

Another facet of BMW’s EfficientDynamics programme is lightweight technology. The previous-generation M3 CSL showed how carbon-fibre could be used by BMW in limited-volume production cars. The new M3 Coupe is the first full production car in its class to feature a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic roof panel with exposed weave. In isolation, the carbon-fibre roof panel saves 5kgs over a conventional roof panel but it also lowers the centre of gravity to contribute to the M3’s benchmark driving dynamics.

The drivetrain in the new M3 Coupe features lightweight, but high-strength, materials. Using an engine block manufactured alongside F1 engines at BMW’s light-alloy foundry at Landshut, Germany, the new V8 powerplant weighs a mere 202kgs, 15kgs less than the six-cylinder engine it replaces. To further highlight the weight advantages, the crankshaft in the new engine is made from one complete forging and weighs only 20kgs. Additionally, the front axle components are constructed entirely from aluminium. Even the five-link rear axle, normally constructed from high-strength steel, has aluminium components to save weight. The control arms and dampers alone are 2.5kgs lighter than conventional parts.

Like the larger BMW M5 and M6 models, the new M3 Coupe also features an MDrive button that brings together numerous personalised functions of the car. The settings for the optional Electronic Damper Control (Normal, Comfort and Sport), three DSC+ traction control settings and three specific engine control maps, plus the response rate of the Servotronic power steering can be controlled with one button on the steering wheel. Once the desired settings are created in the iDrive menu, part of the standard Professional navigation system, one push of the MDrive button transforms the M3 from a car to drive to the shops to a track day special.

All of these power, technology and lightweight innovations combine in the new BMW M3 Coupe to offer a car that is significantly faster around the infamous northern loop of the Nordschliefe. The outgoing M3 was capable of an 8mins 15secs lap but an official lap time for the V8-engined M3 Coupe has yet to be announced.

The new BMW M3 Coupe shares many design cues and components with the ‘standard’ 3 Series Coupe model. Only the doors, bootlid, windows and front / rear lamps are carried over. However, a number of subtle performance enhancements combine to deliver an unmistakably sporting outline. A striking powerdome and two air intakes in the aluminium bonnet cover the new V8-engine and help engine cooling. Primarily, the design of the front of the car is created by the need for significant volumes of air for the induction system. As a result, three large air ducts in the front lower valance keep the engine breathing.

In profile, the new M3 Coupe features 18-inch double-spoke light-alloy wheels as standard, with a striking 19-inch wheel available as an option. Another BMW M trait, a side gill in the front wing, also includes the side direction indicator and the M3 logo. Such is the performance of the new car, even the exterior door mirrors enhance the aerodynamic characteristics of the car and provide a degree of downforce.

From the rear, an aerodynamically-efficient diffuser emphasises BMW M’s trademark twin double exhaust pipes protruding from beneath the valance. The bootlid also features a discreet lip spoiler.

The new BMW M3 Coupe goes on sale in September 2007 and prices will be announced nearer the launch date.