What is your rating of BMW M3

When it pours like a bucket, the mechanics sweat: Semi-slicks down, fully profiled road tires on - for the entire test fleet at the Sachsenring. The rain is a blessing because it reveals strengths and weaknesses even at lower speeds. The current M 4 welcomes the driver like an old friend. The seating position fits, the steering and brakes are perfectly balanced, the dual clutch transmission shines both in sport mode and when shifting manually. Is the 450 hp coupé really ready for a successor?

"The real progress lies in the details", Dirk Häcker is convinced. That's why the head of development at BMW M lets the testers do five laps in the old M 4. Despite puddles, rivulets and stagnant water in both braking zones. Then you switch to the new M 3. The cockpit is different and yet familiar, but the playful instrument graphics have no chance against the revised head-up display, which bundles all the essential information in the field of vision: speed, engine speed, drive level, that's that . The switches, buttons and screens are partially covered (confidentiality!), But if you press buttons on suspicion, you will eventually find what you are looking for. The engine and damper can then be resharpened in three stages by entering the setup, and especially in Sport Plus it gets down to business without delay.

Analogous to the M 5, the smaller brothers now also offer a choice between the Comfort and Sport settings for steering and brakes. This is unnecessary, because in sport only the steering effort changes, but not the gear ratio. The brakes respond more spontaneously in sport without reducing the stopping distance. BMW crosses the line to gimmick with the M Drift Control, which - similar to the comparable AMG system - allows different degrees of oversteer and even grades it. Among other things, the drift angle, length of the drift and the motor power retrieved for this are displayed and saved, of course including a warning notice and a disclaimer.

Brushed on the outside to riot only

The model year 2021 of the M 3 and M 4 is only externally brushed for riot. You should like the grill, the add-on parts should be a topic of conversation on the promenade, the color palette is pleasantly brave, some details are as playful as they are inoperative - for example the fin in the front fender or the fake air outlet in the rear bumper. The extroverted appearance counteracts to a certain extent the technology, which is even more sovereign in almost all points, which sets another milestone in the maturation process, which began in 1986 with the first M 3. No, it's not the extra power that the new cars score with. With 480 hp, the in-line six has only gained a relatively modest 30 hp, and the version with manual transmission barely accelerates faster than its predecessor with DKG automatic. With the new engine, the maximum speed drops to 7200 rpm, but the torque peak increases by 100 Nm to 650 Nm. While the manual switch divides the cake into six pieces as usual, the more convenient automatic converter shifts up a gear and can now count up to eight. Because more and more customers want four driven wheels, BMW will soon be offering the M xDrive system familiar from the M 5 - which still has a rear-wheel drive mode for drifting.

The unexpectedly binding clutch and the amazingly smooth gearbox almost make you forget that the strongest variants of the 3 and 4 series are on the road here. Instead, the highlights are the optimized chassis, including the even more nimble M differential and the really impressive Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubbers, the tread of which is likely to have a high proportion of tree resin, liquorice and superglue. The new additions, which are 50 kilos lighter, also steer in more precisely, keep their lane even more relentlessly, shift gear almost smoothly and look more adult overall. If you want more performance, you have to be patient. The M 3 / M 4 Competition (510 PS, next year), the significantly more pointed CS (530PS, model year 2022), the highly dynamic CSL (550PS, 2022) and a GT 3 racing version are in preparation. In addition to the M 3 Sedan, M 4 Coupé and the convertible, which will in future be equipped with a fabric top, an M 3 Touring is planned for the first time, which, if desired, can score points with the M xDrive four-wheel drive against arch rivals of the race track such as the Audi RS 4 Avant and Mercedes C 63 AMG should.

By the time of the tattoo at 6 p.m., the route was almost dry. Change tires again? Despite the high rubber temperatures, the boss decides to take one last ride on scrubbed material. The farewell tour underlines once again the excellent handling, the exemplary balance right up to the limit, the front axle grip that cannot be disturbed by anything, the lightning-fast responsiveness of the steering and brakes. The crest in front of the Saxon curve is now even full in the slightly heavier M 3, which only loses one or two tenths on the M 4 lead vehicle on the start-finish straight, in which a multiple German champion is struggling. Conclusion: Those who like the current car will also appreciate the successor - apart from the sports seats that are too hard in the shoulder area, the lack of electrification and the polarizing design. What do the marketing popes think of a stealth version free of charge with the friendly face of the M 340i?

Editor's note

Some of the products presented were made available to the editors by the manufacturers for test purposes and / or presented on trips to which journalists were invited.