Seen in Detroit: BMW M4

M3.

For BMW fans – or, indeed, car fans in general – that name connotes everything we love about cars: power, speed, handling, balance, the perfect companion for the road ahead.

At least, it used to.

As the high-performance version of BMW’s venerable 3-series, the M3 has appeared variously as a sedan, coupe or convertible since 1985. In the opinion of many (myself included), the E46 M3, produced between 2000 and 2006, represented the pinnacle of design and performance for the M3. Available as a coupe or a convertible, the E46 M3 featured a 3.2L naturally-aspirated I6 engine, making 333 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque (US specs). Beginning in 2007, the M3 gained a V8, along with a four-door body style. It also incorporated the new 3-series design (thanks for nothing, Chris Bangle). With the demise of the E46, and the onslaught of BMW’s charmless new design scheme and single-minded focus on technology, my enthusiasm for the M3 waned.

The M3 coupe is now dead. Yes, after nearly 30 hallowed years, you can no longer acquire a new M3 coupe. All is not lost, however.

Meet the M4.

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In an effort to confuse consumers even more than they already do, BMW has changed its naming system. Now, rather than having a 3-series sedan, coupe and convertible, the sedan will be badged a 3-series and the coupe (and presumably, convertible) are now the 4-series. Get it? Four-doors get an odd number, two-doors an even number. It kinda makes sense.

Names aside, though, the M4 gives me hope. The design has improved (and the interior is no longer quite the homage to humorless technology gods that it has recently been), and the 6-cylinder engine returns, this time in fabulous twin-turbo form and reportedly producing 431 hp. Aesthetically and on paper, the M4 strikes me as being philosophically closer to its E46 ancestor than the 2007-14 M3. That is a good thing. Hopefully I’m right.

The M4 is out later this year, I believe. Expect a mid-$65,000 price tag. Right – that means you and I might as well just enjoy these photos, since that’s about as close as we’re gonna get!

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Happy driving, y’all.

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