Welcome to Friday. A mailbag question about the BMW M3 vs the M4 is headed your way, and the answer comes along with a gallery of the BMW CCA Spring Opener to help illustrate my point.
As always, email me!
Is there any difference between the M3 vs the M4 from a technical point of view? I swear the M4 feels a bit more sporty compared to the M3, and since I don’t need a real back seat, I’m wondering if the M4 is the way to go.
Jerry, this question is surprisingly difficult to answer. A short version is that they are nearly identical. But if we take a deeper look, I can show you a few differences in the M3 vs the M4.
A search online doesn’t reveal too much aside from the usual “M3 has four doors for more…” Never mind, we don’t need to finish that sentence. Instead, let’s do some work with numbers.
The 3 and 4 Series are not the same car
Of course, these M twins are based on their baby bros, the 3 and 4 Series. But the M cars have been hitting the juice.They get bulked up.
First we measure track on the 3 Series/M3, or the width between the center of the front and rear tires.
- 3 Series front track: 62.3
- M3 front track: 63.7
- 3 Series rear track: 61.7
- M3 rear track: 63.2
Next, the 4 Series
- 4 Series front track: 62.3
- M4 front track: 63.7
- 4 Series rear track: 62.7
- M4 rear track: 63.2
Basically, the 4 Series is wider in back by one inch over the 3 Series. Both are smaller than the M3 and M4, but because the M3 is based on the narrower body of the 3 Series, its chassis needs a bit more finesse to get the width of the M4. That’s where those delicious big hips come in.
Weight for M3
Next up is weight and height. We’ll use the base manual version for both:
- M3: 3,840 lbs., 56.4 inches tall
- M4: 3,830 lbs., 54.8 inches tall
Now before you start typing that email – no, you will not notice ten pounds. But that two inches in height is a pretty significant difference, especially if the M3 you drove was equipped with a sunroof as oppose to the carbon fiber one. Both the M3 and M4 share identical wheelbases and overall length, so their weight distribution is nearly identical (52.9 / 47.1 – M3, 52.7 / 47.3 – M4).
As a final nail in the performance coffin, check the 0-60 times:
- M4 Competition xDrive: 2.8 seconds. 1/4-Mile: 11.0 sec @ 125 mph
- M3 Competition xDrive: 2.8 seconds. 1/4-Mile: 11.0 sec @ 124 mph
Credit the single MPH to the M4’s lower profile.
So far, we can’t really find a reason why Jerry thinks the M4 drives better – you’d really need a practiced hand to feel the minor differences the M4 has.
Remove the flat plastic coverings underneath either car, and you’re greeted with enough bracing and stiffening plates to build a new bridge across the Hudson. We make fun of these M cars for weighing so much more than their predecessors, but one look under here proves it’s not just because of some extra wiring and screens.
The suspension part numbers, steering ratios, and every other drivetrain component is identical. This doesn’t include the M4 CSL, but that’s a story for another day.
The M3 vs the M4 is about perception
To this day, an M4 is really just an M3 Coupe. BMW has pulled an Audi to make their coupes one better than their sedan counterpart and in turn charging more for it.
It’s not just the G8X. The E and F generations suffered from the same issue of “the coupe must be sportier”. None are. So Jerry, consider the myth debunked. The M3 vs the M4 isn’t really much of a fight. Just pick the one you like best.
BMW CCA Spring Opener Gallery
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