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Debunking the M3 vs M4 myth, and the BMW CCA Spring opener

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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!

Question

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

Answer

BMW CCA Spring Cruise

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

BMW CCA Spring Cruise
The M3 and M4 look identical from the front.

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
BMW CCA Spring Cruise
Sedans have larger openings in their body, but with modern technology, stiffness remains the same as the coupe.

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

BMW CCA Spring Opener
The wing looks better on an M4 so…there’s that.

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.

BMW CCA Spring Cruise
Everyone lowers thir M car anyway, so the height difference is nearly negated.
BMW CCA Spring Cruise
That’s a lot of G butts. Clearly they have different styling, but it’s all superficial.

Tech Time

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.

BMW CCA Spring Cruise
An M4 Coupe.

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.

BMW CCA Spring Cruise
Not you, you’re different.

The M3 vs the M4 is about perception

BMW CCA Spring Cruise
E9X fans – your cars are the same too.

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 Cruise
The CS (and GTS) feature different suspension dynamics than regular cars.

BMW CCA Spring Opener Gallery

BMW CCA Spring Opener
Clown Shoe!
BMW CCA Spring Opener
Mark’s beautiful 7 Series I shot last year.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
The F8X is a very JDM car, so JDM wheels work on it.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
New winglets on this 2 Series.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
The Porsche guys always come back in the end.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
Individual M4. Sorry, forgot the blue.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
Who wears Brooklyn better?
BMW CCA Spring Opener
When you go to the show and see a car just like yours…
BMW CCA Spring Opener
Man, I wish I had gotten one of these instead of the sedan.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
Alpina E34 B10.
BMW CCA Spring Opener
Always a good mix at these shows.
BMW CCA Spring Opener

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