2014 was the year the latest generation M3 came, saw and conquered the compact sports saloon market. If there is one thing that BMW has always done, is assess the current situation of what an ideal sports saloon should be and react accordingly. The latest generation is no exception. For 2014, BMW has laid their glorious 414 bhp V8 engine to rest, arguing that eight cylinders has no place in today’s polar bear friendly, tree-hugging society. So instead its back to the straight-six engine, a tried and tested formula.
This twin-turbo six-cylinder now produces 425 bhp, and hits 62 mph in 4.3 seconds if you opt for the manual gearbox and 4.1 seconds if you go for the dual-clutch gearbox. Great, who doesn’t love a new BMW M3?
Me, actually. Its nothing personal to BMW, they apparently make some great cars, but I find them a tad dull nowadays. Everybody who has a little cash goes out and buys a BMW because that is what everyone buys. OK, fair enough, they are built like tanks, they are fast and economical and do everything you could ever want. I accept all your arguments as valid and true, but it is not very exciting, is it?
Let us take their design. Today all BMWs look like pigs with their huge kidney grilles. What happened to the days of the cool understated designs of BMW, like the E39 5-Series?Those were lovely. Even the interior was quite lovely despite that car being designed in the plastic-centric, 90s. Nowadays, if you step into a modern BMW, you might as well be sitting in a 1980s office block. Its so uninspiring, so lacking in any sort of flair. Audi is miles ahead in the interior design department, as is Mercedes, with both offering a sense of class in their interiors that the BMW cannot even begin to match.
Thankfully, there are car manufacturers who have seen that there are those who yearn for a sports saloon that is not a BMW. Within the next couple of years, they will grace us with their alternative to the cold-hearted M3.
First up, is Jaguar with their new XE compact saloon. This is there first proper jab at the 3-Series since the woeful X-Type that really isn’t worth mentioning. While the details are rather sparse at the moment, what is being hinted does sound quite interesting. As is the norm with current Jaguars, it will be built from aluminium, keeping weight to the minimum and a range of newly designed four-pot engines ensures adequate performance and excellent economy. However what is of particular interest is the range-topping XE-R. Rumours seem to suggest that this latest “R” will get the V6 engine straight out of the F-Type. Imagine that awe-inspiring engine in a four-door! Taking the kids to school has never been noisier.
Secondly is the long-awaited Alfa Romeo Giulia QV. Last May, Fiat held a press conference to highlight where the company would be heading over the next five years. Among those plans is the replacement for the 159. Yes, that is still happening. No, I do not know what it is going to look like. However, here is what I do know. Like the XE, it will have a set of new 4 cylinder engines for the economy minded buyers. For those with feet of lead and a yearning for tyre-smoke, there shall be a new V6. Yes you read correctly, the Alfa V6 lifes on, and Alfa’s answer to the M3 will make use of this new V6 engine producing nearly 500 bhp. From a six cylinder motor! My kind of car, really.
Volvo has also been pretty busy on the sports saloon front too. Yes, those crazy Swedes have made a car that doesn’t cushion your ear if you hit an amoeba. A car to take them into the exclusive club of the fast saloon category. A car to take on the might of the M3. Well, sort of. The S60/V60 (depending on whether you want a station wagon or a saloon) is about 85 bhp down from the M3, but at 345 bhp, it is still a worthy member of this highly exclusive club. All that power also comes from a revised six-cylinder motor. The downside? It is not exactly a full production car, it was built in limited numbers.
What else have we got to look forward to in this segment? Well since Mercedes recently revealed an all new C-Class, its pretty safe to assume there will be an AMG on the way too. Audi also has a brand new A4 in the pipeline and I am pretty sure that an RS4 will be a given too. The future of the fast saloon lives on, in incredible style.