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2014 BMW M4 more than a name change

DETROIT — Sport driving enthusiasts long revered the M3 as a high-performance, somewhat affordable car for road and track. Those enthusiasts will have to get used to saying M4 instead, the new name for the previous M3 coupe.

Beyond a simple name change, however, the M4 and its M3 sedan sibling are wholly new cars, featuring down-sized yet more powerful engines along with new body and performance components. Although the M4 and M3 share performance components, serious drivers will be more interested in the coupe for its sleek styling.

The design of the new M4 is not radically different from the 3 Series coupe, and incorporates traditional BMW styling cues. The kidney grille sits above big air intakes to feed the now-turbocharged engine. Side styling features a simple contour line accentuating the belt line, and the classic Hofmeister kink sits at the rear of the side graphic. Despite the smaller engine, quad exhausts still underlie the rear of the car.

The most remarkable thing about the new car, and a testament to BMW’s latest performance technology, is its engine output. Under the hood sits a 3-liter straight six-cylinder engine fitted with twin turbos, smaller than the outgoing 4-liter V-8. Yet the new engine produces 425 horsepower, 11 more than the previous engine. Torque gets a huge bump, from 295 pound-feet all the way up to 406, a particular trait of turbocharged engines.

Smaller displacement should allow for better fuel economy in everyday driving, although BMW has not released mileage estimates yet.

The M4 will be available with a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the latter an automated manual. BMW adds rev-matching to the manual transmission, a feature already present in the dual clutch. Rev-matching means the car automatically maintains engine speed between shifts, eliminating big torque bumps as the next gear engages.

BMW notes a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds for the dual-clutch transmission, using launch control, and 4.1 seconds for the manual.

As with any BMW M car, there are numerous performance settings, with the M button serving to activate some or all, depending on how the owner sets it. And new for the 2015 model, electric power steering allows three modes for steering response: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. The performance settings mirror those found in the 2014 BMW M6.

BMW lightened the load with the M4, compared with the previous M3 coupe, shaving off about 175 pounds through the use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics and aluminum components in the suspension. In fact, the M4 makes use of a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic drive shaft.

This being a high-tech performance powerhouse, BMW does not stint on the cabin electronics. The M4 comes with the latest version of iDrive, which adds a touch-pad controller to the top of the main dial. The car will include built-in connected features and integration with the BMW ConnectedDrive app.

Model name changes can often seem like cheap marketing tricks, and certainly reverence for past M3 models will need to evolve for the new M4, but the change seems worth it. The 2015 BMW M4 looks to be very high-tech and high-performance car suitable for everyday driving and track weekends.

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