Thursday, March 22, 2007

Battle of the Titans

The stage is now set for the ultimate showdown.

BMW just released the details of the engine which will form the heart of the new M3. The car that has shared the pinnacle of 6-cylinder performance with Porsche for the past umpteen years has just made a major leap, adding two more cylinders. BMW is finally ready to aim head-on for the Audi RS 4.

What makes this thought so exciting is the similarity in the way each company has gone about its engineering. Audi has been chasing BMW for decades, especially regarding its reputation in the US. But finally we see a clear case of BMW trying to catch up to Audi. (In the ultimate irony, Audi has recently chosen to drop its US tagline "Never Follow", just as it's finally gained the ring of truth.)

First Audi came out with its 4.2L FSI V8, putting out 420 hp at 7500 rpm and 317 lb-ft at 6000 rpm. This engine revs all the way to 8250 rpm (your average redline happens shortly after 6000 rpm).

Then BMW said "Screw that! We're gonna come up with an engine that's even more frenetic!" Thus was born the 4.0L V8 (closely related to BMW's already kick-ass 5.0L V10 from the M5 and M6). It gets the same power out of an even smaller and higher-revving V8. BMW doesn't disclose at what engine speed it achieves this hp, but looking at the torque spec of 295 lb-ft (at 3900 rpm), it's most likely even closer to 8000 than the Audi. And the engine finally hits redline at 8300 rpm (Take that, Audi!!!).

Not only are these engines similar in execution, but the companies have very similar ways of talking about them. Audi talks about the 4.2L's "high-revving drive concept", while BMW claims to have outfitted the 4.0L with the new "M high-speed engine concept". Something tells me their engineers are drinking the same coffee.

Suffice to say, I can't wait for Car and Driver's cover story comparo of the two. Okay, if need be I'll tolerate a C63 AMG thrown into the mix, but the exciting part is that we finally get to see a head-to-head showdown between the engineering might of Audi and BMW. For years auto scribes could talk about the completely different characters of the torquey Audi S4 (first through a twin turbo V6, then through the A8's V8 being tossed into an A4) vs. the high-revving I-6 Bimmer M3. The buff books could declare "They're for different kinds of drivers." But now both brands have ostensibly the same car to throw into the ring. There will be a winner. I wait with bated breath.


Kevin said...

Isn't the fundamental character of the two cars different, though, because the Audi has AWD and the BMW has "only" RWD? The fact that the M3 is a coupe and RS4 a sedan also heightens the difference.

I'd look for the BMW to win the comapro test in that buff book, because (1) BMW is their golden child, and (2) Audi is nearly always a 2nd place finisher in their mags, and its AWD will be seen as adding weight and complexity to an otherwise pure driving experience.

The Auto Snob said...

I concede the point about AWD, especially since the Bimmer will be a significantly heavier car. I believe that the RS 4 has been tuned to be rear-biased w/ its AWD, though, which should mitigate some of the trade-off. And the M3 should be available in sedan soon enough.

Show Goer 33 said...

The point isn't who actually wins here. The point is that its Stuttgart vs Ingolstadt. That its somebody versus somebody...that there is a battle...that they give a crap! Too many OEMs don't want to go toe-to-toe in anything but full size pickups. I love the competition.

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