Now in its fourth generation, BMW's cool M3 has been satisfying owner's thirst for performance for 20 years in the U.S.
For 2008, the M3 is offered as a coupe and a four-door sedan with the convertible to follow shortly. Its forte is simple. Pure power coupled with unadulterated performance. For example, BMW has outfitted the M3 with its first V-8. The four-liter power plant outputs 414 horsepower. It doesn't redline until 8,400 rpm so the high-revving engine is able to hold each gear longer for maximum acceleration. The new V-8 is stronger, yet lighter than the 3.2-liter 333 horsepower straight six it replaces from the third generation M3. Expect the coupe to move you from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155 mph.
With that kind of speed, powerful braking is also needed. The M3's high-performance braking system brings the vehicle to a halt from 60 mph in 105 feet. Its Frisbee-sized discs are cross-drilled to provide better cooling. Add dynamic brake control and the Bimmer hypnotizes drivers into thinking they're track instructors or great drivers. Brake wear can be monitored via a dash display. Standard 18-inch wheels are staggered as are the optional 19s, which are tucked in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber.
The M3's new aluminum chassis is another example of superlative performance engineering. Additionally, the anti-roll bars are hollow for more weight savings.
"Servotronic" steering is BMW's maneuverability technology that offers two steering dynamics and uses inputs based on road speed.
In "Sport" mode steering is very direct and provides immediate response. In "Normal" mode steering is lighter and requires less effort.
The M3's new styling comes from BMW's current 3 Series' shell and BMW replaced 80 percent of the M's parts to form the stocky M3.
The automaker retained only the windows, doors, trunk lid and front and rear lights.
A carbon-fiber roof is utilized on the coupe and can be replaced by a steel roof if the optional sunroof is ordered. Side skirts look like split surf boards, M3 gills glaze from each side, the wheel flares are on steroids, four pipes rock the rear and a lip spoiler puts the icing on the cake. BMW brought back the four-door because owners use their M3s as everyday transporters and needed the convenience of a sedan.
The M3's beefy steering feels powerful, its seats hold support with both adjustable thigh and lateral support while the six-speed manual transmission can be shifted with confidence. An optional seven-speed double-clutch gearbox is on the way.
Next to the shifter are three unique buttons for increased performance orientations. The "Power" button modifies engine mapping allowing selectable power control. Electric Damping Control (EDC) is optional and comes with the $3,350 "Technology" package which also includes "M Drive," navigation and the "ComfortAccess" system.
EDC has three settings and gives drivers the ability to operate the chassis via three modes - Sport, Normal and ComfortAccess. It is like putting on track shoes for running or cleats for football or soccer. The third button, "DSC Off," (Dynamic Stability Control) allows the driver to vary slip angles. Then, BMW borrowed technology from the M6 and M5 including the tachometer and steering wheel operated "M Drive" which has many different set-ups to alter the vehicle's character.
BMW set the pricing at $57, 275 for the coupe (includes $775 destination charge) and $54,575 for the sedan (includes $775 destination charge). The M3's $1,300 gas guzzler tax is not included.
EPA fuel economy: City: 14, Highway: 20
Base MSRP: $53,800