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2008 BMW M3 Review
King of the hill reigns on
By Dustin Woods, Oct. 29, 2008

The M3 has been under constant fire over the last year. The assault has not come from auto journalists, however, but from virtually every luxury auto maker, who has the M3 in its sights. The bad thing about being number one is that there is nowhere to go but down. The release of the new M3 was eagerly anticipated as word leaked that it would be larger, heavier and offer a V8 powerplant – a first for the marque. Now offering a high strung 4.0L V8, the M3 has launched its counterstrike.

MORE THAN A COMPETITOR TO THE COMPETITION

The Audi RS4 and Lexus IS-F in particular are gunning for a portion of the M3’s market share and are out for blood. In an apparent attempt to stave off these direct attacks, the 2009 M3 will offer an option that its competitors had in their favor – four doors. For the first time since 1994, the M3 will be offered as a coupe, convertible and sedan which will no doubt appeal to a wider audience. Faithful M3 owners who need extra space but didn’t have the interest or greenbacks to step up to the M5 have reason to rejoice.

FAST FACTS

1. 2008+ M3 shares just 20 percent with standard 3 Series.

2. 414hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque generated from high-strung 4.0-liter V8.

3. Throttle response, steering and suspension stiffness can all be customized and saved.

The differentiation between the other 3-Series models and the top of the heap M3 is far more prevalent than in recent years. One look suggests that the new generation M3 is a much different car, getting behind the wheel proves it. In addition to the updated exterior, the interior has been re-worked in typical but modern BMW style. Surfaces are swathed in brushed aluminum and fine leather exhibiting the coexistence of luxury and performance – M3’s mantra.

The aluminum hood of the M3 bulges from the V8 that resides within, pumping out 414 hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque, while the black Carbon fiber roof reduces weight and lowers the center of gravity. Some 80 percent of the M3 is unique from the ‘regular’ 3-Series.

Perhaps the biggest difference for this all-new seductive sports car is aforementioned two extra cylinders. Whether you plan on using it to commute to the office or tackle the track, the new M3 will not disappoint. The beauty of the new M3 lies in that versatility. The uninitiated may scoff at the premium price tag but buying the M3 is a bargain. If you disagree, calculate the price of a new luxury coupe, sports car with a V8 powerplant and finally a factory car that can dominate the track on weekends. Add the additional insurance, tires and maintenance for those extra cars and then take a look at the price of the M3.

OODLES OF ADJUSTABLE DRIVE SETTINGS

Suspension stiffness, throttle response and steering sensitivity can all be adjusted from the comfort of the highly bolstered, heated drivers’ seat. This means the M3 can literally be as docile or deadly as the driver wants - it has more layers than an onion. Traction control settings allow a variety of experiences ranging from the stern walloping of a mothers’ wooden spoon or a gentle slap on the wrist to the invigorating, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing’ mode. No matter what setting you choose, inputs are predictable and linear to the point where you feel like Hans Stuck after 10 minutes behind the wheel.

Buttons on the console allow two throttle sensitivity settings, three different shock rates, and the opportunity to switch off the stability control altogether. Utilize the often lamented iDrive system to access the Mdrive menu, and the choices become exponential. Additional throttle sensitivity settings, option of sport or normal modes for the Servotronic steering and a race-face setting for the stability control system are all accessible. Settings can be set and saved to be accessed by a simple press of the mystical ‘M’ button mounted on the steering wheel. Dial ‘M’ for maniacal laughter. After fine tuning the settings of the M3 and playing around a little bit, I experienced Carrera-like performance without fear of the tail end coming around on me like 911’s inherently tend to do.

Innovative engineering such as individual throttlebodies allow for quicker, more accurate response times. This advancement, normally found only in race cars, allows for optimal power all the way up to the 8300 rpm redline. My tester was fitted with the 7-speed DCT (Double-Clutch Transmission) which I was initially disappointed about but soon changed my tune, rifling through the gears far quicker than I ever could while operating a clutch. Utilizing two transmission structures, the system switches between the two as not to interrupt power to the rear wheels. Zero to 60mph runs take only 5.1 seconds, which is actually two tenths of a second faster than the manual transmission. Downshifting with the DCT offers up gorgeous rev-matching gurgles that I wish were more audible. The fact that the M3 doesn’t sound nearly as potent as it is, is admittedly disappointing, as I found myself craving a sound match the car’s performance.

PLUS
Available in coupe, convertible and sedan
Offered with six-speed manual or 7-speed DCT
Equally as good on the track and the street
MINUS
Exhaust system too quiet
Lacking in torque
iDrive still not as user-friendly as alternatives

THE VERDICT

In case you haven’t been able to read between the lines thus far, I was suitably impressed with the latest incarnation of the M3. It takes time to become acquainted with the iDrive interface each time I drive a Beemer but it happens slowly. It offers incredible navigation, convenience and communication options but the bottom line is that there are far more simplified, user-friendly systems available. Very little of my time was spent navigating the GPS system as carving back country curves and slaughtering straightaways. Judging from the new M3, its competitors will likely be heading back to the drawing board.