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BMW M3 Coupé review (2008 onwards)
Model: BMW M3 Coupé
Bodystyle: two door coupe
Engine: 4.0-litre petrol V8
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
What is it?
Having come to the shocking realisation that the latest BMW M3 might not actually be The Best Car In The World, Ever initial (over)reaction to the car has subsided. Burden of expectation can be a terrible thing and the hype ahead of the V8 M3's launch meant the reality was going to have a hard task satisfying it.So, the dust having settled, where's the M3 at now? Well, since the initial launch last year the range has been expanded to include four-door and cabriolet versions and we've had the debut of BMW's first dual-clutch gearbox, known as M DCT. But for now let's go back to the beginning: the manual coupe.
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Where does it fit?
With its stiff, two-door shell and trick carbon-fibre roof the coupe is the most hardcore M3 currently available and, by a small margin, the fastest too. The 4.8-second 0-62mph sprint is a tenth quicker than the saloon and a whole half a second speedier than the much heavier cabrio. The difference is bigger in the mid-range too, the heavier drop-top 0.8 seconds slower 50-70mph and feeling considerably more lethargic thanks to its extra 230kg. At £51,530 the coupe is £1,630 more than the saloon and £3,770 cheaper than the cabrio. Rivals? Try the £65,215 CLK63 AMG or £52,900 Nissan GT-R, available in March 2009.
Is it for you?
With the Mercedes C63 and Lexus IS-F also on the scene now the V8-powered mega saloon market has hotted up but only the M3 is also available as a coupe. And having broken the £50K ceiling and 400bhp barrier it can now justifiably be viewed as nibbling at the heels of the 911.But the M3 is all about the engine. The cylinder count may have doubled since the original E30 version but the 3,999cc, 414bhp V8 has to rank as one of the most impressive engines ever fitted to a road car. Race tech like individual throttle bodies and a screaming 8,400rpm redline are just the start of it.
What does it do well?
The coupe is probably the best looking M3. Taut and aggressive, the bonnet bulge, carbon roof, quad exhausts and side vents ensure you won't get mistaken for a 'lesser' 3 Series - a good thing seeing as it costs £15K more than a 335i. Having said that the looks are relatively subtle, given the car's potency. The M3's real appeal is this blend of uncompromising performance and genuine four-seater practicality. People will tell you the 911 is the ultimate usable supercar but even the apparently ubiquitous Porsche can't match the M3 on this score. And though it offers a very different experience the M3's driver appeal is right up there.
Steering feel could be better but in every other respect the M3 gives you everything you'd want. A rear-set engine and rear-wheel drive chassis mean it has great balance. And having dialled up your preferred throttle, traction control and suspension settings via the M Power button you can go from cruiser to bruiser in an instant. With everything turned up to 11 the M3 is very aggressive and the first time you let the rev needle off the leash and see it pass the 8,000rpm mark you'll be stunned by the ferocity of the noise and acceleration. And if you're in the mood to play the chassis is only too happy to oblige.
What doesn't it do well?
The top-end power delivery dominates the car's character and although there is plenty in reserve at lower revs to really see the M3's dramatic side you need to work it surprisingly hard. Which wouldn't be a problem if it didn't involve the doubling of any given speed limit. And, once you've tasted it, knowing it's there and all-but inaccessible is incredibly frustrating. In those brief moments when you're really on it the lack of steering feel becomes an issue too, meaning the car sometimes feels as if it's running away with itself. Which is scary. In this situation meatier brakes would be nice too.
What’s it like to live with?
If you've got a) epic self control or b) a reckless disregard for the forces of law and order you'll get along with the M3 just fine. If not expect to spend a lot of your time alternating between teeth grinding frustration, momentary flashes of thrilling recklessness and longer bouts of bitter self-recrimination. At this rate you'll be needing a therapist too. Joking apart, the M3 is one of those deeply satisfying cars to be around. The interior is conservative but works brilliantly and is very well made, while being as usable as any 3 Series. The driving experience is epic too. There is one rather serious problem though...
How green is it?
Believe it or not the M3 does actually feature BMW's EfficientDynamics, including the 'intelligent' alternator and brake regeneraion. It makes no difference to the bottom line though - the M3 is irrevocably, irresponsibly thirsty. Officially it'll do 22.8mpg on the combined average, rising to 23.7 with the M DCT gearbox. But if you make it out of the teens you'll be lucky. CO2 of 295g/km (285g/km with M DCT) is going to hurt the planet and your wallet in equal measure too. The fact the new direct-injection 911 can scrape in beneath 225g/km in 'basic' Carrera 2 spec puts the M3 on the back foot in the usability stakes too.
Would we buy one?
The M3 really is a fabulous piece of kit and well deserving of its prestigious badge. It's a very different car from that original E30 homologation special, now as equally adept at playing the luxury GT as it is the banzai, powersliding hooligan out to humiliate junior supercars.Outrageous fuel consumption and the fact you have to really nail it to socially irresponsible speeds to reveal its best are a concern though and you'd probably have more fun, more of the time in a C63 or the now out of production RS4. Or the significantly cheaper and 'real world fast' 335i.
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