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PERFORMANCE | 10 out of 10
Powerhouse V8 Performance
the template by which other European performance sedans must be judged
Car and Driver
BMW raises the performance benchmark once again
Less powerful than Lexus, Audi, Mercedes-Benz
The 2008 BMW M3 packs a powerful V-8 engine, superb handling, and excellent braking in a package that’s just a little less engaging than the high-winding M3s of the past.
The heart of the new M3 is its 4.0-liter V-8, which kicks out 414 horsepower through a delightful six-speed manual transmission. (A new seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission is available.) So equipped, the M3 coupe will claw its way to 60 mph in only 4.8 seconds, and it rushes to a 155-mph top speed. Edmunds calls the BMW M3 a "powerhouse"; it redlines at "a stratospheric 8,400 rpm," says Cars.com, and "in all six gears of its manual transmission, the engine just sings." Motor Trend thinks the M3’s V-8 is so smooth, “that the engine just doesn't seem to punch as hard as you think a V-8 should”—but agrees with Car and Driver that the “engine has usable thrust throughout its entire range.” Automobile loves the song it sings: “The soundtrack is nothing short of magic.”
The BMW M3 is called the "new uber Bimmer" by MyRide.com due to its "six-speed manual tranny with a locking differential, an aluminum chassis, electronic damper control," and more. And while the clutch seems a bit heavy in the M3 BMW, it's "progressive," says Edmunds. Automobile says “the pedal is soft and easy to modulate,” and the “shifter is familiar 3-series, which is to say precise and satisfying, if slightly rubbery.” The new seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual “offers manual operation via steering-wheel-mounted paddles as well as a full automatic mode.”
The EPA says fuel economy is 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.
Along with its stunning straight-line performance, it's the M3's stupefying handling and traction that draws in enthusiasts. The M3 grips corners firmly, while the body stays tightly in line like a race car. BMW's added too many electronic aids that can interfere with the driving experience--adjustable shocks, steering, and stability control among them--but fortunately, they can all be turned off for maximum fun. Car and Driver says, “Fast corners, slow corners, accelerating, or braking, it's just sensational.” Motor Trend writes, “It's quick and precise; beautifully balanced and brilliantly responsive; deeply confident and inspiringly competent when you ask it the big questions.” Cars.com thinks "handling is superb." Edmunds calls it a “decathlete,” observing, “the agile handling is so composed that it makes the car feel like it's much smaller.” The "brakes are progressive and linear," Cars.com adds, while Edmunds reports “braking is astounding, as the M3's binders boast powerful yet progressive action and the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph -- just 100 feet -- that we've ever recorded.”
With the new M3 comes an optional M Drive feature that allows drivers to choose different aspects of the car’s performance. At the touch of a button, you can alter the M3’s throttle feel, the stiffness of its shocks, the quickness of its steering, and even set its stability control to let the car indulge in some wheelspin. This feature meets with plenty of controversy among reviewers; though Motor Trend says the feature “offers drivers the ability to 'tune' their cars,” Edmunds finds its reviewers disagreeing on the steering feel, and Automobile declares it “frustratingly numb on center,” though “ride quality is phenomenal.” Car and Driver chalks it up to “BMW’s fetish for technological overkill.”
The electronics and the V-8 engine are major changes to the M3’s temperament, which Motor Trend says “feels remarkably refined as it loafs along the freeway in sixth gear, even with the optional 19-inch wheel/tire combo fitted to our tester.” They’re not alone: most reviewers felt the new M3 had grown into a larger, heavier, less responsive but no less capable grand touring car. Edmunds asks one thing: “drive the new M3 back to back against the previous version and you'll notice something has gone amiss in regard to the level of communication between the driver and the road surface,” though it concludes the M3 is “hard to fault if you truly enjoy driving.”
The 2008 BMW M3 stuns with its straight-line performance and with brilliant handling, though it feels larger and less laser-like than before.