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PERFORMANCE | 10 out of 10
The 4.0-liter V8 is one of the most exhilarating engines in any car, and most drivers will run out of gumption long before the M3 runs out of grip.
It's so good, in fact, that you'll probably get nowhere near the chassis' limits off a racetrack.
On a racetrack or a back road, it’s a beautifully balanced and hugely entertaining machine.
Car and Driver
It holds the underlying pavement with falcon-like grip, pushes like a Caterpillar hopped up on NOS, and brakes as if it has a pair of General Electric reverse thrusters perched atop its sculpted trunk.
The steering is telepathic, and the chassis is near perfect.
Though it uses a V-8 where previous M3s have used inline six-cylinders or four-cylinders, the 2012 M3 is nonetheless true to its heritage in handling and overall ability. In fact, it exceeds all previous M3s in many regards.
The potent 414-horsepwoer 4.0-liter engine delivers fantastic sound in addition to acceleration, especially toward its 8,400-rpm red line. With 295 pound-feet of torque on tap, the M3 is also highly tractable in any gear.
A choice of seven-speed M dual clutch transmission or six-speed manual offers a choice between race-inspired quickness married with daily-driver convenience, or traditional self-shifting driver involvement. All M3s drive the rear wheels only.
Upgraded brakes, wider wheels, high-performance tires, and a redesigned suspension make the M3 significantly different from the 3-Series it's based on--and very capable on the track. Despite its race-earned credibility, the M3 is also well-suited to daily use, though you'll have to forgive it some stiffness in exchange for the excellent handling and huge grip.
One of the few things that compromises the 2012 M3's performance is its weight. At about 3,700 pounds for the coupe and more than 4,000 pounds for the convertible, neither is light. The M3's weight is most noticeable under braking, as the potent engine and ample mechanical grip make it accelerate and corner like a much lighter car.
Helping the driver extract the most from this high-performance platform is a network of electronic driver aids. M Dynamic mode allows the driver to play with slip angles and wheel spin, but with a safety net. The optional M Drive system adds the ability to configure and store different settings for the various dynamic control elements, including steering, damping, and stability control.
Quick, powerful, fantastically tossable, the 2012 BMW M3 lives up to its heritage, even if we might long for the days of lighter, even nimbler versions.