Short Take Road Test: 2008 BMW M3 Sedan
By Steven Cole Smith of Car and Driver
What’s a family car? Our opinions might differ from those of other select publications. Four doors: good. Four doors with 414 horsepower: great! See? That’s where we lose the Ladies’ Home Journal readers every time.
With the all-new M3, BMW has thoughtfully seen fit to bring us not only the expected carbon-fiber-roofed coupe and soon a convertible but also a nice sensible-shoes sedan that when viewed from a distance—like maybe 200 yards—resembles a family sedan even elderly Republican grandparents would find nonthreatening.
But as you draw closer, the M3 sedan becomes a wolf in wolf’s clothing. You see the power bulge in the hood, there to contain the all-new 414-hp, 4.0-liter V-8. You see the enormous drilled brake rotors. You see gills behind the front fenders that actually look as though they belong there. You notice the absence of boy-racer fog lights, replaced by huge air intakes for the brakes and engine.
More Doors, More Performance?
Then, like any good BMW sedan, the M3 is more than happy to lope along in the pickup line outside the elementary school, even as the more auto-savvy parents shoo their children away from yours.
As you likely know, this is the fourth-generation M3, the first with V-8 power. That V-8 actually weighs 33 fewer pounds than the 333-hp, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder it replaces. The V-8 is quite the sophisticate, with a version of BMW’s Double VANOS camshaft control, individual throttle butterflies for each cylinder, and a lightweight forged crankshaft that helps make all that high-rpm work possible.
Smooth-Shifting Six-Speed, with a Dual-Clutch Seven-Speed on the Way
With the optional MDrive, any number of adjustments can be made to the onboard electronic safety nannies and even the steering feel. Of course, iDrive remains, but we’ve beaten that dead horse enough already. At least it has been marginalized to the point where it’s just a mild annoyance instead of a genuine frustration.
The cockpit is snug but roomy enough; instruments and controls are typical BMW, and the fat, red-and-blue-laced steering wheel feels right. The front buckets are firm but adjustable enough that anyone should be able to find the sweet spot. Rear seat-space with two adults is tight but livable. Trunk space should be more than adequate.
The Template for All Other Performance Sedans
We took some laps in the M3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and launching the car through the track’s legendary corkscrew demonstrates just how composed it is. It longs for track days at your local circuit, where even moderately ham-fisted, ham-footed drivers will feel like heroes. There’s little need to completely defeat the stability control. Just keep the front wheels pointed in a relatively straight line, and all the power you want is available.
And although the M3 isn’t cheap—never has been, never will be—the as-tested price of our loaded car, $64,450, certainly isn’t outrageous for what you get.
And what do you get? A family sedan. And sooo much more.
FUEL ECONOMY: EPA city/highway driving: 14/20 mpg