2013 BMW M3

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Short Take Road Test: 2008 BMW M3 Sedan

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
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?
But mostly you notice the flared fenders and the nose-low, hunkered-down profile that suggests a nearly audible snarl. Crank the engine, and the snarl becomes entirely audible. Run the M3 through the six close-ratio manual gears, and the snarl becomes an Indian battle whoop as you approach the engine’s stratospheric 8400-rpm limit. Outperforming the last M3 coupe we tested by 0.2 second, the sedan galloped to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds at 113 mph. Despite the claimed 155-mph limiter, our test car crept past it to 161 mph.

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
Although a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual is en route, the M3’s six-speed Getrag-built manual is, as always, smooth-shifting, with clutch action that shows none of the annoying hair-trigger engagement we’ve seen on so many previous manual-equipped BMWs. Yes, the clutch is firm, but not to the point where rush-hour traffic will leave your left leg aching.

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
On the road, the M3 remains the template by which other European performance sedans must be judged. The brakes are progressive and linear, the handling is superb, and the ride, which no one will confuse with a Buick’s, is not that bad, even on very rough roads. Tire noise, from the fat, optional 19-inch Michelins, can be loud on porous pavement, unobjectionable everywhere else, particularly on the skidpad where the M3 achieved 0.95 g. After all, look at the weight balance: 3680 pounds total, with 1840 pounds at the front, 1840 at the rear. You don’t have to be a mathematician to suspect that’s pretty good. And the M3 stops, too. From 70 mph, it took just 161 feet.

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.

Performance Data:

C/DTEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 4.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 9.8 sec
Zero to 150 mph: 24.9 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 5.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 12.6 sec @ 113 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 161 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 161 ft
Roadholding, 328-ft-dia skidpad: 0.95 g

FUEL ECONOMY: EPA city/highway driving: 14/20 mpg

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BB01 - 8/20/2014 1:44:21 PM