From the hood scoop to the chiseled sheetmetal, the new M3 coupe is both restrained and extroverted, in true German style. The Melbourne metallic red paint-a reasonable $550 option-two pairs of chrome tailpipes, and a carbon-fiber roof complete the subtle yet conspicuous high-performance look. The options boxes were liberally checked on this car bringing the price to just over $66,000. It’s worth noting that this M3 coupe was fitted with the standard-issue wheels instead of the bright aluminum wheels that come as part of the $2500 competition package included on this car. Although I’ve only seen them side-by-side in pictures, I think I prefer the standard gray wheels as they temper the M3s conspicuous half.
After being parked outside overnight, the engine and transmission took some time to warm up despite the spring-like 40-degree temperature. Waiting for the engine to warm up was no problem – every M3 I’ve driven has restricted rpm until the engine was warm – but the transmission was stiff and notchy in first and second gear for several miles, even with the clutch firmly planted on the floor. Beyond this small issue, it’s hard to find fault with the M3 coupe. If I were in the market for an M3, I would choose the sedan over the coupe simply because a four-door is easier to live with as daily driver.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
This BMW M3 looks really good. With this Melbourne red exterior paint and dark gray eighteen-inch wheels, it gives the car a very aggressive appearance and waves a finger in the face of anything on the road that wants to tango. The M3’s impressive 4.0-liter V-8 revs to an eye-opening 8300-rpm before hitting peak power and sounds fantastic in the process.
The interior is sporty, with a touch of carbon fiber on the dash and M-colored red-and-blue stitching on the thick steering wheel, and the headrests sport BMW’s M logo. But it’s not overdone; this M3 has beautiful leather seating surfaces and amenities like a navigation system and heated front seats. These help to make the M3 a suitable daily driver. I like this version of iDrive’s rotary controller better than some of BMW’s old controls, which I found to be out of date and frustrating to use.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
This M3 looks, sounds, and feels very mean, yet in a highly refined manner. This generation could end up being the only V-8-powered BMW M3 ever, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts. BMW’s typically rubbery manual gearboxes aren’t usually my favorites, and this car’s is no exception. Still, the very light action and fairly short throws help encourage extremely quick gear changes once the V-8 has passed 8000 rpm.
I prefer the looks, price, and utility of the M3 sedan (which starts at $3000 less than the coupe), but it’s pretty hard to dislike the bulging-hooded M3 in any form. It’s even easy to drive smoothly if you’re chauffeuring people who are unlikely to be impressed by 414 hp, which is nice for a family man like me.
One concern, though: Can a taller person fit in this car with a helmet on? I’m only five-foot-six, and my head wasn’t all that far from the BMW’s ceiling once I’d adjusted my seat comfortably.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
$66,000 is a serious amount of money for a smallish two-door, but then again, the M3 coupe is a serious car. It’s seriously powerful, with 414 hp, and it’s also seriously fast, launching to highway speeds before you know it. It may not be altogether practical, what with its compromised luggage and rear-seat space, but any car enthusiast would likely be perfectly happy to drive this car every day. That’s because, even when you’re not pushing the M3, it’s a very easy car to live with. The clutch is a little heavy for my taste, but it’s still a very civilized car in which to run your daily routine. And, if you happen to hit that perfect section of twisty road, feel free to open up the throttles – all eight of them – and let go.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
This car has completely changed my opinion of M3s. Back in 1990 I had my first Drive in a BMW M3 as well as a standard 3-series. Hated everything about it. Walked away with the opinion from that point on that a BMW 3-Series of any type was that of a person who wanted the status of the badge but could not afford one.
Fast forward to 2010 BMW M3. It’s far from the car I remembered. It’s been refined to the point it spoke to most parts of my body and toyed with my need for speed. The steering wheel felt like it was custom to my hands. The seats and trim were impressively comfortable. Not the hard planks I remember from 1990. If the performance does not get your blood rushing, one press of the “power” button will allow you inner-adrenaline Junkie to come out and play.
Headroom wasn’t an issue for me. While I didn’t have a helmet on, it still felt roomy. It was a little painful to watch my 6-foot 4-inch bodybuilder friend getting in and out, but he was very comfortable in the copilot seat! A little deeper sound from exhaust would have made it perfect; otherwise I think I have a new entry in my top 5 favorite cars.
Kelly Ryan Murphy, Creative Director
Twenty years ago, the M3 was born as a homologation special so BMW could take its 3-series to the races. Although purists object to today’s car being heavier and abandoning the straight-six, it hasn’t strayed too far from its original mission. Every time I see that giant hood bulge and notice the redline marked at 8300 rpm on the tachometer, I can’t help but think I’m climbing behind the wheel of a street-legal DTM racer — albeit one trimmed with alcantara, trim panels, and three additional seating positions.
As much as I loved the wail of that banshee-like eight-cylinder, I’m perhaps most impressed with the M3’s suspension tuning. It’s taught for the twisties, of course, but the ride quality over cracked Michigan roads was better than a 335i with the sport package was earlier this year. The M3’s chassis strikes a nice equilibrium for everyday use, although I wonder how the optional competition package affects this mix.
$66,000 is a substantial chunk of money, but I’m somehow able to wrap my head around it. This car is virtually without fault, and that includes the option list — I’d spring for the tech package so I can play with and memorize the performance settings, and the heated seats are a godsend during Michigan’s winters. I would, however, opt for the four-door body. Adding two doors strips the M3’s price tag of $3000, while adding some extra practicality.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
On a recent Saturday, I used the BMW M3 to cross Michigan in the dark morning hours, headed for Gingerman Raceway on the west side of the state. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get the time to take this cherry red BMW on the track. Instead, it sat parked in an overgrown grass field while fifty $500 cars made a comical attempt at emulating an endurance race. Even if the M3 has developed a bit of a reputation for being a playboy’s toy, it’s clear that the genuine gearheads at the 24 Hours of LeMons respect this car.
Like Evan, I’m blown away by the M3’s ability to be a dominant performer and a comfortable touring car. I fully agree with the assessment that this M3 is as comfortable or more comfortable than lesser 3-series. The only real struggle in day-to-day driving is learning to compensate for a clutch that loves to snap down on the flywheel. Of course, even when you’re taking it slow, the M3 moves fast. Despite my best efforts at self-restraint, I beat Google Maps’ projected travel time to Gingerman by 45 minutes.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Hear the thunder in the distance? That would be the sound of the BMW M3’s coming competition, in the form of the Cadillac CTS-V coupe and the Audi RS5. What a showdown that will be. Still, I doubt the Bimmer is quaking in its boots. This is, after all, a very serious machine. Everything from the contours of its supportive sport seats to the way the redline marker on its tachometer mechanically retracts toward 8500 rpm as the V-8 warms up says this is a really fast car. And it is. I was only puttering town, but, as Eric noted, it’s very difficult to practice restraint when a drop of the right foot unleashes so much awesome power and noise. If you can hold back though, the M3 rides and drives as civilly as any 3-series. The only downside is that it also looks pretty much like any 3-series, which means rather safe. That’s the only area where I foresee the M3 falling short compared to the sexy newcomers from Cadillac and Audi.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2010 BMW M3 Coupe
Base price (with destination and gas guzzler tax): $60,575
Price as tested: $66,025
4.0-liter 32-valve V-8 engine
6-speed manual transmission
Dynamic stability control (ESP)
All season traction with variable M diff lock
Speed-sensitive power assisted steering
ABS with dynamic brake control
Xenon adaptive headlights with auto leveling
AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system
Tire pressure monitoring system
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
Adaptive brake lights
Options on this vehicle:
Melbourne Red paint — $550
Cold weather package — $750
– Ski bag
– Heated front seats
– Retractable headlight washers
Technology package — $3250
– M drive
– Comfort access keyless entry
– Navigation system
Carbon leather interior trim — $500
iPod and USB adapter — $400
Key options not on vehicle:
Competition package — $2500
– 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels
– Electronic damping control
– 10mm lower suspension
Double-clutch transmission — $2900
14 / 20 / 16 mpg
Size: 4.0L V-8
Horsepower: 414 hp @ 8300 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
Unladen weight: 3704 lb
18 x 8.5 front; 18 x 9.5 rear satin chrome M light aluminum wheels
245/40R18 93Y front; 265/40R18 97Y rear Michelin Pilot Sport summer performance tires