If you haven't noticed an abundance of current M3s on the road, you can't be accused of not paying attention. They're just not selling that well. When we first drove the V-8-powered monster from Munich, we were told that this M3 would sell twice as many units as the previous, E46-chassis car.
BMW has sold only half as many, and we're more than halfway through the product cycle. In other words, the broad selection of E90/E92/E93 sedan/coupe/convertible M3s, with their manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions, might not sell as well as the coupe-only, manual-only -- technically, the SMG was an automatic, given its lack of clutch pedal, but it did a lousy job of appealing to automatic-transmission buyers -- E46 did.
Why? Well, the world economy did kind of fall apart -- and the cheaper 335i is enough of a rocketship for most BMW fans. And let's not forget the new 335is, which, on your daily commute, makes a pretty powerful argument against buying an M3.
There's another issue. The M3's engine has grown from four to six to eight cylinders. Its weight and refinement level have grown, too. You could be forgiven for thinking that the current M3 might be just closer to an M5 in concept than it is to the original M3.
The M3 is one hell of a machine -- one virtually without flaws -- but it's moved substantially away from the original in price, size, and refinement that it's struggling to find an audience. What are those guys and girls buying? Well, BMW hopes they haven't bought anything yet, because if all goes well, they'll be standing in line to buy the new M-version of the 135i -- the 1-series M Coupe.