Hot Handlers: BMW M3 vs Lotus Evora S vs Nissan GT-R vs Porsche Cayman R

John Wycherley

The Elise's bigger brother represents a well-composed mix of pace-setting and sustainable, advanced and down-to-earth, really good and, in detail, strangely flawed. For a start, there are no side air bags. The six-speed automatic offered for the 280-hp model is also conspicuous by its absence, although that should join the fold this year. Climbing behind the wheel is a bit of an act, but once you're buckled, there is an unmistakable fusion between the car and its driver. It is the ensuing fluency of motion that impresses most. Between 4000 and 7000 rpm, up to 70 mph, and in the bottom three gears, the Evora is a hard-core sports car. Below 4500 rpm, beyond 70 mph, and in fourth, fifth, and sixth gears, however, it turns into a punchy GT.

The M3 lacks the Evora's split personality and is more homogeneous, but the V-8 rests heavily on the front axle, the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is pricey, and the vehicle dynamics are not only masterminded by the driver but also by a host of electronic aids known by acronyms such as ASC, CBC, EDC, and DSC. As long as you don't think of the new competition package as a substitute for the GTS edition (which isn't available in the United States anyway), you probably won't be disappointed. The M3 competition pack doesn't include carbon-ceramic brakes or the dual-clutch transmission as standard.

Instead, you get little tweaks like more lenient stability control, tauter damper settings in sport mode, a ride height that has been lowered by 0.4 inch, and custom nineteen-inch wheels. The BMW weighs 536 pounds more than the Lotus and 794 pounds more than the Porsche, and its high-revving, normally aspirated 4.0-liter V-8, rated at 414 hp and 295 lb-ft, is neither mold-breakingly powerful nor big-block physical. But like many of its predecessors, this M3 rescues itself by being sweet to drive.

With dynamic stability control (DSC) in Achtung! mode, the car from Munich meets all your needs, inducing a full measure of drama but without the slightest trace of trauma. With DSC switched off, you'd better photocopy your driver's license, because you're likely to lose it before the day is over. For maximum attitude and minimum risk, a front-engine/rear-wheel-drive configuration is hard to beat.

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