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

John Wycherley

The most desirable M3s have always been the limited-edition cars: Sport Evo, CSL, GTS. The competition pack makes the car feel sufficiently different from a standard M3, but the small difference in handling and roadholding is more obvious on a track than on a public road. In a way, the BMW is an oddity because it combines the amenities, the cabin space, and the engine of a compact cruiser with the transmission, the suspension, and the aspirations of a proper corner carver. The optional dual-clutch automatic is nice to have, but the stiff, tramlining nineteen-inch wheels are somewhat counterproductive.

In M Dynamic mode, the M3 can dance across any apex, but for the full tire-smoke program DSC should be deactivated completely. Despite its dynamic talents, the on-demand slidemeister disappoints in the EfficientDynamics department, with less-than-stellar fuel economy. Its message is all about high-performance premium luxury and not so much about contemporary sportiness, and it really would benefit from the turbocharged six-cylinder engine that BMW is readying for the next generation.

The GT-R is a different car but has a similar story. It weighs too much, and it drinks too much. But it would still be my personal choice simply because I happen to be a speed junkie. I've been known to drive the 750 miles from Munich to Dortmund and back just to hear Ludovico Einaudi live, when getting there half an hour quicker matters. Since German roads are among the world's best kept, the twenty-inch wheels and the steely suspension don't bother me much.

What counts instead is the GT-R's enormous passing potential, which allows the driver to make use of small gaps in traffic, soak up every bit of unrestricted terrain as quickly as possible, and keep the momentum building even at 100-plus mph. On dry blacktop, provoking attitude will only triple the tire bill, but in the wet, playing with the diffs and with stability control is a hoot, even if it jeopardizes the silly Nissan warranty. When we drove in convoy through the challenging twisties that spiral up from Fuchstal toward Waal, the GT-R got there more quickly than the rest of the pack, with no shortcuts needed.

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