Every car lover deserves a chance behind the wheel of a BMW M3. The press has been infatuated with the M3 since it debuted, and all the praise is justified. BMW never should have ditched the Ultimate Driving Machine tagline -- that's what you'll be thinking as you run the 4.0-liter V-8 up to its 8400-rpm redline. And if you need to verify that the engine is up to operating temperature before blowing past 8000 rpm, it's as easy as looking at the tachometer. The M3 artificially lowers the maximum engine speed until it's completely warmed up. Little things like this exemplify BMW's commitment to performance cars.
I instantly loved the last-generation (E46) M3's 333-hp in-line six because every 3-series was powered by an I-6 and, in my mind, there was a much stronger connection between the base 3-series and the M3 when they shared an engine configuration. Perhaps this generation of M3 (E92 in coupe form) isn't as raw as earlier M3 models, but it still offers a level of performance that's very difficult to match. BMW managed to increase the M3's performance by a rather large margin after changing to a V-8 engine, but it lost the connection to regular 3-series cars for me. At least this generation of M3 has an optional dual-clutch transmission instead of the E46's single-clutch unit that was never happy unless it was on a racetrack. That point may be moot for hard-core M3 drivers, who prefer to shift for themselves anyway.
The question on the mind of every M3 lover who hasn't yet had a chance to sample the awkwardly named BMW 1-series M coupe is: "Will this turbocharged 1-series M machine get the division back to its roots?" Sadly, I can't shed any light on that question at this time. Jason Cammisa recently beat the snot out of a 1-series M and proclaimed it to be the best car ever. With smaller dimensions than an M3, a powerplant that is directly related to that in the regular 1-series, and a much lower curb weight, it sounds like the modern version of an older M3 that so many people have been looking for.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor