We don't often get test cars that are minimally optioned, but this M3 coupe is a glorious example of just that: stick shift, no nav, no sunroof, manual seats ... the only option that costs more than a few hundred bucks is the $2500 competition package, which brings a lowered suspension, different wheels, and a stability control system with "performance modified mapping". Not only does this simple spec make the car feel purer, it also keeps the price down to a more reasonable $66,425.
I love manual transmissions, but the M3 is perhaps the only car with an available stick where I actually prefer the automatic. The dual-clutch automatic available in this car is incredibly quick and does a MUCH better job than I could ever do of managing this M3's high revs and high horsepower. It doesn't help that this manual gearbox has longish throws and rubbery action unless you grab it just right. Not that I'm complaining; I wouldn't turn down the opportunity to drive any M3, stick-shift or otherwise, every day if given the chance. And if I were going to buy M3 (wouldn't that be nice!), I'd probably end up with a sedan optioned almost identically to this coupe, including the manual gearbox.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor