Test Drive: BMW M3 coupe
Page: 1  2   3   4   5   6   7  Links
Story and photos by David Haueter

Those of us that followed the ALMS back in 2001 will remember the awesome M3 GTR racer, which used V8 power to throttle the competition and sweep the championships before the program was canceled prior to the 2002 season. We won't get into the details behind why that program was canceled, but we can tell you that it centered on the fact that a road-going version of the V8 M3 was never built in any quantity, as the rule makers expected it would be. BMW won't have that problem with the new V8-powered M3 racer that debuts in the ALMS next season, as there will be plenty of the street versions on the road before the race car hits the track.

The first M3 was powered by a four-cylinder motor and was then followed by inline-sixes for the next two model generations before V8 power appeared under the hood for the first time this year in the production road car. Though the thought of a V8 in the iconic M3 troubled some BMW enthusiasts, BMW was actually able to make the new V8 lighter than the inline-six in the previous M3 and was able to retain the high-revving nature that's inherent to BMW M engines. The power is there too - the new 4-liter V8 in the M3 makes 414hp and redlines at 8,300rpm, enough to get the M3 to 60mph in 4.7 seconds according to BMW specs, though some other tests have shown it to be faster than that.

In addition to the new V8, BMW has put some other pretty cool technology into the new M3. My favorite is the Electronic Damping Control (EDC), which allows the driver to choose from three different suspension settings with a push of a button. It also has two different settings to adjust the power steering feel, and another option for sharpening throttle response. BMW has also introduced their first dual-clutch gearbox in the new M3. Called M-DCT (M Dual Clutch Transmission), the gearbox takes the place of the sequential gearbox that was an option in the previous M3, which had its fans and detractors. While SMG worked great on a race track, it was cumbersome to use in daily driving on the road, and if M-DCT is anything like the dual-clutch system used by Audi and VW, it should drive more like a good automatic on the street and be even more seamless for track driving.

One of the issues many enthusiast drivers had with the previous M3 was the brake package that came on the car out of the showroom. BMW improved the brake package late in the last generation E46 M3's model life by putting cross-drilled rotors on the optional Competition Package, and are using drilled rotors right off the bat with the new M3, measuring 14.2-inches up front and 13.8 inches at the rear. It's a bit odd that the new M3 still uses single-piston calipers while the much less expensive 135i uses six-piston calipers, though big calipers with several pistons don't always mean the car is going to brake better.
  Next Page >>