FROM the moment you touch the handle to watch the door unlock, you and the car are one.
Every. Single. Aspect of this 414 hp V8 rocket is designed to sync man with machine from the moment you get in to the moment you’re dialing in a sweeping curve at a hundred miles an hour. The capabilities can be frightening, but be not afraid, for the BMW M3 is balanced, sure footed, and fun.
Downshift into third and watch the revs start at 3000 rpm. Depress go and the tach sweeps the dial past 6000 rpm – the point at which you transcend mere rapid movement and engage jet propulsion. You peak quickly at 8500 where upon you use your index, middle, and ring fingers in a swift rearward tucking motion that sends the short gear lever into fourth and you spiraling into the blurred horizon.
All eight cylinders bellow, whine, then roar. When you were at idle, they tapped angrily, muscle-car style, like small hungry beasts lashing against double pained glass. You lifted the quarantine at the last light a mile back. It was the last traffic light separating you from miles of back country roads that stretch, then twist, rise and fall away like some asphalt river.
The Teutonic beasts have been at it ever since.
Hit the brakes and the M3 coolly sheds half its velocity in that narrow space between two to three seconds. You’re now adjusted to enter a sharp right hander that you handle with what might’ve been a quarter turn of the meaty helm. Your seat’s side bolsters inflate to take hold of your torso as gravity pulls you left while the car rushes relentlessly right.
You might feel your balance slipping now, but the M3 is hanging in there, holding fast and true as though the coupe were fused with the road. Nothing you’ve ever driven outside a track manages its handling with this degree of accuracy while giving the driver the ultimate assurance of control. The three-spoke wheel’s thickly padded rim seems to transmit this tense energy that assures you that at any given point this M3 can do so much more.
The handling is superior.
Finishing the corner, you’re ready to press ahead. Four exhausts pronounce your gradual toe-in. It’s like squeezing the fruits of power out onto the road. The car’s engine note rewards you with its aural range and is as pronounced in a gradual climb as it is violent surge. If anything, this measured progress past the century mark gives you more time to register the M3’s personality as the penultimate dance partner.
Skipping over to sixth gear, the quad pipes never stop the music. Their volume dials down some, and you’re left with the option of listening to music on an incomparable stock sound system or engaging in conversation that can include coherent thoughts. At sixty miles per hour, you’re not quite resting at a relatively high 2500 rpm. The car never feels at peace, it’s designed so that it’s ready to launch- even in final gear.
There’s a catch, however. You need to adjust your own mind’s settings as to where the car’s rev limits lie. In order to summon the relatively humble 290 lb-ft of torque, you need to be tickling the tach’s limit in each gear. Any torque rich AMG Benz can catch the M3 off the boil if the driver’s not sharp.
That covered, the M3 offers an ever present menace. At the flick of your wrist and rapidly applied feet, you can whip this coupe back into a high revving frenzy in a few heartbeats. And inevitably you do, repeatedly, because the machine provokes you constantly.
It’s like fighting this urge to scratch the loudest itch. After a point, you can’t help but claw.
Switching to third now and the pedal’s back to the floor. You’re climbing fast through the rpm range and then something catches your eye.
It’s on the steering wheel. A small button, not quite a quarter of an inch in diameter labeled “M”. Curiosity kills your inner cat and you tap it.
Your ass gets a soft kick as the M3 seems to lunge forward a few paces ahead of where you otherwise would be. You’ve managed to couple “Power” mode with “EDC” which have transformed your car into something else. The steering sharpens, acceleration hastens, while the suspension hunkers down and lets every road ripple register through to your seat.
What was soft and dampened before, clunks through loudly now. The gummy Michelin Pilots provide all the cushion that’s left.
In short, the M3’s now giving you 110%.
This is the knife’s edge of BMW performance. You’re pushed to the forefront, where at $67,000 you’re empowered to wage battle with supercars. You can’t win, of course. A Koeniggsegg, McLaren, Bugatti – they’ll all crush you. But with the M3, you can’t still fight like hell and feel as if you’ve got a shot; laughing all the while.
The M3 is that potent, that sharp, that empowering, that courageous, and most important, that rewarding.
Imagining your exotic adversaries powering ahead, you lay into the Bavarian now; swapping gears and turns as sharply as you know how. Adrenaline’s never left your body because in the tranquil moments you were quietly shaking, now your muscles are as fixed and taut as the hard riding suspension.
There’s no heads up display, only a small, red digital readout between the speedometer and the tachometer that reads “v=”; skipping whole digits as you speed inexorably faster. You look over the domed hood painted in hot red as your horizon points find you faster and faster. The force seems unending and the rewards from each dispatched straight and every rounded corner add sweet dividends to your automotive experience.
But you’ve run out of road. You’re back in population from having spent all those country miles in so little time. Powering down low, the car seems to crouch uncomfortably; its metaphorical thighs aching from having just sprinted and yearning to carry on.
In a world of synthetic performance, this is as much an organic experience as you’re likely to get from BMW here on out. As you pull to a stop sign and you found the slot for first, the shifter seems to have a pulse. The whole car, in fact, buzzes and throbs like some sentient being.
In the best kind of way, this tactile assurance connects the driver to the car like so few can. The M3 may not be the fastest. But all round, it’s the best.
This M car is the stuff of automotive legend.