The concluding act of true, undistilled M cars as we know it.
Recently, the very last BMW M3 Coupe rolled off the assembly line, Fire Orange paintjob still gleaming after its final quality check. Sandwiched between X1’s and other more plebian products, it looked almost innocuous. Really, it’s anything but; this is the last M3 you might ever see.
Let me explain: When BMW’s next M car drops for the 3 series range, it will have two doors and will be called the M4. That’s the plan as of this writing, lest BMW’s marketing guys get cold feet at the thought of banishing one of the most potent alphanumeric brandings to the history books and back issues of car mags. So far, BMW haven’t confirmed plans for an M-treated sedan, (which we’re told will continue to be known as the M3 in that guise) which means that saying “M3” with the kind of low toned reverence usually reserved for automotive greats will no longer refer to the iconic coupe that first wowed us in 1988.
- Engine deserves all the hyperbole you can think of
- Unbelievable ride and handling balance
- Makes all who pilot it feel like Canadian DTM star Bruno Spengler, hey, it’s even kinda practical
- Gets expensive once you start adding options
- EDC suspension is far too harsh
- They aren’t going to put a V8 in a 3 series for a long, long time
Act now, folks, for your chance to own the very best of a rare breed.
Will the next M-powered 3 series be slow, and will it suffer of the same heavy electronic interface veneer you find in the current M5? No, and let’s hope not. The cat is well out of the bag at this point, and it’s all but certain the engine powering the next generation will have two (maybe even three!) turbos and will go back to an inline six setup. That’s not entirely bad news- remember how epically good the 1M was from a couple of years ago- but the era of blitzkrieg naturally aspirated engines is a thing of the past.
On the subject of turbo-free powerplants, I could tell you that the main story here is BMW’s mesmerizingly brilliant 4.0 litre V8 making 414 horsepower and 295 lbs/ft of torque and be done with it. With its incredible power, penchant for high revs and glorious soundtrack I wouldn’t be out of line. ‘Course, I’d be neglecting the brilliant chassis, confidence building M rear differential and decent back seat with a trunk that make it a practical near-supercar. The numbers that the sublime V8 generate won’t seem that exciting, especially the torque output, but that really couldn’t be farther from the truth. Put your foot down hard in second gear, wind the tach to 8,400rpm and as you grab third, try not to smile- it’s impossible.
We’ve talked ad nauseum throughout many Road Tests that engine downsizing and turbo charging are today’s answers to questions about achieving the ultimate balance of power and efficiency, which is why you can now by a 7 series flagship with a turbo four banger. This idea would have been preposterous not too long ago. As I mentioned before, the next M3/M4 will lose two cylinders, some displacement and add turbos to the mix. This E92 variant slathered in gaze-holding Fire Orange is the last M car with natural aspiration under the hood. I know the BWM engineers assigned to the M division have the chops to build some pretty heady machinery (1M and M5, anyone?) although hard-core fans will shed a tear that the end of an era that began with the rorty E30 M3 back in 1988.
I’m extremely privileged to get behind the wheel of some incredible cars and without a doubt the E92 M3 is very high on that list of memorable rides. That it’s capable of startling performance will not surprise anyone, but the fact that you can use it every day, in good weather and bad, V8 zinging to 8,000rpm and beyond all day long is definitely cool and a huge accomplishment for a modern purpose-built performance vehicle. Heck, it’s even easy on fuel when you decide to chill out a bit.
Mark my words: in 15-20 years, we’ll have a serious classic on our hands where the E92 M3 is concerned. At car shows around the world people will gather around them and say with an awed reverence, “Can you believe they actually put a V8 in a 3 series?!? Those were the days.”
- Price as tested: $ 84,900
- Body Type: 2 plus 2 passenger coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
- Engine: 4.0-litreV8, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 414 @ 8,300 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 295 @ 3,900 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Curb weight: 1,680kg (3,704 lbs.)
- Fuel consumption, Observed: 13.2L/100km (18mpg)