2008 BMW M3 Review

Jay Shoemaker
by Jay Shoemaker
2008 bmw m3 review

BMW enjoys vast reservoirs of consumer goodwill. How else can you explain the German automaker’s ability to flourish despite recent engineering and design faux pas? General Motors would have been a lot further along in its death spiral if it had introduced indigestible shapes, indelicate Bangle butts, interminable run-hard tires, unfathomable iDrive and the ubearable SMG transmission. And so, the M3. Does the new M3 Coupe restore the roundel’s rep, or does it signal another misguided attempt to perpetuate the ultimate driving “lifestyle?”

If you consider a gold Rolex Datejust restrained (which, in a way, it is), the M3 is a subtle-looking car. With the aforementioned flame surfacing adorning the base 3-Series, BMW’s M people headed to the ‘hood for inspiration. The M3’s power dome and flanking indents compete with its gaping maw and steal-me side mirrors for bling props, whatever that means. With a black carbon fiber roof, the overall effect is inconspicuously ostentatious.

The M3’s cabin remains cleanly styled and elegantly proportioned. The Coupe’s sports seats are exactly what the 1-Series ordered, but didn’t receive. The armrest is a welcome upgrade, while the anthracite headliner continues to provide hush, hue and aroma. My tester’s fox-red (a.k.a. borderline bordello) Novillo leather added to the eau d’M3. Optional carbon fiber leather is the Fran Drescher of trims (far more appealing than it sounds). The M3’s steering wheel is the same diameter as my wife’s wrist, and just as pleasing to hold.

Unfortunately, I find the manual M-cars virtually impossible to drive smoothly. And that means the new dual clutch M Drive transmission. And that means the $3250 Technology Pack. And that means… iDrive. It’s still a riddle wrapped in an enigma powered by Intel (for all we know).

The M3’s stubby M Drive transmission stalk looks both alien and intimidating. It offers a “comprehensive range of choices:” five shift programs (in automatic mode) and six shift programs (in manual mode). Only the country that gave us Werner Von Braun could imagine that a driver needs 11 shift modes from a seven-speed automated manual transmission. When would I have time to sip my latte, nibble on my croissant or check my Blackberry?

But wait, there’s more! How about programmable adjustments to the suspension, steering and throttle mapping? RTFM uber alles baby.

Ignoring Stendhal syndrome, I fired-up the M3’s small block V8 and reveled in its raspy bark, anticipating what 414 ponies might achieve with 3704 pounds to motivate. I chose comfort suspension and the quickest shift program, left the power button off and kept the steering in normal. Throttle tip-in was limousine smooth, with a slight hesitation; I imagined that I felt the clutch engaging during this process. And then… auf wiedersehen pet.

To say the M3 is ferociously quick is to say you don’t mind revving the 4.0-liter V8 to 8300 rpm. Why would you? Like Ferrari’s entry-level models, the sounds coming from the M3’s mill on the way to peak power make the journey half the trip– as in LSD (and I don’t mean Limited Slip Differential). In absolute terms, we’re torquing 4.6 seconds to sixty. In the real world, it’s a gut punch sandwich with a side of sideways.

That is, of course, once you turn off the M3’s DSC. Even with Nanny in attendance, the understeer-at-the-limit M3 clips apexes effortlessly. With its weight-balanced, highly evolved chassis and fearsome stoppers, the M3 is both a track day weapon and an everyday supercar. If there’s a chink in the armor, it’s the uber-3’s over-light (yet laser precise) steering. It’s a damn shame that Bimmer’s ceded the world’s best helm feel honors to the Sultans of Stuttgart (a.k.a. Porsche).

Once I’d programmed the M-Drive button appropriately, I could instantly switch from relaxed trundle to max switchback attack and back. Using the paddles, you can shift from automatic to manual mode simply by flipping the handle to the right. the cod slushbox isn’t as transparent as Audi’s DSG paddle shifters; I still felt like I was working an automated manual rather than something truly automatic, but it’s still highly livable.

As was the M3’s tolerably firm ride. That said, my tester came with 18” wheels mounted with PilotSport non-run-flat tires– which contributed as much to the M3’s ride comfort adjustable suspension. Even the softer shoes were noisy at speed, but their performance and relative spinal-friendliness made the sonic disturbance a minor inconvenience. Besides, the M3’s sound system’s excellent– and offers six more programmable buttons (which allow you to circumvent iDrive.

In my more relaxed moments with the M3, I began to wonder whether I had found the perfect GT. Only the model’s meager fuel economy and commonplace design prevent this conclusion. In the end, BMW’s seemingly bizarre technology won me over. AMG has a lot to worry about. Over to you Justin…

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  • Jstnspin82 Jstnspin82 on Nov 24, 2008

    The new M3 is a stunning automobile as the M3 always has been in the past. I like the lines and styling of all the new BMW's. Most people do not, but I like the automotive architecture that is BMW. The M3 looks smooth, sharp, and has a modern yet timeless look. It is not to radical that you are like what is that? It captures old lines but delivers new. The performance and engineering are impeccable which always comes standard with a BMW! I am glad that they included a 4 door version of the M3 also. It's sort of a 4 door rocket on wheels that resembles its sterodical big brother, the M5 which is one of my favorite cars ever. Comparing the two you have beauty and the beast. The M3 a beauty in performance and handling second to none and the M5 a beast of brawling power and muscle that wipes any sedan off the road. I think the M3 is a big hit and has left all the other auto manufactures wondering!

  • Ultrarunner Ultrarunner on Mar 12, 2009

    I'm lucky to have both the C 63 and the M3 sedan in my garage, the M being the daily driver. It is quite simply the best car on the planet, the c 63 however is the car to drive when angry. The exhaust roar is unlike anything I have heard- traded my 08 911s for this and never missed it.

  • Jeff S I ignore the commercials. Never owned a Mazda but I would definitely look at one and seriously consider it. I would take a Honda, Toyota, or Mazda over any German vehicle at least they are long lasting, reliable, and don't cost an arm and a leg to maintain.
  • GregLocock The predictable hysteria and repetition of talking points in the meeja is quite funny. it does not divide Oxford into six zones. it restricts access at 6 locations , one on each road, to reduce congestion in the town centre. Florence, which faces the same issue, traffic and narrow historic streets, lined with historic buildings, simply closed the entire town centre off. Don't see anybody whining about that.
  • Jeff S I have rented from Hertz before and never encountered this but if I had I would sue them. Would not want a gun pointed at me and thrown in jail for renting a car.
  • Arthur Dailey I did use a service pre COVID to get the pricing that the dealers were alleged to have paid the manufacturer. It also provided 'quotes' from multiple dealers .
  • Arthur Dailey Has anyone else concluded that we may have a new 'troll' on this site?