Long term tests


John Barker finds the wet limits of BMW's M3 and gains a new respect

It was a dark and stormy night when we finally bonded, the M3 and me. The roads were slick with rain and when I arrived home after my half-hour drive, I had a much greater respect for the 400-plus bhp BMW.

Thus far, it had failed to hit the highs of my old Audi RS4 long-termer, and the shortfall was all in the detail. Many cars today have variable-weight steering, but with the best-judged systems you’d never know. In the M3, I kept noticing the steering’s lightness peeling into roundabouts. Not that night. All I noticed was that the front end was fantastically well hooked up, so then my attention focused on what was happening at the other end.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Experience the thrill of driving with evo magazine. Subscribe now and get your first 5 issues for £5 or buy the latest issue in all good newsagents!

I’m only truly comfortable with a car once I know how it behaves when the grip runs out. You push to the limit, find out what it does, and then when you’re on the right road and travelling at speed, there are no nasty surprises. The opportunities to gather this sort of information on dry public roads are rare, especially with a car like the M3, which has stupendous rear grip and a high-revving engine that only truly delivers at the top end. You have to be pushing very hard. However, when the road glistens in the headlamps, the limits are much lower.

A couple of firm, exploratory prods of the throttle mid-corner in second gear showed the stability control was active. So when I arrived at the next empty roundabout, it was disengaged. Thing is, in the M3 you’re not on your own – the active M-diff is still working with you. Squeeze the throttle mid-corner and you can actually feel it adjust the torque distribution between the rear wheels to give most to the wheel that has most bite, and you exit with a sense of remarkable traction for a rear-driver. But give the throttle a more provacative shove and both rear tyres spin up, and that’s when you discover the superb poise and balance of the M3. First time I felt it, I was heading up a slip-road ramp in third gear, with a quarter turn of opposite lock, and the reach of the engine kept it going for a satisfying yardage. After that, every deserted roundabout and inviting corner was fair game and I arrived home with a grin and a new respect for the M3. Brilliant though it is, an RS4 can’t give you those thrills.

Advertisement - Article continues below

A week later the M3 was heading for Dover and Car of the Year, and I had a feeling that it might do rather better than I’d originally anticipated – especially if it rained.

Running Costs

Date acquiredAugust 2007
Total mileage4875
Costs this month£0
Mileage this month1225
MPG this month19.4


BMW M3 saloon

Next BMW M3 to go all 4WD

25 Mar 2019

Most Popular


New Ferrari Roma: 612bhp, 198mph GT car joins the range

Ferrari has expanded its GT car range with the V8 powered Ferrari Roma
14 Nov 2019
Porsche 911

Porsche 911 GT3 vs GT3 RS vs GT2 RS - track battle

Porsche’s GT3, GT3 RS and GT2 RS are the most hardcore of the 911 breed, but pitched head‑to‑head which will we crown champion?
15 Nov 2019
Audi S8

Audi S8 review - enough to better the Mercedes-AMG S63?

Impressively agile and always effortless, the tech-packed S8 is still more limo than sports saloon
13 Nov 2019
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Col de Turini

We take the Hyundai i30 Fastback N up the Col de Turini, a 31km stage of the Monte Carlo World Rally Championship
19 Jul 2019