Long term tests

BMW M3: BMW M3: new arrival

Our new M3 is proving to be a great everyday car

A figure like 414bhp doesn’t seem too extraordinary in 2008. Oh sure, it’s still a big number, just not enough to demand a double-take or a sharp intake of breath. It still feels pretty extraordinary, though, especially when it arrives at 8300rpm and you have access to it on a daily basis.

Yes, I guess I’m still coming to terms with having a new M3 tucked up in the garage. And when I say new I mean new, too. Despite appearances, this is not the same M3 that Barker was lucky enough to run for a couple of months recently (evo 111 and 112). This is a proper long-termer, and it arrived nicely run-in with 1150 miles on the clock and the first oil-change already done.

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It just so happened that on our first day together I had to drive over to Bruntingthorpe to help with the 9ff GT9 test (116). I know a good route from the office to Brunters, fast and well-sighted and with lots of surface changes and odd cambers, and the M3 and I bonded within about two miles. Once you’ve felt its 4-litre V8 spin-up to its limiter, you never want to drive a turbocharged car again. The noise, the instantaneous response, the way the power climbs and grows with every rev. Even on a wide A-road, holding the throttle down until you feel the explosive power past 8000rpm takes real commitment. The M3 is ballistic, pure and simple.

Of course, the chassis plays a stellar supporting role, grippy and poised and transparent in its responses. Fitted with the optional EDC dampers (£1295), you can tailor the M3’s ride and body control depending on the road and your mood. With the 19in wheels (£1265) fitted to our car it feels just about spot-on in the middle setting, perfect for taking on a tricky road but retaining its body control in the soft setting should you have passengers you want to pamper. In the hardest setting it really does feel track-stiff, though. I’ll find out if that translates into CSL-style focus at a later date…

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Tweaking the M3 to your needs can take some time. The iDrive not only allows you to determine your preferred default settings for the dampers, steering weighting and engine response but also enables you to choose entirely different settings that are activated when the ‘M’ button on the steering wheel is pressed. You can lose days trying all the possible combinations, but for my defaults I’ve settled on having ‘Power’ on, for keener engine responses, and the dampers in their middle setting, then for the ‘M’ mode I leave everything as it is, but switch off the DSC. Having a stability/traction switch just the stretch of a thumb away on the steering wheel is, I’ve decided, an absolute necessity. All cars should have it.

On the practical side, the M3 is proving to be a great everyday car. There’s loads of room in the boot for my new life as a dad, and rear-seat accommodation is good even for adults. But before you think I’m going all What Car?, back to my first day with the M3 at Bruntingthorpe. Yes, it does have a speed limiter and it chimes in at 160mph. Seems about right for a family car.

Running Costs

Date acquiredFebruary 2008
Total mileage3625
Costs this month£0
Mileage this month2475
MPG this month19.8
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